Running back Buck Allen's 52-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter of USC's 31-14 win at Oregon State Friday did more than slam the door on the Beavers. It emphatically declared that the future of Trojans football resides in the backfield.
Allen's nifty evasion of safety Ryan Murphy freed the Trojans' sophomore for his third score of the night, and a fitting cap to a career night.
His No. 37 was not called as frequently as senior workhorse Silas Redd's 25—Redd carried 22 times, and Allen 16—but Allen capitalized on his opportunities in a big way.
He broke off 8.3 yards per carry, en route to 133 total. He was also key to the modest Trojans passing game with four receptions for 41 yards.
Allen showed signs of being a true star—and he’s not the first Trojans running back to do so this season. Sophomore Tre Madden was second only to Washington's Bishop Sankey in rushing yards per game among Pac-12 ball-carriers prior to a hip injury sustained on Oct. 10.
What had been an inconsistent USC offense could have fallen off a cliff given the many shakeups it experienced in recent weeks: Its coach was fired, Madden was injured and the receiving corps was depleted.
Instead, others like Allen stepped up, and in the process began the build to the new era of USC football. To be sure, the look of the next wave will be largely dependent on the coach athletic director Pat Haden tabs to lead the program.
Whomever that may be inherits a cupboard stocked with any number of proven running backs, capable of being the offense's foundation. That has become increasingly apparent since the midseason regime change.
Among the most striking changes in the USC offense, since offensive coordinator Clay Helton assumed the play-calling reins from dismissed head coach Lane Kiffin, is a more diverse running game. Helton's been able to maintain the multifaceted rushing look despite Madden's injury, and Allen is a chief beneficiary.
Thirty-one of Allen's 45 carries this season have come since Kiffin's ouster.
In using the Tallahassee, Fla., native Allen, the current Trojans coaching staff is helping to solidify the immediate future of the program. USC has running back depth on par with some of the best rushing teams in the nation, including Oregon—the program that took up the Pac-12 mantle upon the Trojans' decline.
Redd exhausts his eligibility at season's end, but USC has Allen, Madden and Justin Davis next season, barring the unforeseen. All three have now demonstrated game-changing ability.
Davis is nursing an injury of his own, an ankle malady that keeps him sidelined throughout the remainder of the campaign. Though USC fans won't see him operate again until 2014, the explosiveness he showed off in averaging 6.8 yards on his 53 carries should be worth the wait.
Freshman Ty Isaac's touches have been limited in the crowded backfield, but the true freshman out of Shorewood, Ill., was among the most celebrated prospects in the 2013 class. That's not a bad understudy to have backing up Allen and Madden.
USC has endured quite the star running back drought since Reggie Bush and LenDale White left the program after the 2005 season. For all the hardships the program has experienced as a result of its NCAA sanctions (caused by Bush), it appears the Trojans will emerge with its best look at running back since the Pete Carroll glory years.