Louisville counting on young backs

There has been an increased emphasis on the running game this spring for the Louisville offense and the Cardinals are counting on some young backs to carry the load. While senior Brock Bolen provides experienced leadership, it is two youngsters – Bilal Powell and Victor Anderson - that provide an explosive element for the UofL rushing attack.

There has been an increased emphasis on the running game this spring for the Louisville offense and the Cardinals are counting on some young backs to carry the load. While senior Brock Bolen provides experienced leadership, it is two youngsters – Bilal Powell and Victor Anderson that provide an explosive element for the UofL rushing attack.

This spring, Bolen, sophomore Bilal Powell and redshirt freshman Victor Anderson have received nearly all of the reps and carries during practice. That's because the running back position has been in a state of flux since the end of last season.


Brock Bolen receives instruction from
Tony Alford.

First, Anthony Allen, the team's leading rusher in 2007, transferred to Georgia Tech during the off-season. Allen's departure isn't the only obstacle UofL running back coach Tony Alford has dealt with this spring. Senior George Stripling has been suspended for spring practice and his status with the team remains uncertain. Complicating matters – and depth – has been an injury to Dale Martin that kept the talented redshirt freshman out of practice last week.

That's meant that Bolen, Powell and Anderson have been forced to become work horses since spring practice began two weeks ago.

"I think they're doing good," Alford said. "They're working hard and that's all I want them to do – just work hard and keep trying to improve every day. There's a couple little mental things that we get caught on every now and then but that's usually when they get tired and fatigued. We don't have a whole lot of numbers so guys are getting a whole lot of reps. Vic and Bilal are young and they've got to learn how to play when they're tired. So that part of it is really good. This is a good group of guys and it's fun coaching them."

While Powell flashed his potential at the end of last season, rushing for 161 yards and two touchdowns on only 19 carries in the Cardinals final two games against South Florida and Rutgers, he's really started to blossom this spring. Alford said that Powell struggled during his first year at UofL with home sickness and maturity issues – two areas he's made significant progress during the off-season.

"He's light years from where he was at anytime in the fall," Alford said. "It's not just his maturity. If he ever got bumped and bruised last season he might take 5 or 6 plays off. Now, the other day he goes down and hurts his wrist and he's in the next snap. He's playing hard, he's picking up the offense, his retention level has been really good with the offense and his focus has been really good. So he's grown up and bought into the team thing. I'm very pleased with his progress. Socially and football-wise he has really grown up."

Though Powell received just 24 carries as a freshman – rushing for 187 yards – he'll likely see an increased role – and carries - this season.

"No question. Absolutely," Alford said. "I think he's got the physical tools to do it. Now it's just the mental part of it. But I think he'll be able to do that and help the team. He's a team guy and he just wants to help us win games. He's done a great job in the weight-room – he's gotten bigger and put on weight. He's growing up and there's still a lot of growth left but I'm pleased with the progress so far."

Though Powell figures to be Louisville main-man at running back, Bolen gives Louisville a strong complimentary option. At 6-0, 238, Bolen, who rushed for 456 yards and 7 touchdowns as a junior, provides Louisville a physical and versatile weapon in the backfield.


Victor Anderson had an impressive
scrimmage last Saturday.

"That guy is invaluable to this football team," Alford said. "He's a consummate team guy. He's smart, he knows all the different positions and he's productive. Brock's just a good football player. He's a very integral part of everything we do – special teams, offensively."

With Stripling and Martin out, the talented 5-10 Anderson has been the beneficiary of increased reps this spring.

"The more reps (he) gets the better," Alford said. "He's a young guy and every time something happens it's basically new. It's a new situation every time something happens to him. So for him it's great because it's affording him more opportunities to get repetitions. The more reps you get, the better you get, the faster you get. He's a smart kid so he's picked things up very well."

Anderson, a star on the scout team last season, has taken advantage of his opportunity this spring. He worked with both the first and second team during Saturday's scrimmage and scored three touchdowns in the game – two with the No. 1 offense.

Though Anderson is similar to Powell in certain aspects, he brings something a little different and unique to the equation.

"He's got some unbelievable speed and quickness," said Alford. "The guy can really put his foot in the ground and change directions. He has great acceleration about him. He's small - he's about 184-pounds- but he'll stick it in there. He's a physical guy and that's impressed me a lot. But he's really got the ability to make guys miss and run away. He has a little bit more quickness than (Bilal)."


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