There is no doubt that USC is Offensive Line U and I wrote about that here: USC Offensive Line
But, could they also be the producer of more good Running Backs than anyone else? 5 Heisman Trophy winners played Tailback for the USC Trojans.
This is how I would rank them and I am open to other opinions.
1. OJ Simpson: Of all the great USC Tailbacks, I would rate Simpson a solid number 1. His story is well known coming into USC as a Junior College transfer from San Francisco. He just exploded onto the scene as a junior in 1967 and then won the Heisman Trophy in 1968. He was the first player picked in the NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills and was the first Running Back to rush for over 2,000
yards in one season. As famous as the Juice was in football, he is more famous for off the field issues. The Juice is in prison, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he was a game changer in college football and again in the NFL. Simpson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. At USC Simpson ran for 3,423 yards and 36 Touchdowns in just 2 seasons and he ran for 11,236 Touchdowns in the NFL.
2. Marcus Allen: Coming out of San Diego Lincoln High School, Allen was a Quarterback and Safety. At USC, he was moved to the Running Back position, but they had Charles White playing Tailback. As a freshman, Allen only ran for 171 yards. His sophomore season, Allen was the Fullback and blocked for Charles White. He still saw the ball enough to run for 649 yards and 8 Touchdowns. White was gone in 1980 and Marcus Allen moved to the Tailback position. His first season as a Tailback Allen ran for 1,563 yards and 14 Touchdowns.
But, as a senior in 1981 Marcus Allen had one of the best seasons in the history of college football. He shredded opposing defenses for 2,427 yards and 22 Touchdowns. For his career as a Trojan, Allen ran for 4,810 yards and 45 Touchdowns. But, Allen was also an outstanding receiver out of the backfield catching 86 passes as a Trojan for 801 yards.
Marcus Allen was picked with the 10th pick of the 1st round in the NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Raiders. Allen was the first Running Back in NFL history to run for over 10,000 yards and to gain over 5,000 yards receiving. Allen even out gained OJ Simpson as he ran for 12,243 yards.
Marcus Allen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
3. Charles White: The all time leading rusher for the Trojans is White who in four years ran for 6,245 yards and 49 Touchdowns. That total also makes him 4th all time in the nation behind Ron Dayne of Wisconsin, Ricky Williams of Texas, and Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh.
White was a top high school football and track star at San Fernando, California. In the 330 hurdles White actually beat future Olympic Gold medal winner Andre Phillips which explained Charles
White’s speed and gracefulness at USC.
At USC, White played significantly at Tailback with super star Running Back Ricky Bell ahead of him in 1976. Bell was the very first player picked in the next NFL Draft ahead of Tony Dorsett. White ran for 858 yards and 10 Touchdowns. In 1977, Charles White stepped into the starting role and ran for 1,478 yards and 7 Touchdowns.
White and USC turned it up a notch in 1978 with Charles gaining 1,859 yards and 13 Touchdowns. The Heisman Trophy would be the reward for White in 1979 when he beat out 1978 winner Billy Sims of Oklahoma. White ran for 2,050 yards and 19 Touchdowns as a senior.
White was taken by the Cleveland Browns with the 27th pick of the 1st round. White’s NFL career was something of a let down and he only ran for over 1,000 yards with the Los Angeles Rams and finished with just over 3,000 yards for his career.
4. Reggie Bush: Yet another Heisman winning Tailback for the USC Trojans. But, Bush played in the era of players leaving college early for the NFL and he ‘only’ ran for 3,169 yards and 25 Touchdowns. But, Reggie Bush was one of the more exciting players of this era.
As a freshman, Bush split carries with Lendale White and Herschel Dennis, with White gaining 754, Dennis gaining 661 and Bush gaining 521 yards.
White was the leading rusher for the Trojans in 2004 when they won the national championship. But, Bush ran for 908 yards with White being Mr Inside and Reggie Bush Mr Outside.
