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Louisville Football Position Preview: Running Back

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Javian Hawkins and Hassan Hall return as a formidable two-headed monster in the backfield.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville entered the 2019 season with the expectation that Hassan hall would be the feature back with an unknown situation behind him. It ended the season with a record breaking running back in Javian Hawkins finishing second in the ACC in yards per game. The Louisville offense should be explosive again and Hall and Hawkins could put up even bigger numbers in 2020.

There’s no doubt that Javian Hawkins will be the starter but I think we could see an expanded role in the offense. Hawkins wasn’t utilized much in the passing game last year but I think that will change this season. Scott Satterfield didn’t use his backs much at App State but Dwayne Ledford spent plenty of time at NC State where they did. Getting Hawkins in space is the goal of the running game with the wide zone scheme that Louisville runs. What better way to get him into more space than to use him on screens and leaks out of the backfield?

Louisville was abysmal when it comes to negative plays last year but just like the defense benefiting from a second year in the same scheme, the running backs should be better at reading blocks on zone runs. Hawkins did well to be patient and wait for things to develop last season but he had a decent amount of runs where he danced too much and didn’t take what was given to him. Look for that to be improved this year.

I had some real concerns for how Hassan Hall would fit in this new scheme because he never seemed to show the ability to be patient in the backfield. He is a “get it and go” type of back and that’s likely due to the fact that he’s probably always been the fastest guy on the field. He surprised me last year when he showed that he could wait for the play to develop and then use his burst to blow by backside defenders on outside runs. In my opinion, the next step in his development will be the ability to run through guys that don’t get a clean shot on him.

Louisville is unproven outside of the two-deep but they have three guys who are all a little different. Maurice Burkley is a compact back with really good burst and quickness. Jalen Mitchell is a bit bigger and the little bit I’ve been able to see of him makes me think that he should be fine in the zone scheme. Aidan Robbins is a much bigger back than I’ve seen in any of Satterfield’s offenses but Todd Gurley was really good in this same scheme so a taller back like Robbins can play in this offense. Typically you see smaller guys who can cut quickly but Robbins looked when I got to see him.

Overall, I think the depth is solid here but we’ll have to see these guys against real competition to know. The top of the depth chart makes it such an afterthought but UofL should be in good shape if there was an injury or two to deal with. But if they’re healthy, this group should get national attention for the numbers they put up.