Talk to the Syracuse defensive players about Todd Marinovich and they will add a second name--Ricky Ervins--to the Southern Cal offensive equation.
Ervins is the latest in what seems to be an endless line of good Southern Cal tailbacks, and one who could benefit greatly if Marinovich can match his passing statistics of a year ago for the ninth-ranked Trojans of 1990.
And if things really go well, the words All-American and Heisman could be synonymous with Ervins.
Don’t bother telling that to Ervins. Two days before Friday’s Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium, all Ervins cared about was getting some final details down and being ready for Syracuse.
“We’re getting a good chance to get all the mistakes out of the system by the time the conference starts,” Ervins said. “This is a real good opportunity.”
Ervins is familiar with opportunities. He had to wait almost two full seasons to get his chance to play full time for USC, and he took full advantage of it after taking over at tailback for Aaron Emanuel in the second game of the 1989 season. Ervins rushed for 1,395 yards on 269 carries (5.2 yards per carry) and scored 14 touchdowns, one coming on a pass. Of the 11 games he started, Ervins rushed for 100 yards or more in nine.
“He reminds me a little of Blair Thomas,” Syracuse free safety Rob Thomson said, referring to the Penn State back who was the second player taken in the recent NFL draft. “He’s not as big. But he has a lot of wiggle to him. Just look at his numbers, he’s a great player. He’s got a lot of skill. There’s just no way you can say they are a one-man team.”
USC guard Mark Tucker said Ervins complements the Trojans’ offensive line exceptionally well.
“Certain tailbacks have certain qualities,” Tucker said. “Ricky hits the hole quickly, as fast as anyone. We practice precision as a line so much on the offense, and he has gotten in sync with us.”
Although somewhat small at 5-feet-8 and 190 pounds, Ervins is powerful. His nickname is “The Pinball Wizard.”
“Ricky has the ability to bounce off tackles,” Tucker said. “He’ll get hit and spin and all of a sudden people are holding air.”
Syracuse will come into the game with a young defense. Seven starters from last season are gone.
The Orangemen also will have a new quarterback, but Coach Dick MacPherson refused to say whether redshirt freshman Marvin Graves or junior Mark McDonald will get the start.