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2014 Running Back Review

The 2014 season began with a heavy focus on Dominique Brown and an explosive game vs. Miami.  After a series of fumbles and a disagreement with the coaching staff, Dominique was essentially shut down after that Clemson game in mid-October and carried the ball just once after that game against the Tigers.  Michael Dyer had a tough start to the season dealing with some injuries  and after a few ‘so so’ showings Dyer really exploded onto the scene against NC State & Florida State. Brandon Radcliff had huge games against Wake Forest and Syracuse before coming back and really have a tremendous game vs. Notre Dame.

Bottomline, the Cards had a lot of capable bodies at Running Back in 2015 but no one back performed consistently throughout the course of the season.  Bobby Petrino wants to run the football, it is a staple of his offense, but the Cards were 95th in Rushing Offense in 2015 despite rushing the ball nearly 100 times more than Louisville passed in 2015.  Radcliff ran the hardest, appeared to have the best attitude, and certainly had the best statistics with 144 carries and 737 yards and 12 Touchdowns, but there is no hiding the fact that the running game just wasn’t good enough and wasn’t as effective as Petrino wanted it to be last year.

Additionally, it never appeared that any QB was able to throw to the Running Backs very well at all.  Backs did not present themselves cleanly OR the throws were just awkward to the RBs.  Getting the passing game going out of the backfield will also go a long way to increasing the total offense production for the future.

Players Lost

Michael Dyer – 110 carries, 534 yards, 5 TDs. 3 catches 40 yards.
Dominique Brown -96 carries, 378 yards, 4 TDs. 7 catches 85 yards.
Luke Brohm – 1 kick return, 9 yards. (Fullback)

Numerical Roster
#4 Corvin Lamb 5-9, 208 RS Sr.
#12 Trey Smith 6-0, 215, Fr. (also listing at WR)
#20 James Allen 5-11, 180 Fr.
#23 Brandon Radcliff 5-9, 214 RS Jr.
#27 L.J. Scott 6-0, 226, Soph.
#28 Ryan Jordan 5-10, 212 Fr.
#31 Darius Skinner 5-7, 190, RS Sr.
#31 Mitchell Allen 5-9, 191, Fr.
#33 Malin Jones 6-0 225, Jr.
#34 Jeremy Smith 6-2, 225, Soph.
#39 Griffin Uhl 6-2, 264 RS, Jr. (FULLBACK)
#46 Lamar Atkins 5-11, 236, RS-Jr. (FULLBACK also listing at LB)

Projected Depth Chart
Running Back
Brandon Radcliff
Jeremy Smith
L.J. Scott
Malin Jones
Corvin Lamb
James Allen?
Darius Skinner
Ryan Jordan

Griffin Uhl
Lamar Atkins

Examining the 2015 Group

Brandon Radcliff broke out in 2015 after splitting carries and really fought for the most carries in 2014.  This year, Bad Rad appears that he is ready to take on the #1 RB role.  The question though is can Louisville ‘Run to Win’ in the 4th Quarter the way that Bobby Petrino wants to with Radcliff if Brandon has to take on 12+ carries in the 1st half.  Bad Rad is set up as the ultimate closing back in the 4th quarter with the way he runs, he is difficult to bring down and he also really delivers and impact to defenders who encounter him.

What will be interesting is how Jeremy Smith, L.J. Scott, and Malin Jones mix in with Bad Rad.  It’s really not about who starts the game.  It’s who Petrino wants to go with in key situations and the 4th quarter that matters.  I was really impressed with Jeremy Smith in the Spring. Jeremy came to the Cards after one season in JUCO with Fresno City College and ran for 1735 yards and 17 Touchdowns as a freshman.  In high school Smith put together an epic game for his Hammond Magnet School (LA) with 31 carries, 447 yards, and 7 touchdowns in a single game. It’s clear that Jeremy has talent, the question is how much of that talent is ready for major college football………but he looks good and Alabama made a late run for him out of Fresno.  WATCH OUT for Jeremy Smith.

Also be on the look out for L.J. Scott who paid his dues playing a great deal of the fullback role for the Cards in 2014.  L.J. has a very professional approach to the game and also has a great attitude and cares about his role……but don’t forget the talent.  Scott has worked with RB Coach Kolby Smith on lowering his pads and becoming an elite performer.  It appears that L.J. is well on his way and figures to make a big time impact in 2015.

Northwestern transfer Malin Jones also had some really nice moments in the Spring.  Malin was highly regarded coming out of high school in Illinois but was little used at Northwestern.  Jones redshirted in 2014 at Louisville and it appears that he will factor in some way into the running back rotation. Another big question is the shape that Corvin Lamb is in following yet another season ending injury in 2015.  Lambo (his nickname) has always been blessed with exceptional speed and he has teased fans with his talent since his arrival to Louisville but has just never been able to remain healthy.  Lamb will provide a major weapon out of the backfield if he is in good shape and on special teams.  We are also keeping an eye out to see if explosive Freshman James Allen makes it to campus (NOTE: We’ve learned since the original publishing that Allen will not make it to Louisville this Fall).

At fullback, it is going to to be interesting to see who lines up at fullback.  Last year LJ Scott took a lot of the duties along with Lamar Atkins.  Atkins is once again (and always has been) listed at the linebacker position, so we are going to have to see if that switch is legit.  Also gym rat Griffin Uhl has the prototypical body to play fullback and has shown the ability to play the position.

Ultimately, Louisville has a ton of talent in its offensive backfield and Brandon Radcliff is probably sitting on a huge year.  But no single back is going to be able to carry the full load that Bobby Petrino wants to implement and there are going to be plenty of opportunities for another back (or two) to really make a big time impact running the football.  It’s easy to project improvement for the Cardinal Rushing Attack, but a BIG jump for Louisville on the ground is extremely likely despite the losses on its offensive line (which we will get to later).

Get ready to run the football in 2015 Cards fans.

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@UofLSheriff50. Louisville native, University of Louisville Business School Grad c/o 2004. Co-Founder of TheCrunchZone.com

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