LOS ANGELES-Usually with experience the attribute of leadership is not too far behind. For USC senior running back Justin Davis, being the elder statesmen of the talented Trojans backfield, being a leader on the team is something he’s fully embracing in his last season.
“I kind of say this is like a rite of passage,” Davis said after a recent practice. ” I just have to step into that role. I am the oldest running back, and we still got young dudes and I still have to make sure they’re up to par and they’re not lacking. Running backs in the past that I looked up to did the same thing to me, so I’m just passing down what they passed down to me…I’m loving this role because I’m actually learning a lot coaching up them and trying to be a leader.”
To Davis, leadership doesn’t just come in lip service; it means helping his teammates understand the playbook better and assisting them in comprehending all the other tedious nuances to play football at USC.
“Sometimes it’s just all about the details, whether it’s a step here or there or whether he’s not reading the safety…it’s all about the little things,” said Davis. “People like Ronald (Jones), they can run the ball, they’re very talented. That part always takes care of themselves. It’s more about the cerebral part of the game, seeing what the play looks like before the ball is even snapped. It’s little things like that.”
It’s going to take little things and paying attention to detail for Davis and the Trojans to beat defending champion Alabama in their first game of the college football season. And it’s going to take more than that.
It’s going to take the Trojans’ run game, with Davis and Jones and the rest of the USC running back crew to run up the backs of the Crimson Tide’s stout front seven to come away with a victory against college football’s modern day bullies. To say the least, the matchup between the two teams should make for good theater as USC will use its pound-and-ground offensive attack to offset Alabama’s powerful defense.
Basically, what the outcome of this game is going to come down to is who has the more physical presence on the field, Davis said.
“They get off the rock well,” Davis said. “They move to the ball real quick, and believe it or not, they might be big, but they move east and west pretty well. We’ve been watching film a lot, but we have a great game plan for them that the coaches has drawn up. That No. 1 defense…They’re just another team to me. We’ve got the same talent as them. We still match up just as well. So it just a matter of getting the details right.”
In the last two seasons, it appears that Davis has picked up the little things from the Trojans’ offensive scheme to flourish behind that massive offensive line. In 2014, Davis carried the ball 129 times for 595 yards in part-time duty. In a more dominant role last year, Davis rushed for 902 yards on 169 carries.
Productivity expectations are higher this season for Davis. That begins in Game 1 against Alabama, whom Davis acknowledges may be a bit overconfidence facing the Trojans.
“They’re walking around thinking, ‘We’re going to roll over ‘SC,'” said Davis. “I just can’t wait. It’s hard to sleep already. What we’re building right now about this whole physicality part-this run first, run is your strength-I just can’t wait just to unleash against Alabama. I don’t think they know what’s coming. I just can’t wait until the showdown.”
Davis said he’s ready because he’s been gearing up all offseason for this game and the rest of the season with a more physically demanding regimen, which will make him a stronger running back this year.
“I took it upon myself with this being my last offseason as a Trojan, to get my body in the best condition possible for the coaches to use in the game, whether it’s adding a couple of pounds, which I did, or bulking up,” Davis said. “I feel great. I want to be able to carry the ball as much as they give it to me. I want to be as strong in the fourth quarter as in the first. I took it upon myself to improve that part of my game.”