Last Season: After a stellar 2014 season from the position, the running backs suffered a setback in 2015, with inconsistencies at quarterback and offensive line weighing them down. While four different running backs had 100-yard games in the 2014 season, only Brandon Radcliff had 100-yard games from the position in 2015 (117 against Syracuse, 146 against Virginia).
Due to Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer graduating from the team, sophomore L.J. Scott and Jeremy Smith were used as the spell backs for Louisville. Smith saw a lot of work against Florida State (12 car., 63 yards), while Scott was used primarily as a blocker and a pass catch. After moving away from the quarterback position, Reggie Bonnafon moved to an H-back role, taking carries as a running back and lining up at wide receiver.
Radcliff led all running backs with 634 yards and seven touchdowns, while Smith had 270 yards and three touchdowns. Of the running backs who saw playing time last season, only Corvin Lamb graduated.
This Season: Other than Lamb’s graduation, a lot of the same running backs return for Louisville. Brandon Radcliff returns as a three-year starter now, and most Louisville fans are familiar with his skill set. For those that aren’t, watch this run against Wake Forest in 2014.
Radcliff has developed a reputation as a powerful back, with impressive weight room numbers and a relentless motor. He didn’t show a lot of that in 2015, but when given the chance, he’s proven a load to bring down with his strong 5’9″ frame. With Lamar Jackson taking steps as a passer (and being an electrifying run threat), one can only assume Radcliff could flirt with the 1,000 yard plateau this season, if things pan out.
However, it should be noted that Radcliff hasn’t been asked to do a lot as both a pass-catcher and blocker. Those responsibilities are usually relegated to Louisville’s spell backs, L.J. Scott and Jeremy Smith. Smith is a guy who has a nose for the end zone, usually seeing some goal line work and has broken some of Louisville’s biggest runs from last season. That said, Smith struggled to keep possession of the ball, limiting his potential in Louisville’s offense.
Scott, though, might be the most underrated player out of Louisville’s entire offense. Scott has impressive size as a running back (6’0″, 225+ lbs.), and has shown he can both plow it in between the tackles and bounce it outside. What is most impressive about L.J. Scott is that he’s proven to be both a quality blocker and a great receiver out of the backfield, which is very impressive given his size. Scott will likely become the starter at running back in 2016, but for now, he stands to be a crucial spell or 3rd-down back.
Other than those three, it’s tough to see any of Louisville’s running backs breaking through for playing time, unless injuries occur. Dae Williams has a lot of hype coming onto campus this season, him and Malik Williams figure to be the future at the position. But, due to the three-tier attack Louisville has, it’s possible one or both could be redshirting. Trey Smith got some snaps at running back during the spring game, and he figures to be first in line as a reserve.