Small backs like Melquise Stovall always get stereotyped as finesse players who excel out in space rather than in tight quarters. Stovall has speed and lateral agility to be awesome when out in space, but it’s his ability as an inside runner that smashes the stereotype that is put on small running backs.
He packs power to go with great feet and vision that help him excel wherever he is handed or catches the football. He’s one of the most exciting prospects to watch on the west coast in this recruiting class and another great pickup for USC.
There is no denying that Stovall is tiny out there compared to a lot of other players, but he plays with strength that is bigger than his size. He can probably add a little weight, but already has a strong base with his lower body. His lateral agility is outstanding and he has explosive acceleration and great top end speed. He’s an elite athlete with great feet.
Stovall shines in multiple areas in multiple positions on the field. Wherever he is lined up, he is a threat to gain big chunk yards every time he touches the football.
He runs with surprising power for his size and frequently breaks arm tackles. He’ll even lower his shoulder to run over defensive back if he gets the chance. He doesn’t go down easy and forces defenders to wrap up. He’s also incredibly elusive and can make people miss. His ability to stop and start, then get back to full speed quickly is exceptional. That combined with his vision makes him an extremely dangerous player in the open field.
His vision as an inside runner is also impressive. He reads off his lead block extremely well and, with his outstanding feet that allow him to avoid and explode like he can, he is a very effective player on inside runs. It reminds me a little bit of former Florida State standout Warrick Dunn, who was undersized as well, but a very good inside runner.
He catches the ball well and is someone that can be used out of the slot as well as out of the backfield. He isn’t the strongest route runner right now, but shows good hands and definitely has the physical tools to be tough to cover out of his breaks.
I actually loved what I saw from him at corner as well. His physical style also translated to him as a tackler. With his fluid athleticism, speed, and ball skills, he probably would have a lot more people projecting him at corner if he were taller.
I’m going to be very interested to see how Sarkisian uses him in their offense, but I could see it growing into being similar to the old Reggie Bush role of playing in the backfield, but also occasionally splitting out to play receiver.
I know he is small, but I love the toughness Stovall plays with. That toughness combined with his explosive athleticism is going to be exciting to watch develop. His skill set is different than some of the other players who are on USC’s roster and that should help him separate himself and eventually find a role as a valuable contributor in their offense.
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Jamie Uyeyama was a way too small defensive tackle at Idaho State University and a more appropriately sized rush end at Simon Fraser University. He was a coach at the college and high school level and is the son of Ron Uyeyama, a member of the Delta Sports Hall of Fame and high school football coach for over 30 years (hence the site name, Son of a Coach).