Hershel Dennis, a tailback for USC, has looked great in spring practices and in the annual Trojan Huddle spring game. Dennis is recovering from two severe knee injuries that, unfortunately, have kept him off the field the last two seasons. Dennis has applied for a 6th year of eligibility due to these extreme circumstances. USC is still awaiting word from the NCAA on this matter. All of us here at USC Sports Talk are hoping the NCAA comes to their senses and grants Hershel that extra year.
Dennis is a 2002 graduate of Long Beach Poly High School. He comes from the same graduating class that produced other Trojan stars such as Darnell Bing and Winston Justice. Dennis split carries his freshman year at USC with upperclassmen Justin Fargas and Sultan McCullough. He saw playing time in all 13 games that season and was the starter the year after for the Trojans. Dennis was the team’s 2nd leading rusher in 2003, playing in front of freshman tailbacks and current NFL players, Reggie Bush and Lendale White. Before we had Thunder and Lightening in the USC backfield, we had Hershel Dennis. This guy is a beast. Dennis rushed for 661 rushing yards in 2003. USC has had enough talent to use a running back by committee approach and Dennis paved the way for Bush and White to develop their game their freshman year. These guys had quite a mentor. Dennis has a great combination of speed and power. He can bounce to the outside to turn the corner or he can simply lower his shoulder and run through people. Dennis doesn’t just run over people, he trucks them.
Hershel Dennis has endured some setbacks in his career but he just keeps coming back. While other players would easily fold at injuries (see Dallas “Shoulder Sprain” Sartz), Dennis has recovered from two season ending knee injuries. He had an impressive showing at Saturday’s Trojan Huddle amassing two touchdowns, one on a 2 yard run and another on a 43 yard screen pass that he took to the house. I wasn’t there in person but I’ve heard that the longer touchdown by Dennis got all the fans in attendance wet.
USC desperately needed someone of Hershel’s caliber last season. There were far too many times when the running game looked stagnant and the running backs simply weren’t cutting it. This was a combination of our young backfield and Lane Kiffin’s “genius” playcalling. Thankfully that guy is no longer in the booth. I highly doubt USC would have looked so incompetent against UCLA’s defense in that defeat this last December had Dennis been in the lineup. Hershel would have run right through the Bruin’s defense and we would be admiring another BCS championship trophy at Heritage Hall.
Dennis has proven that he can still perform at a high level this Spring. Hopefully Dennis can continue his progress and return to form. We hope to see #34 back on the field breaking big runs and running wild over the Pac-10 defenses.