Scott Satterfield has enjoyed a great run of successful running backs in his offensive system for over a decade. Those backs have been consistent and talented which is why Satterfield could always expect a 1,000-yard season from at least one back. That wasn’t the case last year as Jalen Mitchell finished the season with 722 yards and the running backs as a whole barely surpassed Javian Hawkins’ individual total from 2019. The 2022 season will need the group to be more productive.
Louisville has a unique situation with the depth in their running back room. Four running backs will see the field this year and it’s anyone’s guess who will get the lion’s share of the carries. Will we see the most consistent performer in Jalen Mitchell? Is Trevion Cooley going to build off of his strong bowl performance. Maybe a healthy Jawhar Jordan gives them the home-run threat they’ve lacked. Or is Tiyon Evans the total package that does it all?
It’s a good problem to have if you’re Satterfield but how do you manage the carries if the running game is struggling? That’s the question I wonder when I try to take on all angles of the situation. At times, UofL couldn't get the running game going and we saw Malik Cunningham become the focus. I don’t know that the staff can do the same this year with so many teams keying on Malik. It will be interesting to see if they have some sort of rotation that gives each guy an opportunity before going with the “hot hand”.
Jalen Mitchell will likely be the first man up as he is the returning starter but I don’t know that it will matter much who takes the first handoff. Mithcell has been very reliable as a back as well as a blocker in pass protection. He also made a few very nice plays as a receiver out of the backfield last season. He also did the same in the spring game this year. Mitchell’s only issue is the lack of breakaway speed. It’s something that he won’t likely improve but if he can get more chunk runs this season, he will be very valuable.
I have high hopes for Trevion Cooley because I think he has the speed needed to be a star in this offense while also being big enough to gain tough yardage to help the offense, overall. Cooley was exceptional as a receiver last year when you factor in that he was a true freshman just learning the aspects of the college game as well as adjusting to the speed of the game. If he can be a consistent threat as a runner, he has a strong chance to be the top option.
The sleeper in this group is Jawhar Jordan. No one in this room runs as hard as the 5-10/180 speedster and I think that could be why we see him much more than expected this season. Jordan played late in most of the games last year where he saw action but he ran as if he had something to prove. A year in the system can only help when it comes to learning how to make reads and cuts in the zone scheme. Throw in an off season of work with Ben Sowders and there’s a lot of potential here.
It’s impossible to not be a little excited about what Tiyone Evans brings to the table. He has the size, speed, and experience that you want in any running back. Throw in the fact that he’s been on campus since Januarary and things line up well for him to be the missing link in the offense. Evans has outstanding speed in the open field and his compact frame helps him run through arm tackles. I’m also interested to see if his ability to make people miss will be the difference between him and the others. Where he needs to prove himself is in pass protection as well as catching the football.
While depth isn’t an issue, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Maurice Turner on the field in some role this year. He has some background as a slot receiver and the wide receiver room is somewhat thin at the time. I don’t see him getting many carries outside of specific plays but things could change with any atrition.
You won’t find a person who was lower on Jawhar Jordan last season than me. I watched him have one of the worst practices of any player I’ve ever seen at the start of fall camp and I figured he wouldn’t get to see the field. After battling an injury as well as the depth in front of him, Jordan proved to me thatthat one practice was just a fluke. He approached each play like he hated the defense and he proved himself extremely valuable on special teams.
While I think he will continue to show his value as a kick returner, I do believe he will be a real weapon as a running back. His style of running is a nightmare for defenses because it gets really old having a guy slam into you over and over again because the guys playing in front of you can’t stop him. Give me Jordan in the second half of games against a defense that has been pushed around all day. He’s a great option as a closer.