Lamar Atkins thriving in new role for Cards

University of Louisville redshirt freshman Lamar Atkins has moved to the offensive side of the ball into the fullback role. He's become a major cog in the U of L offense in recent weeks.

Many consider the fullback to be an extinct breed in today's era of NCAA football.

But that's not the case for the University of Louisville offense, and the Cardinals have recently found a new man to serve as the backfield's lead-blocker.

Originally recruited to play linebacker in defensive coordinator Vance Bedford's defense, redshirt freshman Lamar Atkins was converted to fullback earlier this season. The move came about more out of necessity than experimentation, as a few injuries had left the Cardinals thin at the position.

"We had a couple guys down," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "(Tyler) Sharp, he's not come off his neck injury, Griffin Uhl has had the same thing. We just had some guys with some stingers and we just didn't want to wear out our tight ends."

Given the circumstances it may seem as if the Cardinals had to settle for Atkins' services at fullback, but that's not the case- Watson raves of Atkins' ability, and he's especially fond of the defensive intensity the freshman brings to his new position.

"He's very physical, and we need a lead back that has that physicality," Watson said. "We moved him over from defense and he took to that role. He's a physical presence out there with his lead blocking."

Atkins, who after sitting out last season with a redshirt and was seeing little time at linebacker in 2013, took advantage of the opportunity to convert, noting that the switch would give him the best "opportunity to get out on that field."

"(The transition) has been alright," Atkins said. "I'm just trying to learn the offense better, it's a little slower than linebacker."

Atkins, who is the brother of Cardinal linebacker Keith Brown, is another Strong recruit hailing from the Miami, Fla. area. Being surrounded by so many familiar faces played a role in Atkins coming to Louisville.

"Before I came (to Louisville) I knew a few guys on the team," Atkins said. "I had my brother, and then I knew Eli (Rogers) and Teddy (Bridgewater) from Pop Warner."

Comfortable both on the team and at his new position, the 5-foot-11, 216-pounder has helped make a difference for the No. 19 Cardinals in recent weeks, paving the way for two consecutive big games for running back Dominique Brown (88 yards vs. UCF, 125 yards vs. USF), and even chipping in a couple pass receptions.

With the Cardinals now on a bye week, Atkins will have some more time to tap into his potential at fullback. A potential that running backs coach Kenny Carter believes is sky-high.

"I love him," Carter said of Atkins. "He's got all the tools that you want a lead back to have. He's got ball-skills, he's very physical. We like that he's got a lot of punch and he'll take people on."

Atkins' next opportunity to help keep the Cardinal ground game rolling will come next Friday, when they travel to Storrs, Conn. to take on the University of Connecticut.

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