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Louisville Football Position Preview: Running Backs

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Louisville has to replace a starter at running back. Three backs are fighting for the job.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Radcliff ran for nearly 1000 yards last season. He did this while barely hitting double digits in carries per game. The running back position was criminally underused last season as Radcliff’s 6.54 yards per carry were the lowest out of the top three running backs on the roster. Louisville has adjusted some things in the offensive scheme that should lead to more traditional running plays to take the pressure off of Lamar Jackson and to open up some play action passes.

Louisville has two running backs coming back from injury in Jeremy Smith and Malik Williams but Reggie Bonnafon was moved from wide receiver in the spring to running back and was listed as the starter in the first depth chart. Reggie is a great athlete and I personally believe that he will do well as a full time back. However, the fact that UofL had to move a receiver to running back is a worrisome sign.

Smith and Williams were expected to be healthy by the season and Colin Wilson was a highly regarded freshman coming in. With those three guys one would think that Louisville would be solid from a depth standpoint. Either way it goes, the plus with moving Reggie is that Louisville should have the versatility that Bobby Petrino has utilized in the past. Reggie has the speed and the receiving ability to be used on screens and routes out of the backfield. He also adds a different level of speed that can team up with Lamar Jackson on read option plays.

For whatever reason, I have a good feeling about this group as a whole. I think that stems from the fact that I expect Reggie to be a true number one guy. Smith has shown flashes to break a big run but I don’t know if he can truly create those runs himself. Williams hasn’t been on the field enough in non-garbage time situations for us to know much. He does have a burst that can really be a nice addition to the backfield. When you look back to the Wake game last year it really stands out how Radcliff’s ability to hit the hole quickly and get to the next level were huge for the offense. I can see Williams being able to do the same.

I don’t personally see Wilson having an impact this year unless it’s later in the season. He was a late qualifier and then broke his hand a few weeks ago. That likely has made it harder for him to get into shape and participate in full weight training. Pair that with the veterans already in the backfield and I could see Wilson being used like Williams last year for garbage time carries.