#34 Jeremy Smith
Position: Running back
Hometown: Hammond, CA
Thoughts: Last season there was a lot of hype for the three-headed monster at running back (Radcliff/Scott/Smith) to be a strong crutch for whoever Bobby decided to start at QB. If we struggled throwing the ball, we could always rely on one of the three to pick up 3 or 4 yards in a pinch. Well, that never happened. Most would agree that that the running back position as a whole was slightly underwhelming last season and I think those same people could also point to two fairly significant reasons as to why that happened.
1. The emergence of Lamar Jackson running the football took away some of the thunder from the running backs. Jackson had 24 more rushing attempts than our #1 back (Radcliff) in 2016. Think about that. Our QB rushed the ball 24 more times than our leading rusher. That is far from statistically insignificant when reviewing rushing statistics. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Jackson rushed the ball 163 times for 690 yards with eleven TDs. If you spread that distribution over the “three-headed monster” they suddenly they become the studs of the offense. No doubt Jackson’s legs removed attempts from the RB group, of course, the counterpoint is that those guys weren’t getting that type of yardage when their opportunities arose. Which leads to point number two…
2. I'm not the guy who says “the o-line was bad so they are the reason for all offensive issues” BUT unless every single running back happened to forgot the play call as he took the handoff…well….the holes just weren’t there. This isn’t earth shattering and I think Klenakis himself would agree that the line was getting pushed around early in the year which made it difficult for Smith and others to get any kind of downhill run going. As the season wore on and we bit the bullet by starting the younger guys things did seem to improve. 4 of the last 5 games Louisville rushed for over 200 yards and only 2 of those games (UK/A&M) was Lamar the leading rusher. Both Radcliff and Scott picked things up when the line got into a groove.
So, as we move forward in 2016 are the issues resolved? We know Petrino wants Lamar to run less and throw more and we think/anticipate the o-line will significantly improve from last year. Have we cleared away all the roadblocks? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean the running backs won’t have a great season as a group. I really liked Jeremy last year when he came to the program and he once again showed flashes in the Spring Game that he is the man when it comes to breaking off a long run, he just has to hold onto the football. While I expect Radcliff to get the lion share of the carries Smith will be a big part of the running game along with LJ. I’d look for them both to close out games with a power attack on what is hopefully a worn down defensive line. Sign me up for two 50 yard+ runs from Smith in the second half of ballgames in 2016 (You got a line on that Bovada?).
Last year Smith had 270yds/3TDs on only 60 attempts. It’s tough to forecast him getting the ball significantly more than that this season with probably 3 other guys sharing the load but I’d expect his yardage total and TD total to increase based upon the more consistent play of the o-line alone. We can talk about Lamar and his weapons at wideout all off-season and into the fall but I think we all know that without a dependable rushing attack the offense could sputter again at times. Smith and his groups are vital to the Cards making that leap we all want to see in 2016.
Sweet Tweet: No twitter for Jeremy that I could find so let’s take a moment and “get all interactive up in this bia”. As highlighted above I think many pointed the RB struggles to a couple issues last year that hopefully we have improved upon for the upcoming season. While Radcliff appears to be the starter we know there are a few weapons back there which could cause some issues for our opponents (including a few dark horses). Who do you think becomes the MVP of the running back group in 2016? This could be the leading rusher, player with most TDs, guy that shows up in big games, etc. However you’d like to define it.