Louisville Football: Shai Werts can have a major impact in 2021

Athletes and their roles on teams change, as the sport as a whole begins to make changes. Formations, schemes, and player alignment have been some of the most notable in college football over the past decade.

More recently has been the change and insertion of iron-man athletes. Players that are capable of more than one position at the collegiate level. In this day of college football, almost every team has some set of plays that involves the quarterback being a runner and make an impact with more than his arm.

That’s exactly what Shai Werts has been doing over the past four seasons at Georgia Southern. Through the Golden Eagles’ option offense, Werts had plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills as a runner.

Werts rushed for 3,083 yards and 34 touchdowns in his career, led by two seasons with 10-plus rushing scores. He ranked tied for second last season in rushing touchdowns for a quarterback, finishing a touchdown behind Malik Willis of Liberty University.

Although not asked to a lot, Werts showed to be a competent passer as well, finishing with 3,778 passing yards, to go along with 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Louisville football will benefit greatly from Werts’ arrival

The dynamic that Werts will bring to Louisville football, is the ability to play wide receiver. The quarterback-wide receiver transition has been done before and becoming more of a theme. It started on the highest of scales in 2015, when Ohio State’s Braxton Miller switched, once JT Barrett won the starting job.

TCU’s Trevon Boykin was another example of a wide receiver that etched himself out to be a quarterback. Most recently, Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden Jr., who is now in the NFL, was a wide receiver-quarterback hybrid.

All of them having experience at one position can help for the other. The same can be applied to Werts. Through the option system, Werts has to make decisions, whether to pitch or hit the right hole and explode into the secondary. Werts did that just about as good as anyone in college football last season.

Elusiveness is another skill that must be required in the transition. One that Werts shows here as he evades an oncoming rusher and throws on the run to hit his target in the end zone.

Louisville football is losing its top two pass catchers from a year ago in TuTu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick. An offense that was average a year ago, is looking for some sort of spark. With Werts ability to be versatile, it gives third-year starter Malik Cunningham a chance to get the ball out to more speed and experience.

With Werts’ background as a quarterback, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see some trick plays with him involved. Werts lining up in the backfield alongside Cunningham and using Werts in jet sweeps and screen passes to create space would be ideal situations for the Cardinals.

His touchdowns responsible for ranks top-15 all-time in Sun Belt history, with a perfectly even amount through the air and on the ground. Werts can make plays in space and replace the speedy element that Atwell brought over the past few seasons.

I expect Werts to make a bigger impact than Miller did at Ohio State, solely to the fact that Louisville’s talent and experience at the position are not quite as much.

Braden Smith and Justin Marshall are expected to be the other two receivers, alongside Werts, and will help carve Werts’ niche into the offensive system.

Werts has proven over the past four years to be a well above average football player in the Sun Belt. With the new challenge at hand in Louisville, once again will have to prove why he deserves to play at the Power Five level.