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Tronzo becomes key contributor with Bolen out

While injury information out of the Steve Kragthrorpe regime is harder to come by than genuine laughter during a viewing of Mind of Mencia, it has become fairly common knowledge over the last couple of days that starting fullback and second-string tailback Brock Bolen will not play this Saturday because of some injury (perhaps an MCL strain) suffered early in the Middle Tennessee State game.

Bolen's absence - along with the probable absence of Sergio Spencer - is a serious blow to U of L's depth at the tailback position, but it also puts a significant amount of pressure on walk-on sophomore fullback Joe Tronzo, who is likely to log some serious field time in an offense that enjoys utilizing a lead blocker.

Tronzo - a 5'11, 243-pound former national high school power lifting champion at St. X - proved his worth as a blocker last week after Bolen went down, delivering key block after key block as tailback Anthony Allen rushed for a school record 275 yards. For those who saw him play in the Spring Game and the open scrimmage, his solid performance came as little surprise.

Though he's carried the ball just one time in his Cardinal career - a one-yard loss late in last year's blowout of Kentucky - you get the feeling watching him play that Tronzo enjoys contact too much to be asked to elude anyone wearing a jersey not matching his. That shouldn't be a problem this weekend as the Cards will likely look to run the ball early and often against a Wildcat team that surrendered 324 yards on the ground a week ago against Kent State, and will be playing without at least one key defensive tackle.

When he's not opening holes for Allen, Tronzo will likely be performing the same duty for George Stripling, who all of the sudden finds himself back at number two on the depth chart. A junior who saw his playing time decrease late in 2006 because of ball security issues, Stripling has had success against Kentucky before, rushing for 90 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries after Michael Bush went down early in the second half of last season's Battle for the Governor's Cup.

Unless Bolen and Spencer's injuries are severe enough to keep them on the sidelines for more than a month (they could both be back in a week for all we know), I think it's unlikely that we'll see Tronzo blocking for any of the three currently redshirting freshmen. My guess is that (if they're healthy) they're all seeing a few more reps this week and being told to be ready in case something unfortunate happens to the two guys in front of them.