Count on Lane Kiffin to make a probation season interesting for the Trojans. Turning his prized wide receiver recruit into a potential space buster at running back is something well worth watching, because Lord knows he doesn't want you talking about that combustible offensive line of his.
First of all, we got here when Kiffin and the Trojans did a little experimentation following the first loss of the season and put Farmer in as a scout-team quarterback and running back. The topic of moving him there permanently had never before been breached -- or even thought of extensively, it appears.
But when Farmer shined running out of the backfield, getting to the outside quicker than any of USC's other backs, minds were quickly made up to move him there in the long-term. By the next week, he was pretty much a full-time running back.
After a few days at running back, Kiffin presumably realized that Farmer would be a legitimate threat in the Pac-12 as soon as this month and immediately got to thinking about the sense of burning his redshirt almost halfway into the year.
Okay Lane. Whatever you say.
Farmer's competition has been Marc Tyler (most famous for this), Dillon Baxter (famous for this), Curtis McNeal (averaging about eight yards a carry, but only handles the rock four to five times a game because it's someone else's turn!) and D.J. Morgan (garbage time!). This should honestly be its own reality show.
Farmer has been running against USC's run defense. USC's run defense gave up 169 rushing yards to Arizona State. Extrapolate and presume that measuring yourself against USC's run defense isn't the best thing to do (unless you're Minnesota and can only point out you nearly beat the Trojans in the Coliseum, then spend the rest of the season burrowed deep within the Earth).
To the video tape! Does Farmer look like a running back to you?
There's no doubt his second level of acceleration is incredible--once Farmer gets to the edge it'll be very hard for any defender to catch up with him. The question is can he ever get to that second edge? It might not be so easy for him to do it.
For one thing, Farmer is tall. He's over six feet tall, which is about two to three inches too much for a typical college running back. While that may help his vision in looking to the second level, he's going to have long strides, which means he'll get tangled up in his blockers when the holes close up, and it'll be hard for him to keep his footing. It's evident in his tape that he runs more like a track star than a football player.
Secondly, Farmer doesn't break tackles. If the USC offensive line is locking things down I can see why you'd put him out there--he's clearly the most explosive threat out there.
Finally, do you ever see Farmer bursting up the middle in the tapes? It's always in space, with open fields and no defenders in sight where Farmer makes his initial play with the ball. Farmer proves he can cut back in his videos, but only after being 20-30 yards past the original line of scrimmage. He can't bust things open at the line.
It's clear that he thrives on the outside out on the edges. Perhaps Kiffin wants another option out of the backfield to cause defenses to have to worry about a third dynamic threat on the field behind Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. Woods and other Trojan wide receivers are capable blockers.
Still, if defenses aren't afraid of the offensive line blocking (or Farmer being a threat to run behind them), this could counter his effectiveness--one defender could be assigned to shadow him and keep him in front of him.
That being said, it's Cal he's running against, so I'm looking forward to his ten touchdown, six hundred yard performance. Set records Mr. Farmer, because you may never have another chance to do so.