2010 Louisville Football Previews: Running Backs

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We continue our football previews with a look at the running backs for the Cards. Louisville definitely lacks depth at several positions, but running back is not one of them. The Cards have two very good backs, when healthy, and another who impressed many people during Spring practice. If these guys stay healthy, the Cards will have some solid playmakers on offense. Let’s take a look.

The Local Star Returns – Victor Anderson

After an extremely impressive freshman season in which he earned Big East Rookie of the Year honors, Victor Anderson suffered through an extremely frustrating and injury plagued sophomore campaign. In 2008, a healthy Anderson rushed for 1.047 yards on 183 carries, with 8 TDs. He also caught 18 passes for 101 yards and a TD.  In 2009, an unhealthy Anderson only carried the ball 89 times for 473 yards and 5 TDs. He caught 12 passes for 89 yards and no TDs. Notice a difference?

When healthy, Vic is a playmaker with the potential to take one to the house every time he gets the ball. During his freshman season, Vic broke an 88 yarder against Middle Tennessee State, a 56 yarder against Kansas State, and a 40 yarder against West Virginia. He has tremendous speed, but his biggest asset is his ability to make defenders miss, which is what turns a nice gain into a ‘take it to the house’ type of gain.

This year, the Cards will look to get Victor the ball in a variety of ways. It appears offensive coordinator Mike Sanford will attempt to use Vic in multiple positions, including running back, slot receiver, and in WildCard packages. I expect to see Vic the recipient of many reverses, option runs, and WR sweeps. However he gets the ball, the goal is to give Vic a chance to break one. If Vic gets around the corner, he is likely to do just that. Of course, he must stay healthy to do so. Here’s what Vic can do for those who don’t remember:

Looking to Return to Form – Bilal Powell

When Bilal Powell debuted for the Cards in 2007, it seemed like he made something happen every time he touched the ball. Early in 2007, he was mostly relegated to late, fairly meaningless snaps with the outcome of the game already determined. But even in those situations, Powell showed good speed and much like Victor’s freshman season, a distinct ability to make defenders miss. As the season progressed, he saw more action, including getting the chance to return kicks.

As the 2007 year came to a frustrating close, Powell gave the Cardinal faithful hope for a bright future. He finished with only 24 rushes, but gained 187 yards with 2 TDs. However, his next two seasons were somewhat disappointing. Victor Anderson emerged in 2008 and Bilal fought injuries, which no doubt limited his development. As the 2009 season began, Powell bulked up to around 215 lbs, presumably to handle more carries.

Unfortunately, by adding weight, Powell lost speed and elusiveness. In 2009, he carried the ball 108 times for 392 yards and 4 TDs. He also struggled mightily with possession of the football. Quite frankly, I was very close to giving up on him being an effective player for the Cards. Then Spring ball began, and Powell looked like a new man, literally.

With the arrival of Charlie Strong, as well as strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer, Powell trimmed down closer to his freshman weight and it seems to have made a huge difference. Powell was the standout performer of the Spring, at least in my opinion, and looks to have regained his elusiveness. With Darius Ashley’s move to cornerback and the uncertainty that is Victor Anderson’s health, the re-emergence of Bilal Powell will help the Cardinals tremendously.

The Heir Apparent? – Jeremy Wright

Jeremy Wright, from Clermont, Florida committed to the Cards in 2008 and was highly praised essentially since he started practicing. Wright set the all-time Florida state record for average yards rushing per game in Class 6A. Keep in mind, this is not Idaho high school football, this is Florida football. For someone to set an all-time state record there is significant. 

His senior year of high school, Wright rushed for 2,707 yards and scored 28 TDs. He once rushed for 492 yards in a single game, then followed it up a few games later with 455 yards in a single game. Wright redshirted in 2009 and had one of the most impressive Springs of any Louisville player. He did bruise his knee recently in practice and the extent of the injury is not yet known. But, if Wright is healthy by the time the season begins, I expect to see him getting some playing time.