March 25, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky.-Under head coach Charlie Strong, the running back position has been one by committee. En route to an 11-2 campaign last season, Strong and the offensive staff had the carries split equally between their two top rushers, Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry.
Before Perry tore his ACL in October, the tandem put up identical numbers. Wright finished with 824 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Perry ended his year with 705 yards and 11 scores. Corvin Lamb stepped in and provided a spark after Perry's injury, running for 50 yards and a score.
The one person missing from this equation was Dominique Brown, who sat out 2012 with a knee injury. After running for 533 yards and four touchdowns in 2011, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound back is back in the rotation and is the No. 1 rusher this spring with Perry recovering from his injury.
"I feel great," Brown said after practice. "I'm very excited to be back out there to be playing football. It's a humbling experience to be back out there and enjoying football."
Recruited as a quarterback out of Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, Brown made a successful transition to running back during the third game of the 2011 campaign. In his first game as a ball carrier, Brown logged 17 carries for 91 yards in Louisville's first win over the Wildcats since 2006.
Brown is one of the fiercest competitors on the team and it pained him to be stuck on the sidelines last season, as the Cardinals enjoyed another BIG EAST title and a win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
"It was tough," Brown said. "For me being a competitor that I am, it was tough not to be out there with my boys. It was a hard experience for me."
After three spring practices, it looks like Brown is completely healthy. Running with a purpose on Saturday, Brown, who trimmed down a bit, ran with great vision and power. But the most positive aspect of the day was Brown ran with little concern over his knee.
"I know I will have a little concern about the knee, but I'm not going to worry about it," Brown said. "I'm just going to play. Saturday was the first day in pads and it held up pretty well for the first time out there."
The Cardinals lost their leading rusher when Wright opted for the NFL, but the Cardinals have talent returning in Brown, Lamb and Perry, while redshirt freshman Brandon Radcliff runs hard and is someone to watch this year.
"We all have some learning to do," Brown said. "We lost one really good running back, so other backs have to step up and fill some spots. We aren't worried about who is going to get the touches. We have Corvin and Senorise. They both had a great year. We aren't really selfish."
The Cardinals will once again go to the running-back-by-committee approach this season. That group figures to be just as effective as last season and ensure another that Louisville's explosive offense stays multi-dimensional.