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Justin Davis could be a fresh face in USC's backfield in opener

Because of injuries to others, Davis, a freshman, has had a chance to impress coaches in practice. He could be the first tailback in the game against Hawaii on Aug. 29.

August 19, 2013|By Gary Klein
  • USC freshman running back Justin Davis has made quite an impression with the Trojans' coaching staff.
USC freshman running back Justin Davis has made quite an impression with… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Justin Davis graduated early from high school and enrolled at USC in January to get a head start on his football career.

The tailback from Stockton wasn't thinking at the time that he might be in line to start the Trojans' opener at Hawaii.

But one week before the Trojans depart for Honolulu, it's possible that Davis could be the first tailback in the game on Aug. 29.

"If they call me up, I'll be ready," he said. "I won't miss a beat."

Davis is one of several first-year players who could play significant roles for the Trojans. Su'a Cravens may start at safety, receiver Darreus Rogers will play in a rotation with veterans Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor, and linebackers Michael Hutchings and Quinton Powell are carving spots as backups and special-teams contributors.

Senior Silas Redd led the Trojans in rushing yards last season and is regarded as the sage leader of the tailback corps. He underwent knee surgery last spring, however, and has participated in limited full-contact drills. Junior D.J. Morgan has been unable to participate in most drills because of injuries.

Third-year sophomore Tre Madden, who is coming back from 2012 knee surgery that forced him to be a redshirt last season, also has been limited in practice, though he appeared to be playing at full speed Monday.

Javorius "Buck" Allen has been dependable during training camp, but he has only six carries in his career. Freshman Ty Isaac has only recently begun to fully participate in practice after being slowed by injuries.

Meantime, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Davis picked up where he left off during spring, when he wowed coaches and teammates by running for 116 yards and a touchdown in 17 carries during the first scrimmage.

Davis' success was not a total surprise — he averaged nearly eight yards a carry and scored 23 touchdowns as a senior at Stockton Lincoln High — but his performance overshadowed more heralded newcomers.

Davis got off to a good start in training camp before suffering an ankle injury during an Aug. 8 scrimmage. He returned to full participation on Sunday and, once again, showed bursts of speed, ran with toughness that belies his frame and made moves that highlighted an evening practice at the Coliseum.

"Every time he's out there," Coach Lane Kiffin said, "it seems like something special happens."

Davis has been wearing a yellow jersey to signify he was off limits to contact, but he said his ankle was "really close to 100%."

In 2006, C.J. Gable became the first true freshman to start an opener at tailback for the Trojans. Morgan did it as a redshirt freshman in 2011.

Davis could be the next freshman tabbed for the assignment.

"I'm practicing and working on all the things that I need to work on," he said, "so I don't make any mistakes in the game, and they can count on me if they call on me." @latimesklein

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