Louisville enters this season with a void to fill at the Running Back position. That void is there because Louisville lost its leading rusher from the RB position in Brandon Radcliff. At one point in the season, Radcliff was at the top of the nation in yards per carry. He finished the season with 903 yards on 138 carries (6.5 YPC) and 6 touchdowns. Radcliff was a workhorse for the program for pretty much all 4 years and he has left big shoes to fill for the guys this year.
However, I’m very confident that the position is in good hands. Jeremy Smith showed a lot of promise last season, the now-Senior rushed for 382 yards on 57 carries (6.7 YPC) and 8 touchdowns. Smith is currently recovering from a Jones’ fracture, but is expected to play in the opener against Purdue. I believe Smith will have a monster year, he’s a big back with good speed and proven ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Senior Reggie Bonnafon spent most of his time at receiver last season, but he has been used at RB before and has done well. He was listed as the starter when the depth chart was released earlier in the summer, but Bobby is going to be Bobby, so who knows who will be out there for that first snap. The third player listed on the depth chart is Malik Williams. Williams is entering his senior year, he was used sparingly last season due to injuries, but will likely see more time this year. He rushed for 145 yards on 19 carries and 1 touchdown.
Then you have the true freshman and highest rated recruit in the 2017 for Louisville, Colin Wilson. Wilson was being heralded by Petrino for his performances in practice, but he suffered a broken bone in his hand and will be sidelined indefinitely. Still, once Wilson is healthy, we will get to see what Bobby has been raving about.
Coach Petrino has praised all of the Running Backs for their work in practice, thus far. It’s never a bad thing to have good competition for a starting spot. I believe Jeremy Smith will earn that job, if he’s healthy. But no matter who’s lined up behind Lamar, the void left behind by Radcliff will surely be filled.