USC’s Darwin Barlow says competition among tailbacks will ‘bring the best out of me’

USC running back Darwin Barlow in the first half against Colorado on Oct. 2, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

It wasn’t long ago that Darwin Barlow was the new guy in the running backs room. At this time last spring, he was still at Texas Christian, still months away from leaving for USC.

A year later, Barlow is suddenly the last scholarship back standing from last year’s backfield. He also happens to be the least experienced, a quirk of a roster remade through the transfer portal.

“It’s like free agency!” running backs coach Kiel McDonald said with a laugh.

When Barlow met with Lincoln Riley soon after he was hired as USC’s coach, he hadn’t anticipated such an overhaul. Riley said Barlow was a good fit for USC’s new offense, and Barlow was thrilled with the assessment. He knew Riley brought the best out in his backs, with six 1,000-yard rushers in seven seasons at the helm of Oklahoma’s offense. Now all signs pointed toward a similarly significant role for the redshirt sophomore.

That vision got a lot blurrier by late January, when two starting Pac-12 backs emerged from the portal to sign with USC. Stanford’s Austin Jones committed on Jan. 20. Oregon’s Travis Dye joined a day later. Together, they would bring 5,665 career all-purpose yards and 42 total touchdowns to USC’s backfield, dwarfing the experience of their backfield-mate.

But Barlow, now suddenly thrust into a stiff competition for carries, couldn’t be happier.

“I’m excited to have them around me,” Barlow said Tuesday. “They’ve played at college programs. They’ve won. They’ve had success. I’m just happy to have them around me and to learn from them. It’s going to bring the best out of me.”

Dye and Jones said they felt the same way about joining with Riley, who promised each would be used…

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