Fall camp position preview: Running backs

With the start of the 2012 USC football season drawing near, we’re doing position-by-position previews of the Trojans’ roster all this week. We began yesterday with quarterbacks, we're continuing Tuesday with running backs and we'll go until next Monday, the day camp commences.

For each position, we’ll start with the current depth chart, going off the end-of-spring depth chart as released by Lane Kiffin, analyze it and discuss what needs to be resolved by Sept. 1.

Running back

1. Curtis McNeal, redshirt senior

2. D.J. Morgan, redshirt sophomore

3. Buck Allen, redshirt freshman

4. Nelson Agholor, freshman


1. Soma Vainuku, redshirt freshman

2. Jahleel Pinner, freshman

Nothing's necessarily changed at running back since the end of spring ball -- except, of course, for Kiffin's comments last week that Agholor will be beginning his college career as a running back instead of a receiver.

And more things could change very soon if Penn State's Silas Redd announces this week his intention to transfer to the Trojans. Redd has already visited campus and been visited by the USC coaching staff in the last week -- now he just has to decide if he wants to come to Los Angeles for at least the next five months.

If he does, this suddenly becomes a position of serious depth for USC. Few college football teams bring back two 1,000-yard rushers in a given season.

If he doesn't, then McNeal arguably becomes the second most important player on the Trojans' roster to keep healthy, after quarterback Matt Barkley.

What about after McNeal? It's hard to find more of an unknown commodity than Allen. He's been on campus for almost a year now, but so little is known about him -- on and off the field -- that it's hard to expect anything concrete from him in the fall. He'll have to take some carries for USC, though, so ball security will be key.

Expect Kiffin to harp on that often in fall camp in regards to Allen.

Morgan provides hope. After all, 10 months ago USC thought enough of him as a freshman to start him in the season opener over guys like McNeal and the since-transferred Amir Carlisle.

Sure, his final numbers (42 carries, 163 yards) were poor, but he's still an attractive back with an attractive running style. If the Trojans do not get Redd, it's still conceivable McNeal and Morgan could form a formidable tandem in 2012 -- they'd just have to stay healthy, obviously.

As for Agholor, the smart money says he will be moved back to receiver at one point or another. When that move will take place is unknown for now, but it wouldn't be surprising if he splits his time even in camp.

He makes sense as an emergency option at running back, but you don't want to put an impressive prospect like Agholor at anything other than his best position long-term.

Imagine if USC still had Carlisle -- or if Tre Madden hadn't gotten hurt in the spring.

At fullback, Vainuku impressed the Trojans' staff in the spring and has earned praise from Barkley over the summer. He's going to take the vast majority of fullback snaps in all likelihood -- and could take all of them if Pinner redshirts.

The question with him is if he'll get any carries, too. It would make sense, because Vainuku ran the ball a lot in high school and USC doesn't have any other big backs.

Expect him to get a chance to audition for that role in camp.