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Wednesday, May 5, 2010
How good can Baxter get?

By Pedro Moura

USC freshman sensation Dillon Baxter has the talent to be a world-beater at running back for years to come. With multiple ground-breaking runs to show for his first spring in Troy, that's not up for debate.

What is up for debate is how long it will take Baxter to reach that level. Baxter, a quarterback at San Diego's Mission Bay High, characterizes his knowledge of the playbook as 85 percent and says he is rapidly improving.

Running backs coach Todd McNair has a bit more sobering view of his 18-year-old prospect's grasp of the Trojans' offense.

"I would say 60 percent," McNair said.

How can Baxter show improvement to McNair?

"Just play at an error-free level," the former NFL player and longtime USC assistant said. "Right now, I can't say 100 percent because there are certain formations, certain protections, certain adjustments, that he doesn't know yet.

"It's not teaching him what to do as much as teaching him what not to do."

The statistics back up McNair's assertions. Baxter, an early enrollee who should be finishing up his senior year of high school, had an eye-popping 50-yard touchdown run in USC's first scrimmage back in April and an impressive 58-yard carry in Saturday's spring game but otherwise totaled a very average 130 yards in 31 carries in the rest of the spring scrimmages.

"He's a pup," McNair said. "He's still supposed to be in school. He just needs to get acclimated and get a total understanding of everything — pass protection, routes, the whole everything.

"He doesn't have anything he doesn't have to work on."

The poised Baxter knows that — "There's still a lot of stuff I gotta learn," he said multiple times this spring — but is still very confident in his abilities. McNair is, too.

"He's getting it," McNair said. "He's just gotta play. He doesn't know what he doesn't know. Experience is what he needs."