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On a team encumbered with uncertainty, the biggest source of preseason optimism for Louisville football fans likely lies with a talented stable of running backs and a new offensive coordinator dedicated to controlling the clock. Figuring to be the group's torchbearer is sophomore Bilal Powell, who took over in the second half of the Cardinals' season-ending victory over Rutgers, and finished his freshman campaign averaging just under eight yards per carry.
While Powell's extraordinary raw talent is unmistakable, the question of whether or not he can be an effective pure tailback week in and week out in a BCS conference still looms. While his experience as a collegiate running back is extremely limited (some might say more limited than it should be), his experience as a running back period isn't much more extensive. He had never played the position before his senior season at Lake Gibson High School (Fla.), but still put up gaudy numbers thanks to his ridiculous speed and natural instincts. His ability to make people miss in the open field has been established, but his playmaking ability inside the tackles and as a receiver in the flats has not.
Despite having some highly talented ball carriers come through the program, Louisville has had just one 1,000-yard rusher in the last eight years (Michael Bush in 2005). Even if Powell makes tremendous strides in his sophomore season, it's hard to envision him hitting four figures given the skill-level of his counterparts in the backfield.
Brock Bolen carried the ball 88 times in '07, and you wouldn't think his touches will be reduced drastically in his senior season. Redshirt freshman Victor Anderson may have been the star of the spring, and his seemingly inevitable emergence will demand attention. And then there's that passing game, a facet of the program that has garnered a little bit of attention over the last decade, and one that Jeff Brohm is unlikely to considerably neglect.
So when all is said and done, how do you see Bilal Powell's sophomore season looking on paper?
I'll go 152 carries for 795 yards (5.2 avg) and eight touchdowns. My hopes are admittedly high, and this type of season would definitely satiate them.
Feel free to share your thoughts on those four categories in the comments section.