Chris Barclay Still High on Louisville's Running Back Room Despite Attrition

The Cardinals lost two backs to the NFL Draft this past April.
Nov 18, 2023; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Louisville Cardinals running back Maurice Turner (4) runs with the football against the Miami Hurricanes during the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium.
Nov 18, 2023; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Louisville Cardinals running back Maurice Turner (4) runs with the football against the Miami Hurricanes during the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In year one of the Jeff Brohm era, many expected the Louisville football program's offensive efforts to be fueled by a high-flying passing attack. Instead, they were powered by a prolific ground game.

By the end of their 2023 campaign, both Jawhar Jordan and Isaac Guerendo crackled 1,000 yards from scrimmage and double-digit touchdown scored, combining for 2,418 total yards and 25 total touchdowns. In total, they consisted of 41.6 percent of the Cardinals' total yardage, and 47.2 percent of their total offensive touchdowns.

Both backs are now in the NFL, with Guerendo getting drafted in the fourth round of April's NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. and Jordan being picked up by the Houston Texans in round six. Louisville even had some attrition on the portal front, with former Toledo RB Peny Boone - the No. 11 rusher in college football this past season - leaving the Cardinals following spring ball after transferring in this past winter.

But despite losing two extremely productive rushers to the league, running backs coach Chris Barclay is still extremely high on his position group.

"We do have talent," he said Wednesday in an interview on The Mike Rutherford Show. "We can run, we've got physicality, we can we can pass protect, we can be involved in the passing game. We have all the ingredients, we just gotta go out and put it on tape. It's gonna take a collective effort, and I think each one of those guys push each other every day, and they have full faith in each one of the guys in the room to get it done. We're excited."

This upcoming season, the running back room will likely be anchored by the tandem of Miami transfer Donald Chaney Jr. and returner Maurice Turner. Last season with the Canes, Chaney ran for 478 yards and two scores, while also hauling in five catches for 15 yards. As for Turner, he rushed for 284 yards and one touchdown while also catching 11 passes for 87 yards.

Those stats lines might not stand out to most at face value, but behind the scenes, the duo has made a ton of strides this offseason. Both Chaney and Turner looked good in spring ball earlier this year, have embraced leadership roles at the position, and have attacked summer workouts. Barclay really likes the momentum that both players have built up.

"They've done a great job," he said. "It helps when you have guys with some experience, that have been in the fire, that have played in games in meaningful moments. Both of those young men have really taken the bull by the horns, so to speak, this summer, and really have taken the leadership role in the room and been vocal. It's really helped."

While Chaney and Turner will likely get the bulk of the reps at running back, the other three scholarship players at the position will all likely have some sort of role for the upcoming 2024 season. During spring ball, true freshman early enrollee Isaac Brown looked like arguable the fastest player at the position, and fellow incoming frosh Duke Watson is a top-400 prospect.

But all things considered, Barclay believes that Keyjuan Brown is the running back who put together the best spring for the Cardinals. He lauds how Brown has dedicated himself to the weight room, to that point where he has shaved 15 pounds to get to around 208 pounds, which in turn has helped him improve all the facts of his game.

"He looks like blue twisted steel. I'm excited about him," Barclay said. "He's running really well, change of direction has really improved, and he's also gotten faster. He hit over 20 miles an hour a couple of times a spring, which is really good to see. He's powerful when he runs. as well as fast. He's got some foot speed, he's deceptively fast."

Perhaps the most admirable quality of the room as a whole, according to Barclay, is that there is no sense of entitlement. Every player carries a chip of their shoulder, and they "understand what's at stake" for the upcoming 2024 season. Building off of a 10-4 season in 2023, one where they also made the ACC Championship Game, Louisville has positioned themselves to have another successful season this fall.

But that hasn't stopped Barclay from still trying to fuel their motivational fires. He mentioned how he saw a recent list of the top 50 running backs in college football, one which features zero players from Louisville, and he sent it to his guys in the middle of the night.

"I just sent it to them about 12:30 this morning. I said, 'Guys, just so you know, we got we had a lot of work to do'," he said. "I explained to them the other day, I'm almost positive, Isaac Guerendo didn't have his name on that list last year. But you know what, he had a great summer, he worked his tail off, and he put himself on that list. And he became the first draft pick that we had in this past NFL Draft. So I told those guys that, 'hey, man, it's whatever you want it to be. The sky's the limit. You gotta go make a name for yourself, we have to go make a name for ourselves, because we're being slept on,' and that's fine."

(Photo of Maurice Turner: Sam Navarro - USA TODAY Sports)

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Matthew McGavic


McGavic is a 2016 Sport Administration graduate of the University of Louisville, and a native of the Derby City. He has been covering the Cardinals in various capacities since 2017, with a brief stop in Atlanta, Ga. on the Georgia Tech beat. He is also a co-host of the 'From The Pink Seats' podcast on the State of Louisville network. Video gamer, bourbon drinker and dog lover. Find him on Twitter at @Matt_McGavic