Running the football was a staple of the University of Louisville football team last year, but its main rusher is now playing in the National Football League in quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Jackson, who is the school’s all-time leading rusher, totaled 1,601 yards on the ground last year from under center. However, with Jackson playing on Sundays now, the Cardinals will look to be more conventional in the rushing game.
The Cardinals will get a much closer look at the entire running back situation when the entire team comes together for the first time on Sunday. The Cardinals wrapped up their second full day in shorts and helmets on Saturday.
“We will definitely focus more on our running backs this season,” running backs coach Kolby Smith said. “I like what we have in the running backs room this season. We have a lot of talent, toughness and leadership in the backfield.”
Despite losing Reggie Bonnafon and Malik Williams, the Cardinals will have a deep and talented backfield. Trey Smith, Dae Williams and Colin Wilson are all three extremely talented and hard-nosed runners, who will battle in fall camp for the bulk of the carries. Williams is the top returning rusher with 235 yards on only 38 carries and Wilson, who missed most of the season with a knee injury, showed flashes of brilliance in limited action.
With most of the group sidelined in the spring with injuries, Smith and Tobias Little took the bulk of the plays, which helped in their development.
“It’s awesome to have a full room back,” Kolby Smith said. “It was good to get Trey Smith and Tobias a lot of repetitions with the first group. While a lot of those guys were young at the time, you look at this group now, and we are more of an experienced group, which will help us build depth at this position.”
While Trey Smith totaled 124 yards last season, the junior from Madison, Miss., had a great spring, which has catapulted him on top of the depth chart heading into the third practice.
“Trey is the guy,” Kolby Smith said. “He did a great job of earning it and I don’t see him letting it go.”
Signing as an athlete out of Madison Central High in 2015, Smith has transitioned to the running back position over the last two seasons, and the redshirt junior has proved that he can carry the load.
“I really do think it’s my time,” Trey Smith said. “I’ve tried to prove to the coaches that I’ve worked so hard to get on the field. I just want them to see that I do belong and how hard I’ve worked to become a better player.
Tearing hi ACL last spring and sitting out this spring with a foot injury, Williams has suffered some bad luck in his first two seasons at Louisville, but the Oklahoma native is ready to fit into the rotation. Playing in six games last season, Williams was fourth on the team in rushing with 235 yards and three touchdowns. In his first game back last year, Williams ran five times for 41 yards and a score in a 31-28 win at Florida State.
“It was tough,” Williams said of all the injuries. “It was good for me. Adversity, I take it as a challenge and every time I face it, I do what I can to overcome it.”