Sunday, 13 September 2009

Joe McKnight makes a statement

Look at the stat sheet for Joe McKnight (RB, USC) last night and it's not particularly eye catching. Sixteen carries for 60 yards and a couple of receptions for a further 46 yards can only be described as 'modest'. However, my concern has always been that McKnight is too much of a luxury. A speed option on the outside, a guy you want to get into space and provides an option in the passing game. There have previously been concerns about fumbles, which isn't surprising considering he isn't the biggest.

However, last night Joe McKnight beat Ohio State. Matt Barkley gets the credit because he's a better story, a true freshman quarter back at the start of a tremendous career. Barkley looked composed and held things together in the game winning drive, but it was McKnight that won it.

The junior running back carried the load for So Cal. They put the ball in his hands as he drove them down field, putting them in position to go ahead. The drive started with an 11-yard burst quickly followed by a neat catch for a further 21. We also saw the explosion McKnight possesses and the patience and vision we don't often hear about as he jinked through tackles. On his last carry of the drive, he took an initial hit but kept his legs moving and actually carried four defenders a further 2-3 yards.

It set up Stefan Johnson to roll in for the TD, but McKnight did the work. Barkley and McKnight hooked up on the two point conversion, the back taking a screen before diving into the end zone, carrying a defender with him for a game winning 18-15 scoreline.

It was a statement game for McKnight. The Trojans leaned on his shoulders to help out the young QB. He ran through the middle, took his hits and shielded the ball. He showed power to match the pace and whilst others toiled against lesser opposition, McKnight turned it on in a key game.

If I'm ranking the running backs likely to be present in the 2010 draft, my top three goes: C.J. Spiller, Jahvid Best and Joe McKnight. Jonathan Dwyer has a lot to prove after that Clemson game. The order of the three chosen? Undecided, for now.

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