Ronald Jones has a nickname. He has a place in the top 10 of USC’s all-time rushers. And he has the attention of former Trojan greats.
But what the tailback known as the “Texas Tesla” doesn’t have is a significant workload.
Jones is 9 yards away from passing O.J. Simpson for 5th all-time in rushing in USC’s record book, but he’s done it while averaging only 14 carries per game. Those same greats think that’s a shame.
“He’ll probably take this the wrong way,” former Trojans bruising back LenDale White said, via Joey Kaufman of the Orange County Register, “but maybe he was cheated a little bit because maybe if he had gotten the ball more he would’ve made a bigger impact or impression. I know that’s crazy to be said, because he’s about to surpass O.J. and a bunch of these numbers. But he probably could’ve rushed for 2,000 yards (in a season) easy had he gotten more opportunities.”
Jones enters Friday’s Pac-12 title game with 3,415 yards rushing on 542 career attempts for an average of 6.3 yards per carry. Of USC’s top 20 rushers all-time, only two have higher yards-per-carry averages than Jones: Reggie Bush (7.3) and the late Joe McKnight (6.4). Jones has already passed both in career rushing yards.
“He should’ve already passed me,” former Trojan Anthony Davis (3,724 yards, 4.8 per carry) said with a laugh.
Jones could, if he closes the 309-yard gap between them in the Trojans’ final 2 games of this season. He could also shatter every mark but Charles White’s 6,245 yards, compiled between 1976-1979, if he chose to return for his senior season.
Based on his play, the upcoming draft class of running backs and the tone of those who came before him, that’s probably out of the question. In a season that was dominated by the potential and play of quarterback Sam Darnold, Jones was again the reliable running back who USC never seemed to give enough carries. It’s expected that he’ll get more looks from evaluators and coaches at the next level, though again, Jones seems to be at least partially shrouded by other stars such as Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Alabama’s Damien Harris among others. Walter Football’s latest running back rankings don’t even put him in the top 5 — criminally underrated to those who follow the Pac-12.
“The one thing is they pass a lot,” said 1965 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett (3,221 yards, 5.3 per carry), “so for him to gain the yards that he has must mean a lot.”
Jones’ speed is also at an elite level, for college football at least. It’s another characteristic that seems to go overlooked.
“He has the ability to hit a home run (darn) near every time he touches the ball,” White said.
Jones’ 36 rushing touchdowns can attest to that.
His USC legacy is already cemented, though. A conference title would only add to how fondly Trojan fans remember Jones.
“Reggie Bush was special,” Ricky Ervins (2,337 yards, 4.8 per carry) said. “That’s special. The things that he did from day one until he left was special. Ronald Jones is up there, not quite a Reggie Bush, but he’s not far from him.”
That’s some pretty elite company.
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