Posted: Tuesday October 11, 2005 8:28PM; Updated: Wednesday October 12, 2005 9:57AM
LenDale White has led the Trojans in rushing in each of the last two years, and is currently tops on the team with 616 yards.
Sharing the same backfield with Reggie Bush has been something of a mixed blessing for USC's LenDale White. On the field, the attention paid to Bush by opposing defenses opens things up in the middle, where White does most of his work. Off the field, however, the attention given to Bush by fans and the media seems to have left White in a bit of a vacuum. While he's an All-America candidate this year, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound junior has always been left completely out of the Heisman Trophy discussion. That was also the case last year, when he didn't even rank among the top 10 vote recipients for the award despite leading his team in rushing and touchdowns.
Some of this bubbled over a few weeks ago, after USC's season-opening 63-17 drubbing of Hawaii, when Bush got the starting tailback nod from head coach Pete Carroll. Of the Trojans' first 10 carries that day, White got only two of them. "That's what happens when you've got the Heisman Trophy tailback on the team,'' he said. "I have no clue at all what's going on. You've got Bush on the team and that's what happens.''
Everyone quickly made nice, but the impression that the USC coaches were going to make an effort to get Bush the Heisman has remained. Even if that isn't true -- even though White has been running roughshod over people for the last month with nearly 600 yards since) -- White has yet to get any Heisman love
Why is that? I don't think there's any doubt that Bush is the best player on the Trojans. He can do everything, and his coaches do all they can to get him 15 to 20 touches a game. But is he the best running back? White's a classic NFL-style ball carrier who drags defenders and moves piles. He's also a surprisingly nifty runner around the line of scrimmage; twice this season I've seen him hurdle defenders at the line. I know who I'd rather have carry the ball 30 times a game, and shouldn't the best running back on the country's best team be able to get a Heisman vote or two?
For all of his accomplishments, Bush has never finished a season as USC's leading rusher. White has done that in each of the last two years, and is currently tops on the team with 616 yards. White also has 38 career touchdowns to Bush's 31. (White scored 17 touchdowns last season, the most by a Trojan since Marcus Allen scored 23 in 1981, and he only made second-team All-Pac-10.)
Two weeks ago, when Arizona State knocked quarterback Matt Leinart for a loop -- after the game we learned that he suffered a mild concussion -- USC turned to its running backs, who dominated the second half. In the final 30 minutes, White ran for 186 yards, scoring on runs of 32 and 46 yards, and Bush ran for 132, scoring on runs of 34 and 24. Why is one a Heisman candidate while the other isn't?
Let's be clear: I'm not saying White should win the Heisman over Bush. I'm just pointing out that White shouldn't be left out of the discussion like he has been. To my regret, I didn't give him a vote last year. I won't be making that mistake again.