While Shawn Watson enjoys a plethora of backfield options, including returning backs Jeremy Wright, Dominique Brown and Senorise Perry, plus promising redshirt freshman Corvin Lamb, Louisville's first-year offensive coordinator is looking for a "go-to" running back this spring.
"We need somebody to be the War Daddy at that position like Bilal Powell was Charlie's first year," Watson recently told InsideTheVille.com. "You have to have a go-to back and that creates competition and because of competition you create better players throughout."
There is plenty of competition this spring between Wright, Brown, Perry and Lamb. Wright, a 5'11, 205-pound junior, probably has the best skill-set and combination of speed and power. Brown, a converted quarterback, is the biggest and most physical at 6'2, 227. Perry, a 6'0, 194-pound junior, might be the fastest of the group. Lamb, the shortest of the group, could boast the biggest upside.
"We're going to find a guy that's going to be the guy to go out there and handle the ball," said Watson. "The other guys will play in roles and get touches also. But we want to have a tailback that's a 1,000 yard tailback and beyond.
"We want a go-to back. So the competition -- the antes up."
Who emerges as Louisville's featured back in 2012 remains to be seen.
"We'll have to see," Watson said. "That's what spring ball is about. It could be Dominique. Jeremy has an unbelievable skill-set. He was just coming off the knee (injury) last year and he was a little tentative with confidence. We have depth. We just have to find the guy."
Wright could be the frontrunner. He was the first running back to take the field with the first unit during Saturday's scrimmage and showed why, leading the team in rushing while scoring on an 8 yard run. Wright consistently gained good yardage on first down throughout the scrimmage, and moved the chains with his passing catching ability coming out of the backfield.
Brown is also squarely in the mix. Brown was Louisville's second leading rusher with 533 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore. Charlie Strong repeatedly implored Brown to 'square his shoulders and run down hill,' during Saturday's scrimmage. Brown could emerge as the Cardinals short yardage back.
"He just needs a better feel for that position and learn the reads as a tailback," said Watson. "He got better as the season went along."
Perry didn't play much last season after moving over from defense because, according to Watson, he was learning the position. Now, Perry appears ready to challenge Wright and Brown for the starting nod in the backfield.
"I wouldn't take Senorise Perry out of that because he's so fast and can change the game in one step," Watson said. "He has great speed and is coming into his own."
Lamb, a scout team standout last season, has made a positive early impression during spring practice. At 5'9, 216, Lamb runs low to the ground, but has powerful legs and seems to have the ability to break tackles. Though he lost a fumble during the first scrimmage, Lamb could play a key role next season.
"When he was going against our defense (last season) he really impressed me. I got excited watching him knowing that we were going to have him for four more years," said Watson. "He's a really good player."
Whoever emerges as the primary running back will be aided by fullbacks Nick Heuser, Jarel McGriff-Culver and Bo Eggers. Louisville hasn't used a fullback much during Strong's first two seasons, but Watson said the position will play an important role in his west coast offense.
That was apparent in Saturday's scrimmage, particularly in the red zone. Heuser, a senior, was the most impressive fullback, moving the chains in the red zone with a catch and run out of the backfield. He also had a few good blocks that freed Wright for big runs.
"Nick is playing well, McGriff is playing well and Bo Eggers is playing well," said Watson. "Until now we haven't really had any fullback. Fullback is going to be important to what we're doing. All three of those guys have done a good job, Doogie [Heuser] in particular how well he catches the ball."