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Louisville Cardinals Running Game Key to Quick Transition to ACC

The Louisville Cardinals enter the 2014 season with a whole new land of opportunity presented to them, all with a familiar face at the helm.

Under former head coach Bobby Petrino, Louisville will look to make a name for themselves in their first season as member of the ACC.

They will do so without Teddy Bridgewater and over half of a starting defense that was ranked in the top-10 in every major category (points, yards, and pass-rush).

Petrino will get to unleash his ‘power spread’ scheme that has allowed players like Brian Brohm, Ryan Mallett and Michael Bush to excel. The main philosophy of Petrino’s power spread is to use a method he coined “FTS” – Feed The Stud.

We want to get the ball to our best players and make sure we utilize the guys who can go out and make plays.”

Louisville Cardinals Running Game Key

Whether it is through the air or on the ground, Petrino has always found a way to get the best out of his offenses. This iteration of Louisville football will be led by a stable of running backs that, when all is said and done, could be one of the best the ACC has to offer.

Leading the way will be Dominique Brown, who at 6’2” and 233-pounds, will be hard to forget once any defender comes across him in open space.

One obvious not from camp: Dominique Brown is huge. I mean jacked. No one in the ACC should be able to tackle him one-on-one.

With Petrino in town, it could be fair to draw upon comparisons to Bush and his 2005-season where he rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 23 touchdowns as the Cardinals went 9-3.

But it wasn’t just the starter that benefited from Petrino’s offense, but also the players behind him, which is what plays to the strength of this year’s edition.

Behind Brown will be two-time 1,000-yard rusher with the Auburn Tigers, Michael Dyer who has one last opportunity to re-establish himself as one of the top running backs in the nation. As a true freshman with the Tigers, Dyer ran for 143 yards in the BCS National Championship game against the Oregon Ducks.

Off-the-field issues ended his career at Auburn and Arkansas State, and landed Dyer in Louisville and in potentially a perfect position to recapture the success of his freshman and sophomore seasons.

He will have to reclaim the spot behind Brown from true freshman L.J. Scott, who has shot up the depth chart to be the main backup.  To try and get as many of the running backs on the field, Scott has been playing fullback in goal line sets.

Brandon Radcliff rounds out the quartet for the Cardinals and ran for 91 yards as a redshirt freshman. Described as a ‘very physical, bruising back’ and who is a ‘compact runner who thrives between the tackles’ by the team’s website, Radcliff will be an interesting watch in camp to see how much he will be worked into the rotation.

Louisville will hit the ground running as they open up the season against their new ACC opponent, the Miami Hurricanes. The Hurricanes ranked 77th in the nation last year against the run and only return three starters in their front seven, giving the Cardinals a perfect opportunity to make their mark physically.

Despite losing Bridgewater, Louisville returns an experienced offensive line as well as their top rusher and receiver – which could make things a lot easier on Will Gardner.

After Florida State, and with the loss of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins by Clemson, the Atlantic Division is wide open and there is no reason Louisville can’t find themselves right around the top of the conference if they are successful in running the ball.

Year #1 Att #1 Yds # 1 TD #2 Att #2 Yds #2 TD #3 Att #3 Yds #3 TD
2003 141 817 11 166 790 10 81 503 6
2004 146 938 20 132 734 7 76 373 7
2005 205 1143 23 79 621 7 107 523 6
2006 154 862 7 81 459 5 96 406 13
Average 161.5 940 15.25 114.5 651 7.25 90 451.25 8

A look at how the first, second, and third running backs fared under Petrino during his time at Louisville.


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