Thursday, November 16, 2006

Contra Costa Times: USC Doesn't Have a Marquee Tailback


Just saying the names of all those great USC tailbacks can bring chills to a defender. Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Charles White, Marcus Allen, Reggie Bush. Chauncey Washington.

Chauncey who? Unlike most of the great USC teams of the past, Pete Carroll's Trojans are carving out a huge season without putting a marquee tailback on the field. When No. 4 USC hosts No. 17 Cal on Saturday to decide the Pacific-10 Conference championship and the berth to the Rose Bowl (or even better in USC's case), it is Cal that has the marquee player at tailback. The Bears' Marshawn Lynch, who leads the conference at 109 yards per game, is the kind of talented running back who has worn USC colors through most of this series.

Cal has had some major talents, such as Chuck Muncie and Russell White, but can't begin to match the line of superstars who carried the freight for the Trojans. Except for this season. Lynch is arguably the top running back in the nation, and Washington, a fourth-year junior, ranks sixth in the conference with a 74.9 yards per game average. Washington's career high came Saturday when he gained 119 yards rushing against Oregon. ``The last couple of games, I've started to get into a groove,'' said Washington, a consensus All-American out of South Torrance High School who was academically ineligible in both the 2004 and 2005 seasons. ``I'm doing fine. I'm in the best shape I've been in right now.'' Washington, who has rushed for 674 yards, said he doesn't care if he doesn't compare favorably to Bush or USC's other big-time tailbacks. ``I just want to help the team win,'' he said.

Although USC might not have familiar names at tailback, Cal linebacker Desmond Bishop said the Trojans' running game is potent. ``They have three running backs (Washington and freshmen Emmanuel Moody and C.J. Gable) who are probably the best backs we will face all year,'' Bishop said. Cal cornerback Daymeion Hughes said: ``Chauncey is a good back. He is similar to what LenDale White was last year. He is strong, but he also is explosive and fast. He brings a lot to the table.'' USC is fourth in the conference with a 148.8 yards per game rushing average, 16 yards a game behind Cal, which is third in that category. ``Their offensive line is one of the best in the country,'' Cal rover Brandon Hampton said. ``They are fast, strong, smart. If they add up all their backs' rushing yards, they are doing well. They are very balanced.''


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