Get Ready For The Dillon Debut At USC
New coach Lane Kiffin already has a name for it. “The Dillon Factor,” he calls it.
The reference is to Dillon Baxter, the exciting freshman tailback who makes his college football debut Saturday night for USC.
Not even that other small, infamous tailback from San Diego — you know, that Reggie guy — had a more eagerly anticipated first appearance in L.A.
There is a reason for all the Baxter-mania. The kid is a unique talent. He isn’t the fastest or the strongest runner around. But he has that special something, the ability to make opposing tacklers miss, to go along with the kind of running instincts you just can’t teach.
He showcased it in spring practice, then again in the Spring Game. Whenever Baxter is on the field, you can’t take your eyes off of him. He is that kind of a player.
His debut Saturday night against Virginia is significant, because he already has been suspended for a game. Unfortunately, he’s established a reputation off the field that is as dangerous as his ability in the open field. Kiffin and his staff have had to monitor him closely.
If he weren’t as gifted as he is, he might have been booted off the team already. But come on, this is big boy football, and when you have a talent like this, you want to give him every chance.
Now it will be interesting to watch how they break him in. Marc Tyler, coming off an impressive 154-yard performance in the opener at Hawaii, deserves the majority of the carries at tailback until he proves he can’t repeat that kind of production.
But don’t worry, Baxter will get his opportunities. He’ll line up some at tailback and sometimes in the slot, and Kiffin, who doesn’t lack for creativity on offense, will find ways to get his star freshman the ball.
When he does, my advice to fans at the Coliseum is this: Don’t be stuck outside in the hot dog line. Whenever No. 28 is in the game, keep your binoculars trained directly on him.
You won’t be sorry.
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PICKS OF THE WEEK — I’ve always wanted to take a shot at picking football games against the spread, even though people tell you it is very difficult to pull off. If you can finish with a .500 record, you’re doing well.
I understand that, but I still can’t resist. So I’m starting a weekly Friday blog feature of selecting two games, one college and one pro. Both against the spread. They say if it isn’t a challenge, it isn’t fun, right? So here we go:
College: Stanford (minus 6) at UCLA. I’ve been writing for weeks that Stanford has been the most underrated team in the country heading into the season. This is a chance to see if I’m right. The Bruins didn’t play badly in their opener at Kansas State and should improve at home. But K-State didn’t have a quarterback like Andrew Luck and a huge, potentially overpowering offensive line. The Cardinal should light it up offensively, and I just don’t think Kevin Prince and Co. can keep up.
Pro: Packers (minus 3) at the Eagles. Aaron Rodgers and the Pack seem on the verge of a breakthrough year, while the Eagles don’t know what to expect out of quarterback Kevin Kolb. One thing you know about the fans in Philly: They won’t have much patience. If Kolb starts slowly, it could get ugly. Either way, the Packers look too solid on both sides of the ball.
Record: 0-0. Hey, if nothing else, at least I’m starting off at .500.
— STEVE BISHEFF