BLOOMINGTON — New Indiana running back Stephen Carr admitted it was a tough decision to leave USC.
It was Carr’s dream school, the one the former five-star recruit from Gardena, California, committed to the moment he was offered a scholarship there.
But after four up-and-down seasons with the Trojans, Carr decided this offseason to end his college football career at Indiana as a graduate transfer. He’ll be reunited with new IU running backs Deland McCullough, who coached him at USC in 2017 as a freshman before leaving for an NFL job with the Kansas City Chiefs.
But Carr, who arrived on IU’s campus last week to begin offseason workouts, said Tuesday playing under McCullough wasn’t the only factor in his decision to play for the Hoosiers.
“Being away from my family and friends, not being able to hang out with them so easily, I feel like this is a great opportunity to focus on myself and learn a lot about myself and really determine if I want it that bad, which I think I do — which I know I do,” Carr said.
The 6-foot, 215-pound Carr will begin that process this offseason, where he will compete for the starting running back job at IU with returning junior Sampson James and returning sophomores David Ellis and Tim Baldwin. IU could end up taking more of a running backs-by-committee approach with the departure of workhorse running back Steve Scott III, who signed with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in April.
“I can’t wait for these next five months to see the end result of these next five months, but I’m just being patient, taking it day by day,” Carr said. “Just trying to stack my coins, little by little, as much as I can, get better 1% every day.”
One of Carr’s best seasons at USC came under the tutelage of McCullough, when he rushed for 363 yards and three TDs on 5.6 yards per carry as a freshman.
“Coming out of high school, I didn’t really know too much about football,” Carr said. “I would just get the ball and run and it worked out, thank God. But coming in my freshman year, he explained the whole blocking scheme to me, how to read holes, how to read the first-down defender, how to call out D-linemen as a 3-technique or a 5-tech or stuff like that, and that’s very, very important when it comes to communication, coming back to the sideline and talking to your coach.
“We haven’t watched too much film yet. He’s been out this past week, so I can’t wait until he gets back and we can chop it up and watch some film.”
Injuries cut into Carr’s development, as he suffered a torn plantar fascia late in his freshman year and a herniated disc as a sophomore. But he said he’s 100% healthy heading into summer workouts and looking forward to taking on the rigors of a full Big Ten season.
“I can’t wait to be fully prepared to play this season,” Carr said. “I feel like every athlete should, no matter if you have no injuries or if you have the most injuries. I think the training room is very important, make sure you stretch, ice and all those other things that you need to do.”
Carr described his running style as elusive but wants to make better decisions and trust his instinct more in hitting holes.
“That will take me to the next level,” Carr said. “Stop thinking enough, just get straight to the point, get those dirty yards.”
Carr also displayed good versatility as a running back at USC, catching 57 passes for 421 yards and one TD at USC while returning 15 kickoffs for 321 yards. Ellis is back to return kickoffs at IU. But Carr could provide depth at that spot if Ellis, who missed IU’s first three games with an ankle sprain last season, is hurt again this season.
“I think I could provide a lot offensively, but I’m just going to have to put the work in, just like all of the other guys and try to earn my spot,” Carr said. “Hopefully, everything plays out.”