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USC has a stable of talented backs to choose from

The late Agatha Christie's new mystery is "Ten Little Trojans."

When USC sophomore Emmanuel Moody announced last week that he intended to transfer in order to find more playing time, the Trojans still had nine remaining candidates from which to choose at tailback. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian assessed the field for ESPN.com earlier this summer.

What Sarkisian is looking for: "The goal for us is to have one to two lead backs and the other guys are going to be our spot, role-type players, whether it's short yardage, whether it's third down. We're going to have one or two backs and we're going to go with them. We're going to give them their chances to get their 15 carries a game and let them go. You can't give six guys five carries and be good. We can't be that."

Sophomore C.J. Gable (6-foot-1, 195 pounds; 111 carries, 434 yards, four touchdowns last season)
Sarkisian: "C.J. Gable, I thought, really asserted himself in the second half of the season. He played well in some big football games [California, 19-91; Notre Dame, 20-107]. He's a kid that grew up in a rough part of Southern California. He hadn't really worked out before, didn't eat very good, wasn't in a program that taught him very good football, the game, understanding the game. This offseason, you can see a change in his body. He's eating better. He's quicker. He's faster. … If I had to put something on it, he's going to be a hard guy to beat out, in my opinion, just because he played so much in the second half of last season. He's tough."

Senior Hershel Dennis (5-11, 200; hasn't played since 2004 because of injuries)
Sarkisian: "He got granted a sixth season [medical redshirt]. He is a very good football player. He is not the most talented of these guys, but he can play. He's very reliable."

Senior Chauncey Washington (6-0, 220; 157-744-9)
Sarkisian: "A bigger-type back. He just had every issue you can think of, whether it's been grades in school to injuries, just an onslaught of things that have really held him back from being the player he can be. He can be a very tremendous football player. I'm anxious to see Chauncey in training camp to hopefully see what a quiet offseason in off-the-field stuff will look like and what it transcends into."

Sophomore Allen Bradford (6-0, 225; 13-42-1)
Sarkisian: "A kid that we started at safety, then to fullback, then to running back, back to fullback, and we're going to give him a shot at running back. Again, I think that's going to help him, just to give him a training camp to play one position and see what happens, because he's a big, talented kid and we'll see what happens."

Senior Desmond Reed (5-9, 185; 7-12-0)
Sarkisian: "The knee [injured against Notre Dame in 2005] is getting better. Desmond is a third-down specialist for us, but can do things in the running game well. He's a tough, feisty kid and really, really football savvy. He's good for our young guys. They can learn a lot of stuff from Desmond."

Sophomore Stafon Johnson (6-0, 210; 3-17-0)
Sarkisian: "He was the 'Prince of L.A.,' self-proclaimed, and just got off on the wrong foot. He couldn't catch up to the other guys … He didn't know how to practice. He came in and he just did not know how to practice. And it took him a while to get going. And then he got going, but it was two or three weeks into the season. These other guys were already playing football, so now they're going, too. They understood the speed of what's happening. He just couldn't catch them by the end of the year. But he did improve. Like I said, I'm anxious to see him this fall because I think he's matured quite a bit, on and off the field. … He had a nice offseason, got shoulder surgery to get that fixed."

Freshmen Joe McKnight (6-0, 180), Marc Tyler (6-0, 215), Broderick Green (6-1, 230)
Sarkisian: "They're going to get their chances, and these other kids know it. We're going to put them in there and see what they can do. We're going to try to find the things they do really well and let them go do it."

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.