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Louisville Football Position Preview: Running Backs

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North Carolina State v Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I’ve been begging for an offense with a “feature back” on this website for years and I will finally get my wish with Scott Satterfield’s offense. Louisville hasn’t had a 1,000 running back since Bilal Powell graduated but that could change this season. Satterfield had at least one running back hit that milestone each year App State was at the FBS level and he had two backs eclipse 1,000 yards in the same year once. In fact, 2010 was the last time a Satterfield offense didn’t have a 1,000 yard back.

The first guy up at running back will be Hassan Hall who has put on weight and should be the feature of the entire offense this season. Hall showed flashes last year when he got on the field but he didn’t have much of a chance to get a rhythm going as the staff rotated running backs in an very odd way. Hall has the speed to create big plays in the wide zone system Satterfield and Dwayne Ledford will run. He also has a violent style of running that will help him run through arm tackles. The question with all of the backs will be about how they handle this new scheme that demands patience to let the blocking open a hole while also needing to have the burst to get through the hole quickly.

Javian Hawkins will probably be the guy that gets the second carries this year as the coaches seem to really like him. Hawkins and Hall both fit the type of build that Satterfield seemed to like at App State. To me, they seemed to look for guys that were smaller and more compact but were explosive runners who could run tough if needed. Hawkins fits that mold from what we’ve seen outside of the tough running. Not to say that he can’t do that but we just haven’t seen it. There’s a real chance that Louisville could have a two-headed monster type of backfield with Hawkins and Hall splitting carries to a degree.

Dae Williams and Aidan Robbins are the big backs of the group and both of them looked the part to me when I got to watch them in the spring. Williams looks like he’s worked on his body a bit and toned up even more than he already was. Robbins was a guy that I thought looked better as a linebacker in high school but I’m very interested to see how he looks in this wide zone offense. Satterfield says that they clocked him at 4.53 this spring which is a great time for a 230-pound back. While I don’t think either of these guys will get the carries Hall and Hawkins do, I could see Williams being used situationally.

Maurice Burkley is a little bit of a wildcard in this group. Burkley is entering his fourth year with the team but he hasn’t recorded a carry yet. Scott Satterfield awarded Burkley a scholarship this spring and that could lead to him being a guy that they get on the field this year. All coaches like to reward hard work but I don’t think that any of the guys that earned scholarships this spring got them as some sort of show. They have all been mentioned as talented players by their teammates and coaches.

Another reason that Williams or Burkley could see the field more than I expect is the new aspect of the offense that will have a different level of importance than it did for Petrino. Petrino always stressed that his running backs would have to be able to block in pass protection. While that was true, Petrino typically used his backs in the passing game and they backs were typically there to pick up blitzes. At App State last year, the backs were an extension of the line. They ran play action almost exclusively with the h-back and running back replacing the backside tackle to take on the edge player on that side of the ball. I think it’s safe to say that if the starting running back can’t handle that responsibility the staff will play a guy that can.