Pac-12: Redd to USC

USC's offense was good at just about everything last year. Just about. But not everything.

One thing USC wasn't good at? Red zone offense.

In 2011, it ranked eighth in the Pac-12 in red zone offense. Its eight red zone rushing TDs were the fewest in the Pac-12 and ranked 114th in the nation. Its five fumbles were the most in the conference. It's 2.9 yards per rush inside the 20-yard line ranked ninth in the conference. It's red zone touchdown percentage -- 13.3 percent -- ranked 115th in the nation.

Ergo: Not good.

Trojans RB Curtis McNeal is a good running back. But he wasn't a good running back in the red zone.

Enter Penn State transfer Silas Redd, a tough-running 209-pound junior. Or should we say "Silas Redd Zone."

Redd, as noted by ESPN Stats & Information, scored seven red zone TDs in 2011, compared to two for McNeal. He averaged 3.8 yards per rush, compared to 2.9 yards per rush for McNeal. He rushed for 148 yards in the red zone compared to 79 for McNeal.

Now USC was pretty good passing the ball in the red zone. It had 23 red zone TD passes, which was third most in the Pac-12 behind Washington and Stanford. That boosted its red zone TD percentage to 60.8 percent, which ranked 59th in FBS.

Keep in mind that USC QB Matt Barkley is outstanding in play action, completing over 75 percent of his passes when using a play-action fake, averaging 8.7 yards per attempt with 13 TDs and just one interception. Adding another talented back will only continue to open up the passing game for Barkley.

Further, the notable downside to Redd -- after posting huge numbers in October, he fell off dramatically in November after getting banged up -- shouldn't be an issue for him if he's sharing the ball and not counted on to carry the offense, as he was at Penn State. He won't be asked to carry the ball 22 times per game as he was in the first nine games of 2011.

So the Redd transfer feels like a win-win for Redd and USC.
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USC coach Lane Kiffin said depth at running back was his team's biggest concern at Pac-12 media day. That concern was addressed Tuesday with the confirmation that Penn State's Silas Redd will transfer west.

Redd, second-team All-Big Ten in 2011, rushed for 1,241 yards and seven TDs as a sophomore for the Nittany Lions. The explosive 209 pounder should pair nicely with Curtis McNeal, who rushed for 1,005 yards in 12 games and averaged a stout 6.9 yards per carry.

In fact, just like that, the Trojans transformed a questionable position into arguably the nation's best backfield tandem. The running backs should pair nicely with the nation's best wide receiver tandem (Robert Woods & Marqise Lee) and best QB (Matt Barkley).

A statement from USC athletic director Pat Haden:
"We welcome Silas Redd to the Trojan Family. He is an outstanding student and athlete. When the NCAA presented the option to transfer, Silas and his family put a lot of thought and research into making this decision.

"At USC, we've seen both sides of this issue, having lost a number of players to transfer due to our NCAA sanctions in 2010. But Lane Kiffin and his coaches would not be doing their job if they did not try to improve our team every single day. There is a specific need here for a player like Silas Redd, so Lane and our coaches recruited him within the guidelines set up in this instance by the NCAA."

Now... about that defensive line depth.

Redd, who has two seasons of eligibility remaining, has been allowed to leave Penn State without penalty -- he normally wouldn't be immediately eligible -- due to NCAA sanctions from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Earlier this summer, he was named to the Walter Camp and Doak Walker awards watch lists.

USC will have to clear a scholarship spot for Redd -- it's not allowed to exceed 75 scholarship players, 10 fewer than the FBS limit, due to NCAA sanctions -- but it obviously will do what it takes to put Redd on the roster, even if that means yanking a scholarship. The most likely scenario is an existing player or incoming freshman not qualifying academically.

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