Louisville's group of running backs barely cracked 1,000 yards as a unit last year and struggled throughout the year to consistently gain solid yardage. Most of their struggles were due to not having a lot of room to run, but one thing that we didn't see much was explosive plays when the room was there. An improved running game this year could really make things easier for Lamar Jackson as a passer.
Brandon Radcliff finished the season as the top running back and he is likely to be the starter this year, also. Radcliff had a few really big games late last year but wasn't utilized much over the last three games. Louisville lacks a true speed back but Radcliff is about the closest thing the team has. He won't likely outrun an entire defense but he does explode through the second level which allows him to pick up chunk yardage. I think that if Radcliff starts the season with a few consecutive good games he will be used more as a feature back instead of sharing so many carries.
L.J. Scott and Jeremy Smith are the two guys that share carries with Radcliff. Smith is the primary backup with Scott being somewhat of a hybrid player that plays some fullback as well as a third-down back type. Smith has played really well in practices as well as scrimmages since arriving at UofL but he hasn't really been able to showcase his abilities much in games. A three games stretch last year gave us a tease of what he brings to the table, but after those games he only touched the ball three times over the last four games. Scott might have the best long speed of the group and he's definitely the most versatile. I think we could see a situation similar to Radcliff a couple of years ago where Scott unseats the guys in front of him late in the season.
AROUND THE ACC
Dalvin Cook, FSU
Louisville fans are very familiar with Dalvin Cook after the two games he's put together since joining the ACC. Cook is a big play machine and he will be called on more often this year with FSU breaking in a new quarterback. Cook has great vision and runs with a high level of violence. Throw in great speed and you have an outstanding running back. I think that Cook will be a Heisman Trophy finalist this year.
James Conner, Pitt
Conner is my favorite story in college football this year. After being diagnosed with cancer last year, Conner spent the season going through chemo and training. He battled and beat cancer and he is ready to start where he left off after putting up 1,700+ yards and 26 touchdowns in 2014. Conner has a defensive minded coach now and he has a really good running back to share carries with. I think both will only help him have another great year.
NEXT IN LINE
Wayne Gallman, Clemson
Clemson is known for having a big time passing attack with Deshaun Watson and his stable of wide receivers. However, Gallman stole the show in Clemson's big games. When the Tigers needed a big play he was the guy to get the tough yards. Gallman is also one of the better pass catchers in the ACC. Clemson has a chance to have a historic offense and Gallman is a big part of that.
Travon McMillian, VaTech
Virginia Tech struggled as usual on offense last year but McMillian was a big bright spot late in the season. He finished the season with six straight games with at least 80 yards and he scored 6 touchdowns during that span. This kid can fly when he gets in the open field but he can also run hard between the tackles. That ability should only improve as he gets another year in the weight room.