LOUISVILLE — The University of Louisville will again look to its running game if it hopes to repeat last year's winning season, despite losing first team All-Big East back Bilal Powell to the NFL.
With inexperience at the quarterback position behind an offensive line that's returning just a single starter, the Cardinals will rely on senior Victor Anderson and sophomore Jeremy Wright to shoulder a considerable share of the offensive load.
Anderson and Powell were expected to split most of the carries in 2010, but Powell had a breakout season of 1,405 yards, second-best in school history. His seven 100-yard games — including consecutive 200-yard games — tied a school record and led the rushing attack that ranked first in the Big East at 175 yards a game.
The unexpected year turned the senior into a pro prospect and the New York Jets drafted him in the fourth round.
Anderson must now step up to lead the unit and look to cap off his Louisville career that began with so much promise. The local product out of St. Xavier High School was the Big East Rookie of the Year in 2008, leading the team with 1,047 rushing yards.
He again led the team in rushing in 2009, but this time with 473 yards in just eight games due to a shoulder injury that ultimately ended his season. Shoulder and knee issues, along with Powell's breakout, slowed him to just 286 yards last year. That allowed Wright to emerge late in his freshman season, finishing the season as the team's second leading rusher with 327 yards.
Anderson said the last two injury-filled years were frustrating at times but he worked to help his team, even when he wasn't on the field.
"I just wanted to be out there with the guys while I was hurt but I knew that I really wasn't physically able to be out there," Anderson said. So I just had to take the road that was given to me and coach up the younger guys."
Louisville special teams and running backs coach Kenny Carter said Anderson's disappointments in 2010 allowed him to learn from 2010 Big East Coach of the Year Charlie Strong's first-year staff and grow mentally, building a foundation for his senior year.
"His maturation process was expedited because of the success that Bilal had," Carter said. "It took pressure off him."
Carter said he's not worried about a featured back surfacing as Powell did in 2010. "Right now, the best depth you can have for your team is competition," he said.