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They’re Running Into Trouble : College football: USC tailbacks have a long way to go to match past Trojans.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After three games, USC’s three tailbacks have rushed for only 271 yards. Historically, USC tailbacks have had that sometimes in one game.

Can USC get to the Rose Bowl with that kind of production from freshman David Dotson, sophomore Scott Fields and freshman Shawn Walters?

Coach John Robinson brushed that aside at his Tuesday media luncheon.

“Judging a tailback by stats is incomplete,” he said.

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“David’s doing the things I think a tailback has to do. At Penn State, there wasn’t a lot for him. That wasn’t a nice day for a tailback. Every time we gave him the ball, someone hit him in the mouth immediately.

“He will have some big days, but it may not happen for a while. The next two teams we play, Washington State and Arizona, are both tough against the run.”

Dotson and Fields were running behind sophomore starter Dwight McFadden in training camp but that changed on USC’s last series of the first quarter of its first game, against North Carolina.

McFadden gained 19 yards up the middle--and suffered a broken left ankle when tackled. Enter Fields. He gained 17 yards in seven carries, and lost a fumble.

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Dotson then came on in the fourth quarter, carrying nine times in USC’s only touchdown drive. He finished with 48 yards.

Dotson started against Houston, and had a steady, if unspectacular, 66 yards in 15 carries. Fields played his best against Houston, accounting for two seven-yard gains in a USC touchdown march in the third quarter, and got the touchdown from the one-yard line.

But he also lost another fumble, early in the fourth quarter.

Also against Houston, Walters had a 54-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. But Robinson, who prefers tailbacks who ricochet off tacklers, wasn’t impressed. Walters wasn’t touched on his run.

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“All that showed me was he can run 54 yards without stopping,” he said.

Dotson came to USC a year ago with a bunch of rushing records achieved at Valley View High in Moreno Valley, where he scored 85 touchdowns in three years.

In one game, against Rim of the World, he rushed for a state-record 507 yards in 27 carries. He had two other 400-yard-plus games.

In 1991, he gained a state-record 3,544 yards, averaging 10 yards per carry. For his prep career, running out of both the I-formation and single wing, he broke the California state mark of 5,998 yards, set by Russell White, with 7,265 yards.

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He also broke state prep rushing marks formerly held by former Trojan Ryan Knight and former Stanford standout Glyn Milburn. He is only 5 feet 10 and 185 pounds, but can bench press 300 pounds.

“At this point, Dotson has established himself as the No. 1 guy,” Robinson said.

“He’s steady, plays hard and he’s a tough kid. On blocking assignments, he really goes after people.

“Scott had that one very good drive against Houston and he got us a touchdown. But he’s let the ball get away from him a couple of times and he has to convince us in practice that that’s not a problem for him.

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“Walters shows a lot of ability, but he had a sprained ankle for a while, then he had the flu. He’s an emerging player.”

Said Charles White, who coaches the running backs and owns the USC career rushing record of 6,245 yards: “This group (of tailbacks) has a long way to go, but they’ll be all right.

“You’ve got to remember, two have never played college football before and the other (Fields) played defense last year. Dotson is very steady and solid but still a little unsure of himself. When he’s more experienced, he’ll play with more confidence.”

Said Robinson: “They’re so young, it’s hard to establish what one does better than the other two. Really, none of them have developed yet.”

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