Powell adjusting well in Cards new offense

Bilal Powell has been one of Louisville's most impressive performers this spring, and Wednesday had perhaps his best outings of spring practice. Powell spoke with InsideTheVille.com following practice about his transition to Mike Sanford's spread offense.

Bilal Powell might be Louisville's most impressive offensive performer so far this spring.

The senior running back is having the best spring of his career and looks like a new man. He's clearly in the best physical shape of his career and it's paying off on the field. Powell, who played at about 215 pounds last season, dropped several pounds during the off-season and is visibly faster than he was last season.

"I'm feeling pretty good. I came in light having lost fifteen pounds," Powell said. "I'm feeling light on my feet and quicker. I'm at about 200 pounds now. I had to lose weight because of the new spread offense."

With Victor Anderson out of contact drills this spring, Powell has taken the majority of the load as the Cardinals No. 1 running back. Powell had an impressive scrimmage last week, and had three touchdowns during Wednesday's scrimmage action, including a long distance run for a score outrunning the secondary.

"Learning the new offense is more than just learning the running back position," Powell said. "I line up as an outside receiver sometimes. This offense is mainly [designed] to get guys out of the box and get a back one on one opportunities with a linebacker or safety."

Louisville's offense looked much sharper on Wednesday than it did in Saturday's scrimmage, particularly in the red zone. The Cardinals offense stalled with turnovers and penalties in the red zone last Saturday but eliminated those mistakes Wednesday and scored at will against the defense.

"I think our guys locked in," Powell said. "We corrected a lot of our mistakes. This year we're holding guys accountable every day."

With next weeks spring game rapidly approaching, Powell was asked what the offense needs to accomplish before the end of spring drills.

"Minimize penalties," Powell said. "This offense is to keep defenses guessing and spread out. We've just got to improve our mental aspects a little more."

Powell appears poised for a big final season. He looked particularly impressive on two red zone touchdown runs during Wednesday's scrimmage – one where he got the corner on the defense and scored up the sideline, the other a 20 yard run in which he juked and broke tackles on his way to the end zone.

"I'm hoping to end on a good note," Powell said. "Hopefully we'll be able to win games this season."

Practice Notes

Bilal Powell's backup, freshman Jeremy Wright, is out for the remainder of the spring. Wright made a strong impression the first two weeks of practice but was injured at the end of Monday's practice. He apparently has a hernia issue.

Eugene Sowell moved from running back to outside linebacker during Monday's practice and made an interception of Justin Burke in Wednesday's practice.

Johnny Patrick intercepted a deflected Adam Froman pass and safety Hakeem Smith continues to make plays, picking off a pass in the end zone.

Chris Philpott kicked well during practice, connecting on field goals from 30, 37, 42, 51 and 56 yards.

Dexter Heyman pulled up along the sideline with an apparent hamstring injury and sat out the final minutes of practice.

Wide receiver Scott Ratcliff made several impressive down field receptions during Wednesday's practice. Ratcliff, a non-scholarship performer, has had a solid spring and could be a contributor on offense next season.

The offense was virtually unstoppable during the red zone portion of Wednesday's practice. Senior quarterback Adam Froman connected with wide receivers Andrell Smith and Josh Chichester for touchdowns, while Justin Burke connected with 6'5 wide receiver Jamal Lawson, tight end Cameron Graham, Josh Chichester and Andrell Smith for scores.

Speaking of Smith, he got behind defensive back Preston Pace for a long touchdown catch in skelly drills.

Darius Ashley, who moved from running back to defense this week, drew praise from defensive coordinator Vance Bedford following practice. Ashley appears intent on learning his new position. "For two days in practice he's doing a good job," Bedford said. "The one thing I like about him is he can tackle. He's explosive. Part of being able to tackle is being able to explode through a ball carrier. The first day of tackling he looked pretty good. From day one to day two he made great strides and could give us some help."

Louisville's third major scrimmage is set for 10 a.m. Saturday morning.


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