USC Trojan Quarterback Matt Leinart won the Heisman in 2004 and was expected to win it again.
But, Reggie Bush had a monster year in 2005 while running for 1,740 yards and 16 Touchdowns. The thing that set Bush apart from other top Running Backs was his job on the special teams. He excelled on punt returns and kick returns.
Bush was the 2nd pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. He has had a solid career in the NFL and is still active, but he has not be as spectacular as expected.
5. Anthony Davis: Freshmen were not eligible to play on the varsity when Davis got to USC. The Trojans won the national title in 1972 and Davis ran for 1,191 yards and 17 Touchdowns. In 1973, Davis put up similar numbers with 1,112 yards. The following season, Davis ran for 1,424 yards. Over his career for the Trojans he finished with 3724 yards and 44 Touchdowns. Davis was something of a Notre Dame Fighting Irish killer. In 1972, he scored 6 Touchdowns leading the Trojans to a 45-23 victory over Notre Dame. In 1974, the Trojans were getting pounded by the Irish 24-7. Behind Davis’ Kickoff return, the Trojans completed a miraculous comeback and won 55-24.
Anthony Davis was drafted in the 2nd round by New York Jets. But, he elected to go to the World Football League. His Pro Football career was disappointing and he jumped around from the WFL to the Canadian Football League and a little bit with the United States Football League.
6. Ricky Bell: Bell did not win a Heisman, but he probably should have in 1975. Archie Griffin repeated as Heisman winner in 1975 and Ricky Bell out gained him by more than 500 yards on the ground. Bell ran for 299 yards as a sophomore in 1974. But, as a junior in 1975, Ricky Bell cranked it up to 1,957 yards and 13 Touchdowns. The problem probably for Ricky Bell was that the Trojans won their first 7 games before losing 4 straight to end the regular season. The Ohio State Buckeyes were 11-0 when it came time to vote for the Heisman. Bell finished 3rd in the Heisman in 1975 in
spite of having a better season than Griffin and 2nd place finisher Chuck Muncie of California. In the 1976 season, Bell ran for 1,433 yards and the Trojans finished the season with an 11-1 record. Bell shared carries with the sensational young Charles White that season. Bell also had some injury issues that seasons, but he did manage to rush for 347 yards in one game against Washington State.
Regardless of team performance, Ricky Bell still finished his career at USC with 3,689 total rushing yards and 28 Touchdowns.
Bell was a big power runner with speed at 6-2, 220. That size and speed combination made him the very first pick in the NFL Draft over Heisman winner and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Tony Dorsett.
With Tampa Bay, Ricky Bell only had one really good season which was in 1979 when he ran for over 1,200 yards. His success also coincided with the Buccaneers having one of their best seasons in franchise history.
Bell played 5 years with the Bucs before being traded to the San Diego Chargers. His career with the Chargers was brief and he retired before playing the 1983 season. Despite being the number one pick in the draft, he only ran for just over 3,000 yards in the NFL.
Tragically, Bell died in November of 1984 from heart failure. I’ve never seen it, but there was a movie made about Ricky Bell’s life called A Triumph of the Heart, the Ricky Bell Story.
7. Mike Garrett: Generally, my Blog topics only go back to the 1967 season because that’s all I remember and the first season I really started following the game. Yes, I do realize that I am an old fella. But, only physically because I still want to suit up and get in the game with nerve damage in my back and all.
The real first of the great USC Tailbacks, was Mike Garrett who won the Heisman Trophy in 1965. I have seen enough video of Garrett to know he was a great player.
After getting fairly close to a 1,000 yards rushing in 1963 and 1964, Garrett ran wild in 1965 and totaled 1,440 yards. Those were huge numbers for the mid 1960’s. His career total at USC was a very impressive 3,221 yards and 30 Touchdowns. Again, this was a different era a
Garrett was a shifty, speedy guy and not big at 5-9, 190. He wasn’t drafted until the 2nd round by the Los Angeles Rams. Back in those days, there was the NFL and the newly formed AFL. The
American Football League was the only one of the attempts made to challenge the NFL that actually worked and the NFL ended up merging with the AFL. The Kansas City Chiefs were a member of the old AFL and they also drafted Garrett but not until the 20th round.
