Tape It Up: USC: Tailback Pool Draining Quickly

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USC: Tailback Pool Draining Quickly

The Trojans have been lauded throughout the preseason for their unbelievably deep pool of tailbacks. With an even ten rushing threats that could see playing time at any moment, USC had backfield coaches around the country drooling. Until recently. In the weeks leading up to kickoff, that pool has sprung a leak, and is now draining rapidly. The latest tailback down the drain? Fifth-year senior Chauncey Washington.

Washington left Wednesday night's scrimmage with his right arm in a sling and his shoulder packed in ice after hitting the ground awkwardly on a carry early in the game. And that's a big problem.

To be clear, Washington is no third-string, might-get-a-few-snaps kind of tailback. Last season's leading rusher, Washington tallied 744 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior. In the first play of Wednesday night's scrimmage, he started things off right, scampering off right tackle for a 63-yard pickup. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry last season and was sure to have a solid season in his final year. The sprain in his shoulder takes yet another name off of the tailback chart, although X-rays will provide more information as to if and when Washington will be back.

Other casualties from the draining pool include freshman Broderick Green, who sat out Wednesday's scrimmage while he awaits certification from the NCAA Clearinghouse, the L.A. Times reported. He had a 14-day grace period while his academic records went under review, but after the window closed Wednesday, Green's status is unclear, and USC is officially without all of the tailbacks that were part of the 2007 recruiting class - Marc Tyler's broken leg has still not fully healed and Joe McKnight has been sitting out of practices with a stretched knee ligament.

Add to the tally sixth-year senior Hershel Dennis (knee soreness), sophomore C.J. Gable (groin soreness) and sophomore Emmanuel Moody (transfer), and that deep ocean of backs has suddenly been reduced to a pond. And an inexperienced pond, at that.

Who's left? Sophomores Stafon Johnson and Allen Bradford, both of whom aren't in ideal health situations. Bradford appeared in 12 games last season, rushing 13 times for 42 yards and a touchdown, but missed most of spring practice with a strained hip flexor. Johnson appeared in three games last season, tallyling 17 yards on three carries. He also missed spring drills after having surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder.

Senior Desmond Reed is the Trojans' final back who is ready to go, but he's not a dream candidate either - gaining all of 12 yards on seven carries in 2006, Reed is still bothered by nerve damage suffered in his foot after a 2005 knee injury and surgery, and requires a brace to run. He should be playing a bigger role as punt returner than running back, but if coach Pete Carroll loses any more tailbacks, he may have no choice but to play Reed in both spots.

With the Sept. 1 opener against Idaho inching closer and closer, USC appears to have gone from the deepest tailback team in the last decade to one of the thinner squads this season. Here's hoping some of these guys heal up before the situation gets worse.

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