The former Penn State back bolstered a thin backfield for the Trojans, adding his big-play ability to an already explosive offense.
When the NCAA buried Penn State beneath an avalanche of sanctions and opened the door for its players to leave without penalty, nine Nittany Lions transferred in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal that rocked the program.
None received as much attention or criticism as running back Silas Redd, who left for USC.
After a publicized summer courtship, he arrived in Los Angeles in late July two days before the training camp, bolstering a thin running back corps still recovering from NCAA sanctions in 2010 that reduced USC’s scholarships.
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“Having Silas has definitely been a plus,” said Kennedy Polamalu, the Trojans’ offensive coordinator and running backs coach. “He’s been a game changer…. I fully believe in our team concept that coach has stressed, that somewhere along the way somebody would have picked up the torch.
“But I don’t want to give Silas back.”
Redd, who has described his choice to leave Penn State as a business decision, leads USC with 415 rushing yards, averaging 83 per game, and has all five of the Trojans rushing touchdowns.
Many see the 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior as the missing piece to USC’s national championship puzzle, which includes Heisman-Trophy-candidate quarterback Matt Barkley and star receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.
“They were plenty good before him, and now you add him to everything else and they’re incredibly explosive,” said Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. “He’s plenty fast to take it the distance. He’s got really good elusiveness.
“It looks like he’s got good balance. He can put one foot in the ground and make cuts. He’s a really talented guy.”
Stanford has been the only team to shut down the Trojans’ running game, and held them to just 26 yards during a 21-14 USC defeat. Redd had just 17 yards in the loss.
It will be a much more difficult task for the Huskies (3-2) to do that when No. 11 USC (4-1) visits CenturyLink Field on Saturday.
For starters, the Trojans were without senior center Khaled Holmes, a three-year starter, when they played Stanford.
Plus Redd is starting to find his groove with his new team. Two weeks ago, he ran for a season-best 158 yards on 21 carries in a 27-9 win over California.
“We’re seeing Silas’ role grow,” coach Lane Kiffin said. “For anybody, it takes a little bit of time and, as you see, he’s really starting to be more productive in our system. I think he’s going to have a great year and take off, and he’s a great kid to have in our program.”
Two months after leaving Penn State, Redd’s controversial decision appears like the smart move, said Cory Giger, a talk-show host for ESPN Radio 1450 in State College, Penn.
“He got the better of the deal because he’s still going to have 1,000 yards,” Giger said. “Maybe USC won’t win the national championship, but he’s still going to have a chance to be in the national-championship picture when everything shakes out.
“And he’s still going to go to a BCS bowl game.”
That’s an option he wouldn’t have had at Penn State, which received a four-year bowl ban as part of the NCAA’s sanctions.
Giger said losing Redd hasn’t even been the biggest blow for the Nittany Lions (4-2), who replaced him with five backs that have combined for 809 yards.
Still, Nittany Lions fans haven’t forgiven Redd, who ran for 1,241 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore.
“He really is a great kid, but he is viewed by a lot of Penn State people as a Judas or as a traitor who walked away from a team when they needed him,” said Giger, who has also covered Penn State since 2006 for the Altoona Mirror.
“There’s more anger towards Silas than anyone else because Silas was a star here, and people are going to look at him and say he still could have been a star here.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Leaving Penn State|
|In the wake of sanctions levied against Penn State by the NCAA, the Nittany Lions lost nine players who immediately transferred to other schools. A total of 18 players are not with team since January, but half of the defections are unrelated to the penalties. Here’s a look at the nine former Nittany Lions who defected due to the sanctions and how they’re doing with their new teams.|
|QB||Rob Bolden||Soph.||LSU||Third on depth chart, no pass attempts|
|WR||Justin Brown||Jr.||Oklahoma||Second on team with 15 receptions; 154 yards|
|S||Tim Buckley||Fr.||NC State||Backup who plays primarily on special teams|
|K||Anthony Fera||Jr.||Texas||Played in one game with 1 FG, six PATs|
|LB||Kahairi Fortt||Jr.||California||Redshirting due to knee injury|
|TE||Kevin Haplea||Jr.||Florida State||Backup, has played in all games, 3 receptions, 15 yards|
|OL||Ryan Nowicki||Fr.||Illinois||Backup who hasn’t played this season|
|DT||Jamil Pollard||Fr.||Rutgers||Redshirting this season|
|RB||Silas Redd||Jr.||USC||Leads Trojans with 415 rushing yards, scored all five USC rushing TDs|