Bush campaign gains momentum


LOS ANGELES -- Never mind Bush in '04. Let's announce Reggie Bush as the nation's most exciting player right now. The grass-roots marketing is already in full swing.

You could tell that just by scanning the field as a handful of USC fans danced in the end zone at the Coliseum after the Trojans romped past Oregon State 52-28 on Saturday. They all were wearing T-shirts celebrating L.A.'s latest star, who dashed his way for over 100 total yards, two TDs and one jaw-dropping reverse-field scamper.

The T-shirts, which were being hawked for $10 in the parking lot before the game say "(Bleep) the Beavers," on the front and "We got Bush" on the back. Reggie's father, LaMar, a minister, could only smile when his son gave him one. "I can't wear it though," he said. "I'll have to figure a way to get that part off it."

No doubt that'll be easier than the task opposing defenses have trying to get his son of their backs. It's become clear that his son might be the X-factor that makes this Trojan offense more dangerous than last year's -- the one that was piloted by Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer. "Reggie's the ultimate weapon," says Mike Williams, USC's ridiculously gifted wideout.

"He's gonna be one of the best ever," said USC athletic director Mike Garrett, a former Heisman-winning tailback. "He looks like another Gale Sayers."

Bush is a rare talent. Usually, the guys with the dazzling quickness and a burst out of cuts, guys like Antwan Randle-El and Peter Warrick, aren't the guys with sprinter's speed. Bush, though, is one of those guys and a legit 10.3 100-meter guy. There's not a linebacker on the planet who can run with him, something USC has been exploiting more and more as the season goes on.

He's been every bit as good as advertised, living up to his billing as the nation's best running back recruit. That was a rep he developed after rushing for almost 5000 career yards with a 12-yard per carry average in his prep career.

USC running back coach Kennedy Pola says Bush is only getting started. "Next thing is to put weight on him," Pola says of the 195-pounder. "We want him at 210 for next season."

Still, who knows what kind of numbers and SportsCenter highlights Bush could have piled up had the Trojans not been so loaded at tailback, where he is complimented by power-running LenDale White and slasher Hershel Dennis. The trio has combined for almost 2000 yards rushing and there hasn't much squabbling about carries.

"It is a little tough for a running back to get into a rhythm when you're not in there getting all the reps and feeling the defense," concedes Dennis. "But we've been doing this the whole season and when we're in there we gotta take advantage of it."

On Saturday, Bush did, every chance he got, especially on a sweep to the left side where he ended up pirouetting after shaking off a tackler and sprinting the width of the field, getting a devastating crack-back block from Williams and racing 32 yards. "The play was designed to go outside," Bush says. "But the DB came off and made a pretty good play, but he didn't get me down. He just kinda swung me into another direction and I just went with it."

That momentum should take him all the way to stardom.

Bruce Feldman covers college football for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at bruce.feldman@espnmag.com.