Garrett played for the Chiefs for 5 seasons, winning a Super Bowl along the way. He spent his last 3 seasons with the San Diego Chargers. Garrett ran for over 5,000 yards in 8 NFL and AFL seasons.
After football, Garrett was the Athletic Director at USC for a time.
8. LenDale White: White teamed with Reggie Bush to team one of the best combination of Running Backs ever on the same team. Coming in the same season as Bush, White actually led the team in rushing his freshman and sophomore seasons before Bush had his monster season in 2005. White’s freshman season in 2003 was something of a transition between Heisman Trophy winning Quarterbacks in Carson Palmer who won it in 2002 and Matt Leinart who won it in 2004. But, the Trojans still finished 12-1 and grabbed one of the national championship trophies, while LSU took the other. In my book, the Trojans were the better team based on their 23-0 victory over Auburn in game one when Auburn was favored and the game was at Auburn.
White ran for 754 yards and 13 Touchdowns. During his sophomore season, White ran for 1,103 yards and 15 Touchdowns, once again leading USC in rushing. In 2005, the experts from ESPN called the Trojans the greatest team ever all year long while White again thrashed the 1,000 yard barrier with 1,302 yards rushing and a very impressive 24 Touchdowns. For his career at USC, White ran for 3159 yards and 52 Touchdowns. White rushed for more Touchdowns than any other Trojan Running Back in the storied history of the school and that record may stand for decades.With Reggie Bush, White also declared for the NFL after his junior season.
LenDale White showed up at the NFL Combine fat and out of shape and did not work out. He was listed at 6-1 270 and he was every bit of that.
His stock dropped considerably and he fell all the way into the 2nd round when he was taken by the Tennessee Titans. In the NFL, White really had a good season in his second year with 1,110 yards
rushing with 7 Touchdowns. His 3rd season was not bad either with 773 yards and 15 Touchdowns. But, his 4th season was a disaster and afterwards was traded to Seattle. Then, he failed a drug test and was cut. He caught on with the Denver Broncos, but tore his Achilles tendon and that was pretty much the end of White and football.
9. Javorius ‘Buck’ Allen: Some might disagree with this selection, but the Tallahassee, Florida product was a good Running Back in something of a dark era of USC football. Allen only ran for 32 yards as a freshman, but then he won the starting job during his sophomore season and he ran for 785 yards and 14 Touchdowns. In 2014, Buck Allen ran for 1,489 yards and 11 Touchdowns. Allen should have returned for his senior season and improved his draft status, but he chose to bypass his senior season and head to the NFL. He finished his career at USC with only 2,306 yards and 25 Touchdowns.
Entering the NFL Draft, Allen fell all the way to the 4th round when he was picked by the Baltimore Ravens. However, he did have a good rookie season for the Ravens rushing for 514 yards and catching 45 passes. The 6-0, 220 Allen has a lot of potential and if things go right for him he could have a very productive NFL career.
10. Sultan McCullough: McCullough is regarded by some as the fastest player ever for the USC
Trojans and if so that would be a mighty accomplishment. He did win the 100 meters in the Pac 12 championship, so it’s possible he was the fastest. As a sophomore in the 2000 season, McCullough gained 1,163 yards, and as a senior in 2002 he ran for 814 yards. As a freshman and a junior he ran for 413 and 410 yards respectively. He finished his college career with 2,800 total yards rushing and 20 Touchdowns.
McCullough played briefly in the NFL for the Washington Redskins but he didn’t last in the pro game for very long.
Guys like Frank Gifford were way ahead of my time.