It goes without question that a Bobby Petrino-led offense is going to showcase plenty of firepower.

University of Louisville’s football program, under Petrino’s watch since he returned in 2014, has totaled 169 touchdowns. Last year’s team alone logged 71 scores – second most in his seven seasons leading the Cardinals.

While reigning Heisman Trophy winner and quarterback Lamar Jackson instantly makes any unit better, Louisville’s offense can remain one of the elite in the country – or even improve – with the help of its backfield.

Petrino announced this year that the highly versatile Reggie Bonnafon is expected to be the Cardinals’ starting running back. That doesn’t diminish the competition taking place in that position group.

Malik Williams, who received limited carries last year, is aggressively battling for more opportunities this season. The senior had 19 rushes for 145 yards and one score before his junior season ended following an injury against Kentucky.

The Wilson, N.C., native didn’t sit idly during his time away from the field.

“Watching kind of sucked,” Williams said, “but I was in there working, trying to better and strengthening myself. I’m 100 percent now.”

Between the rehabilitation and offseason workouts, it appears that Williams used the time wisely to the point he’s attracted enough attention from the coaching staff.

“Malik really did a great job running the football, (he) broke tackles, (and) got yards after contact,” Petrino said when evaluating Williams’ performance last week. “It was great to see. His speed showed up, and he’s very, very fast. We opened some holes for him, and that was good to see too.”

The Cardinals lose a dosage of their ground game following the graduation of Brandon Radcliff, who accounted for 903 yards on 138 carries, and six touchdowns. Fortunately, Louisville’s returning stable consists of Bonnafon, Williams, Jeremy Smith, and Colin Wilson, all of whom Williams says can do it all.

With a year under his belt, not only learning the offense but also the necessary grind in the weight room, Williams has made immense strides in both areas. That could figure to help the junior-college transfer as the season approaches.

“Last year, when he got here, he was in really bad condition,” Petrino said. “He hadn’t been training much. He was way behind – you could see the talent, but he couldn’t last very long in practice. Right now, he’s one of our best conditioned guys. In our conditioning test, he did an unbelievable job.”

The Cardinals are still nearly a month away from their Sept. 2 opener against Purdue, and though there’s plenty of time for shuffling, it also means more time for Williams to showcase his abilities.

“He’s back 100 percent,” Petrino said of Williams. “He really looks good. He really looks fast. He’s spent a lot of time working on his knowledge of the offense.”

Ira Green
Asst. Sports Information Director
University of Louisville Athletics