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Carr surging to the front of the backfield pack

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USC transfer in position to be IU’s starting running back after strong fall camp

USC v Arizona State
Running back Stephen Carr #7 of the USC Trojans walks out to the field before the NCAAF game against the USC Trojans at Sun Devil Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. The Trojans defeated the Sun Devils 31-26.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There are still a few days before Indiana is expected to release a depth chart for the first week of the season. And yet, we don’t need a piece of paper to know who is the favorite for bulk carries in the backfield.

It’s Stephen Carr, the USC transfer who has reportedly wowed IU’s coaching staff during his introduction to live work this month in Bloomington. As the Hoosiers sought to replace the production of former starter Stevie Scott this offseason, Carr stepped forward and demonstrated so many of the qualities IU is looking for in a new lead back.

And now, Carr appears to be well on his way to earning a prominent role inside the offense when the season kicks off at Iowa next weekend.

“He’s very explosive,” IU running backs coach Deland McCullough said Thursday. “His change of direction is high end. His ability to make people miss (is apparent). He runs with power. He runs with decisiveness. ... He’s able to react quickly. His pass protection is where I want it to be, also.”

For Carr, a Southern California native who still affectionately (and understandably) refers to USC as his dream school, the theme of this summer has been adaptation. So far, it appears that he is passing the test. This is the first time he’s lived away from home, moving halfway across the country in search of a fresh start. The change of scenery seems to be doing him well, and while he’s had to learn a new system and find his way inside of a new locker room, Carr says he has been eager to embrace all that comes with his new challenge at Indiana.

“It was an interesting camp, for sure,” Carr said. “Getting to learn the plays, we’re still in the process of trying to make everything perfect. Aint nothing perfect, but we’re trying to get there. Going through camp, I got a good feel for the team. The team accepted me real good. I just tried to stay humble and try to make all the plays and take advantage of all the opportunities they were giving me.”

So far, so good.

Even with Carr’s emergence this month, others will get their chance as the season unfolds. Tim Baldwin, David Ellis and David Holloman, among others, can still earn carries should Carr indeed solidify his place atop the depth chart in the coming days. That’s the way McCullough operated during his first stint with the program, mixing in runners such as Devine Redding, D’Angelo Roberts, and Mike Majette while leaning heavily on All-Big Ten stars Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard. And it’s also how he plans to proceed in his second stint this fall.

“I think my history is pretty well noted, here at IU and (at) USC and in the NFL,” McCullough said. “I’m going to play several guys. There is going to be a lead horse guy that is the main feature guy, but I believe you get diminishing returns when you burn a guy out. Whoever is the lead guy, he will get the bulk of the action, but I think people will be surprised how much the second guy and other guys supplement the main person.”

Right now, it appears the top job is Carr’s to lose.

“I think the last couple of scrimmages and practices have put him in the position to potentially have that lead role,” McCullough said.