The Louisville Running Backs rushed for just 1104 of the Cardinals 2223 yards rushing last season. Much of the lack of production for the Cardinals was as a result of the limitations of its Quarterback. Louisville, in my opinion, had to augment its rushing attack based on Lamar Jackson’s presence last year. Everything came out of the shotgun with Lamar on the field and when Louisville needed to ‘Run to Win’ in the 4th Quarter they actually had to change Quarterbacks to get under center and run the ball in a traditional way. This inconsistency disrupted the involvement and rhythm of a position that probably relies on rhythm the most, the Running Backs.
But if we are honest it was a down year for the Louisville Running Backs. With Lamar Jackson being able to work the entire playbook and get under center coupled with the talent that we know this group possesses fans should be excited…..but fans should also demand better at the Running Back position in 2016.
Brandon Radcliff is a captain, he’s super strong and in 2015 he went away from his physical rushing style that has defined his career previously. In fact, versus Pitt & Boston College Brandon finished the game with NEGATIVE rushing yardage. Radcliff finished with 634 yards on 139 carries (just 4 catches for 20 yards) and 7 Touchdowns and that was much less than I think he expected for himself. Brandon really needs to get back to being himself and running with physicality and burst and not searching for a seam in the backfield. Additionally Radcliff has never been a pass-catching running back, but he must be available and more obvious for the check down than he has been.
My Predicted Running Back Depth Chart
Brandon Radcliff (5’9, 210, R-Sr.)
LJ Scott (6’0, 225, Jr.)
Jeremy Smith (6’2, 224, Jr.)
Malin Jones (6’0, 225, Sr.)
Trey Smith (6’0, 220, R-Fr.)
Combing back behind Brandon Radcliff is LJ Scott & Jeremy Smith. Of the 3 backs mentioned thus far, L.J. Scott is by far and away the best pass catching back that Louisville has in practice, but Scott just hasn’t gotten the amount of touches during his career to get a good understanding of his rushing ability. LJ has been used A LOT as a blocker, but did rush for 180 yards on 39 carries last year. Jeremy Smith, however, might be Louisville’s most explosive rusher. The problem for Jeremy Smith last year was the fumbling but whenever he got the ball it felt like he might be able to go the distance.
Between Radcliff, Scott, and Smith Louisville has a very talented set of Running Backs that each have something they must work on in order to improve the Cardinal Rushing attack. This Spring there was a clear emphasis to get the Running Backs more involved in the offense, out of the shotgun, in pistol, or under center…..in any way possible!
Malin Jones had a long run in the Spring Game and Trey Smith moved to Linebacker and back to Running Back during the Spring. We’ll have to see where Malin & Trey fit in the rotation as Fall Camp opens. It’s a tough ceiling to crack with Radcliff, Scott and Smith as the core 3.
We’ll also talk about Reggie Bonnafon moving to Wide Receiver when we cover the Wide Receiver preview, but we also expect to see Reggie Bonnafon in the backfield some like last year so we just wanted to mention that here before moving on. Also Traveon Samuel spent some time in the backfield during Spring Drills doing some experimental things so while both these players are Wide Receivers they may do some running back activities during the season.
Dae Williams (6’2, 224, Fr.)
Malik Williams (6’3, 220, Jr.)
We’ve heard GREAT things about Dae Williams during Summer workouts. Dae rushed for 1673 yards & 19 TDs as a senior in High School and has a reputation for not losing yards. Coach Petrino has mentioned that he has been impressed with Dae’s workouts and we’ll just have to see if that translates onto the field or if the program will continue to work with him during his 1st year in college as a redshirt. Malik Williams is a player that is listed at Running Back but could play multiple positions (WR, DB). Malik signed with the Cards as a surprise on Signing Day and the coaches expressed a lot of interest in his athleticism but until we see him in Fall Camp it’s hard to say where he’ll be placed and where he’ll be in the pecking order.