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USC Finds It Can Never Have Enough Tailbacks

November 05, 1986|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

USC is idle this weekend and the layoff couldn't come at a better time for the Trojans, considering that they have only one mobile tailback.

Aaron Emanuel, the starter, is wearing a boot on his right foot, protecting the big toe he sprained against Arizona last Saturday night.

Steve Webster, who didn't play against Arizona, has some swelling in his right ankle, which he reinjured against Stanford Oct. 25.

That leaves Ryan Knight as the only tailback available for practice.

X-rays taken Tuesday of Emanuel's toe showed no break, which was a relief to both Emanuel and Coach Ted Tollner. But as USC prepares for its game with California Nov. 15 at the Coliseum, Tollner is still concerned about the tailback position.

"We're going to have to have a back-up plan, though, because Webster's injury may be more serious than Emanuel's," Tollner said. "I'm considering getting Lonnie White ready to be an emergency tailback. It's a day or two early to make a decision but we have to do something."

White, a senior reserve wide receiver, excels as a kickoff return specialist. He is the single-season school record-holder for return yards with 501, having broken the record of 484 set by Anthony Davis in 1974.

Webster, a sophomore, missed most of last season with an ankle injury that required surgery during the summer. He didn't make his debut this season until the second half of the Stanford game and responded with 60 yards in 16 carries.

He reinjured his right ankle in that game, however, preventing him from playing in a 20-13 win over Arizona, although he was warming up on the sideline in the second half.

Emanuel injured his toe in the third quarter Saturday night. He came out of the game, then went back in for one play before leaving the game for good. He contributed a flashy, 13-yard cutback run to position USC for its first touchdown.

As a freshman last year, Emanuel was hampered by injuries. He played in just seven games but still averaged 4.9 yards a carry. His production has dropped to 3.93 this season, and Knight is averaging only 2.90, those figures reflecting USC's lagging running game.

The Trojans are averaging only 139.3 yards a game, one of the lowest figures in the last 30 years.

"I'm not going to be happy with our running game if it stays the same," Tollner said. "I want to have a dominant running game to go along with our passing game."

USC is 6-2 overall and 4-2 in the Pacific 10 and may be eliminated from the Rose Bowl race next Saturday despite its day off.

If Arizona State beats Cal, all of the conference teams with two losses are out of contention. UCLA, which has only one conference loss, would still be in the hunt with a win over Stanford.

USC could get another bowl bid, perhaps even one for a New Year's Day bowl, if it can win its remaining three games against Cal, UCLA and Notre Dame.

Trojan Notes

Coach Ted Tollner said that the most encouraging thing about his team is that both Stanford and Arizona were rolling with 5-1 and 6-1 records, respectively, before losing to the Trojans. . . . "The most pleasing thing about the Arizona game was the consistency of the defense. That's how we had played earlier in the year," Tollner said.

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