Scott departure creates clearer picture in Louisville backfield


L.J. Scott’s decision to transfer from Louisville leaves the Cardinals with one less option in the offensive backfield heading into 2017. But it also opens the door for some young rushers to climb the depth chart during spring workouts and training camp next summer.

When he ran for 126 yards and a touchdown in a blowout of Murray State as a redshirt freshman in 2014, the future seemed bright for Scott. But he saw his role diminish with the emergence of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson, as well as JUCO transfer running backs Jeremy Smith and Malik Williams as backups to Brandon Radcliff.

After gaining 180 yards on 39 carries as a sophomore in 2015, Scott saw action in just four games this fall, rushing three times for 15 yards. Following the Clemson game, in which Scott ran twice for negative-3 yards and caught two passes for 16 yards, he didn’t record any more carries or receptions for the Cardinals.

Smith and Williams, who combined for 73 carries for 519 rushing yards in the regular season this year, will head into the spring as Louisville’s top two running backs. Both are rising seniors.

Smith arrived at Louisville prior to the 2015 season with three remaining years of eligibility. He got a taste of action right out of the gate, starting twice and gaining 270 rushing yards. This fall, Smith ranks third on the Louisville roster in rushing for the second straight season, with 374 yards on 54 carries (6.9 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns.

Williams has been more helpful to the Cardinals on special teams than on offense in 2016. He’s returned 14 kicks for 315 yards, both tops on the team. Williams has gained over seven yards per rushing attempt as well, with 145 yards on 19 carries.

Behind Smith and Williams, Trey Smith, who has 11 carries for 28 yards this fall as a redshirt freshman, will be looking to earn more playing time in 2017. The Cardinals will also continue to utilize rising junior wide receiver Traveon Samuel in situational running plays.

In addition, Louisville will provide incoming freshman running back Colin Wilson an opportunity to challenge for immediate playing time. Wilson, a consensus 4-star and top-250 national prospect out of Green Cove Springs, Fla., was one of the top prospects on Louisville’s 2017 recruiting board prior to his October commitment.