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The Cardinal Countdown: 29 Days Until Kickoff

Louisville v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

#29 Malik Williams

Class: Senior

Ht/Wt: 6-3/221

Position: Running back

Hometown: Wilson, NC

Twitter: @M4_Ville

Thoughts: Malik Williams has a killer crossover and can absolutely shoot the rock from the outside for a big man…wait…wrong Malik Williams. This Malik does in fact also have some nice juke moves, and maybe he can drain a jumper or two, but I’d much rather see him break off a 22 yard scamper. Malik was a pickup from a couple seasons ago out of Herbie Allan Hancock College where he played a little wideout before shifting over to running back and becoming an all-conference player. While coming into the Louisville program looking to compete with Radcliff and Jeremy Smith for some run, Malik seemed to find a home on special teams. Petrino and Tony Grantham gave Malik an opportunity to return some kicks last year and he performed pretty well. Malik was tied for the team lead with 14 return opportunities and managed to average 22.5 yards per return, good enough to put him in the Top 10 in the ACC.

While Malik is currently sitting a little further back on the depth chart at running back, he has held onto his starting kick return position from 2016. I’ve got a gut feeling that this season in particular special teams play may be the difference between a very good season, and one we’ll remember forever, and I’m not just talking about field goals and punts, but the play of these return guys as well. We all remember that Traveon Samuel kick return against Clemson on Thursday night, and it’s tough to forget the Corvin Lamb return against Miami to open up life in the ACC. What you may not realize though is that those two TDs are the only kickoff returns for a score in the last three seasons. In fact, if you go all the way back to 2008 (9 years) the Cards only have 6. For reference, 8 teams last years had 2 or more kick returns for touchdown, or 1/3 the amount the Cards have had in 9 seasons (another 31 schools had at least 1 last year). In addition to that, the Cards only finished 70th in the country in return yards average, even with Malik’s solid play, leaving some room for improvement.

It’s incredible what getting an additional 5 yards per return on average could do to help the offense get on the board. I know, I know, the offense wasn’t exactly “struggling” last year but a little better return game (on punts and kicks) could propel them to the next level and help position them to win a game like Clemson or FSU late. That little boost may be the difference between them playing for a conference championship or going to another mid level bowl. Every yard matters, and I think Malik can take that unit to the next step.

Sweet Tweet:

Still trying to pinpoint why America is fat…haven’t quite put my chubby finger on it yet, though.