After a freshman season in which he backed up three future NFL players, Dennis started all 13 games as a sophomore, rushing for 661 yards and four touchdowns, while sharing carries with then freshmen Reggie Bush and LenDale White. Unfortunately for Dennis, those two went on to superstardom, and left Dennis behind and relegated to mop up duty. He ran for just 109 yards and a touchdown as a junior in 2004. In preparation for the Orange Bowl, Dennis tore ligaments in his left knee and redshirted the following season. As Bush and White left for the NFL, Dennis thought he had one more chance to be the lead back, but he came back too soon from his knee injury, and re-injured his knee in the spring.
Hershel Dennis is a very talented all around back. He has excellent quickness and balance, and keeps his feet moving upon contact. He has very good cutback ability, and accelerates quickly. Dennis is not afraid to run between the tackles, and fights for extra yardage. He has excellent patience, and seems to have the natural instinct of finding a hole. He has the hands to be a weapon out of the backfield, and also has special teams experience at USC.
The biggest problem with Dennis is his left knee. He has missed his last two college seasons because of two separate injuries. How much of his quickness remains is the big issue. Aside from the knee injury, Dennis has also had problems maintaining his weight during the season. He will enter the season around 200, which is only average, but will drop about 15lbs over the course of the season and finish at about 185.
Hershel Dennis is the ultimate sleeper. He has the talent to play in the NFL, but many things played a role in him not living up to expectations at USC. As a freshman, Pete Caroll said he was the most talented of USCís running backs, which featured Sultan McCullough, Justin Fargas, and Malaefou McKenzie, all of whom have spent time in the NFL. The presence of Reggie Bush and LenDale White along with his own injuries kept him from fully developing, the past three seasons. Dennis has the option of petitioning for a 6th year of eligibility, but does not seem to want to go that route. If he can get healthy, Dennis is a player that could be a major find for an NFL team.