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Markese Stepp is headed to Nebraska

Former USC running back Markese Stepp will next suit up for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the 6-foot, 230-pound tailback announced on Tuesday.

Stepp entered the transfer portal on Dec. 28, following another injury-plagued season at USC.

A four-star signee out of Indianapolis for USC in the 2018 recruiting class, this move will also take Stepp closer to home.

He came onto the scene as a true freshman in 2018 with a strong showing against Notre Dame to close the season. He was a practice-field standout before the 2019 season and was slowly worked into the offense. He produced in a big way during that season when given a number of carries, eventually rushing for 307 yards on 48 carries — a 5.7-yards-per-carry average. An ankle injury against Arizona sidelined him for the rest of the season and began a frustrating period for him as far as injuries go.

The ankle injury lingered and kept him sidelined for an extended period. He then suffered a foot injury during fall camp and a pectoral injury kept him out of the Utah game.

After carrying the ball 26 total times for 135 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona State and Arizona, Stepp had just six carries for five yards against Washington State and UCLA. Following the game against the Bruins, head coach Clay Helton said they wanted to go with Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai as the two backs against UCLA, when asked about Stepp’s workload in the game.

With Malepeai unavailable for the Pac-12 Championship Game, Stepp had 13 carries against Oregon, but managed just 25 yards and a short touchdown run as the USC ground game largely fell apart over the second half of the season.

Stepp had the longest run of the season for USC — a 49-yarder against Arizona — but averaged just 2.6 yards per carry on his other 44 carries.

Stepp also made an interesting comment on Twitter during the National Championship game between Alabama and Ohio State. As Crimson Tide wide receiver Jaylen Waddle tried to play through an ankle fracture suffered earlier this season, many NFL players pushed for Alabama to remove him from the game.

Los Angeles Rams’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey tweeted: “Who advised 17 for Bama to play? Whoever it is definitely doesn’t have his best interest at heart. As a competitor, I understand why he would want to play, but no way he should be out there with the future he has ahead. I hope he can stay safe.”

To that, Stepp responded: “I felt this one.”

USC finished the 2020 season averaging 97 rushing yards per game, while Nebraska put up just over 200 yards on the ground per game. The Cornhuskers’ lowest output was 111 rushing yards against Purdue, while USC was held to 100 or fewer rushing yards in four of its six games.

The running back position remains an interesting one for USC, as the Trojans still could welcome back seniors Carr and Malepeai. Both would have the option to return or declare for the 2021 NFL Draft, though the decision deadline for that is rapidly approaching.

USC will also have tailback Kenan Christon back next season and welcomes incoming freshman Brandon Campbell this spring as an early enrollee. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Trojans go after a running back in the transfer portal, and Buffalo’s Kevin Marks is a potential target there.

After rushing for 118 yards per game in 2019, Helton said the target for the Trojans on the ground this season was somewhere around 165 yards per game, paired with one of the nation’s best passing attacks. At this point, USC’s only on-field coaching move has been to dismiss offensive line coach Tim Drevno, with the Trojans yet to announce his replacement.

Erik McKinney

Erik McKinney began writing for WeAreSC in 2004, during his junior year at USC, covering the Trojans football team and recruiting. He then moved on to ESPN.com in 2011, where he served as the West Region recruiting reporter and then the Pac-12 recruiting reporter. He took over as publisher of WeAreSC in January, 2019.

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