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Hitting the ground running in the ACC
By Dalton Ray
The 2014 running back stable for the Louisville Cardinals has a mix of proven talent, size, speed, and depth between the five guys in rotation. On paper, the running back corps is as deep as it’s been since Petrino was last on the sideline.
The featured back will be senior Dominique Brown, at six-foot-two and 240 pounds the power-back will be the first of many bruisers to wear down opposing defenses.
Last season Brown led the Cards in rushing with 825 yards and 8 touchdowns, while averaging a stellar five yards per carry.
Brown almost quite literally carried the Cards to victory in the Monday night season opener. Brown carried the ball 33 times for 143 yards and a touchdown in the 31-13 defeat of Miami.
After sitting out the entire 2012 campaign due to injury, Brown was able to erase any questions about his knee last season, returning to full form running with reckless-abandon and explosiveness.
The fifth year senior added 10 pounds of muscle over the offseason and will be even more difficult to bring down.
“I want to run with better pad level, that’s a goal this year. My career goal is to be a 1,000 yard rusher…we think we can have two 1,000 yard rushers in Petrino’s offense,” Brown said. Throughout his career Brown has rushed for 1,417 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Petrino’s offense is well known for its ridiculously potent passing game, but how well Petrino’s running game was at Louisville, WKU and Arkansas is very underrated, turning out multiple running backs that went on to have NFL success.
Having multiple guys who can carry the ball with confidence will allow Petrino to have more power running sets and keep defenses off balance.
Pushing Brown for first team reps will be none other than former BCS National Championship offensive MVP, Michael Dyer.
At five-foot-nine, 212 pounds the senior resembles the frame of a body builder yet still has the second level speed to burn defenses. Now in his final year of college, Dyer will look to prove to NFL scouts he is pro-material.
After injuries derailed his first year with the Cards, the Auburn transfer will look to stay healthy and help carry the offense.
Dyer proved he still has worth as he averaged five yards per carry last season over his 44 carries. Dyer has set his expectations of this year with his spring game performance of over 150 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
The biggest surprise out of the backfield has been newcomer, freshman LJ Scott. At six-foot, 230 pounds, Scott is another bruising back that Petrino will have at his disposal.
Enrolling in the spring, Scott took the backfield by storm and impressed the new staff early on. The freshman from Marion, Ohio burst onto the scene in the spring game as he ran for 128 yards and a touchdown on his 22 carries.
“My role is whatever the coaches need it to be; I’m not opposed to anything they suggest,” Scott said. “I’m just there to fit whatever they need.”
Scott has benefitted greatly from the influence of the senior, veteran backs that he plays behind.
“Dominique and Dyer are both tremendous backs and in the meeting room I have one on my left and another one behind me so I learn a lot between the two.”
Junior Corvin Lamb brings the lightning to the Cardinal’s thunderous running back corp.
After sitting out last season with a torn ACL he suffered against EKU, Lamb is said to be fully healthy and still one of the team’s fastest players. Don’t be surprised to see Lamb lined up all over the field to utilize his next-level speed.
Rounding out the bunch is Brandon Ratcliff. The sophomore carries traits that even the most average viewer can see, he runs hard and defenders do not enjoy tackling him. Ratcliff is a violent runner with a lower center of gravity who is also fully healthy after an injury last season.
“We’ve always taken pride in playing with a lot of different running backs and different styles… I think they are all going to get used; you need a bunch of running backs in a physical conference like this because the backs are going to take a pounding,” offensive coordinator Garrick McGee describes.
“You have to be able to run the ball to win games. The passing game keeps you in games, it completes third downs, but in tough games you have to be able to run the ball in the end to win. So all the backs are going to be important.”