In limited touches, the junior from Lexington has made the most of his opportunities though. Against Kentucky, Shelton carried 10 times, four fewer attemps than both Lionel Gates and Michael Bush, gaining 39 hard fought yards on the day against the Wildcats. Saturday against Army, Shelton again played well, finishing with 42 yards on just six attempts against the Black Knights, including one run that set up offensive lineman Kurt Quarterman's one yard touchdown run.
Still, Shelton, who had four 100-yard rushing games in 2003, needs more carries.
"I need to get Eric more work and more carries," Petrino said Monday afternoon. "He's been the one that when he's in there has been doing more of the blocking. And against Army when he was in there we threw the ball and had to make a couple of checks [at the line]. So I don't think he's had enough attempts yet and he needs to get more carries."
And while Shelton has seen only limited action so far in '04, Petrino says U of L's second leading rusher from last season has handled the situation with maturity.
"It's been different for him and it hasn't been easy," Petrino admitted. "But he's handled it well and in a mature fashion. I need to give him the ball a little bit more and make sure he's running with it."
And there's a very simple reason why Petrino wants the ball in number 32's hands more often.
"Because he'll wear them [opposing defenses] down," Petrino explained. "I thought he ran well against Army and was sharp on his cuts. And he ran through some tackles and did a nice job."
Shelton's next opportunity for increased action will come this Saturday against Tulane in New Orleans. Last season, Shelton rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns against the Green Wave.