Dominique Brown sure hasn’t been getting much press during the pre-season for a player who was the leading rusher on a University of Louisville football team that compiled a 12-1 record last season. Under the radar for some inexplicable reason.
The 6-foot-2, 241-pound senior running back rushed for “only” 825 yards and eight touchdowns last seson, getting the tough yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Not too shabby in a conservative Charlie Strong grind-it-out approach, stressing ball control and defense at the expense of entertaining offense.
Brown reminds this observer of another UofL running back from the past in stature, speed and running style — one Eric Shelton who rushed for 938 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2004. That team, coached by Bobby Petrino, went 11-1, defeated Boise State in the Liberty Bowl and finished among the nation’s top 10 teams.
What’s most impressive was that Shelton was putting up such numbers sharing ball-carrying duties with Michael Bush, who gained 753 yards and seven touchdowns. Despite the disparity, Shelton always seemed to be playing in the shadow of Bush.
Much of the attention this pre-season has been focused on Michael Dyer, fans wanting to see the Michael Dyer at Louisville who was the most valuable player in the 2011 BCS National Championship game when he ran for 143 yards on 22 carries. With Dyer nursing a bruised thigh and doubtful for the opener against Miami, heads are turning toward Brown again.
Petrino has been “encouraging” Brown to lower his shoulder pads and run closer to the ground during the pre-season, something is taking very seriously. “That’s my emphasis pretty much every practice,” said Brown recently. “It’s still a learning process. It’s nothing that’s going to happen overnight. It’s going to take all the practices.”
Petrino has also convinced Brown that despite his impressive resume, no spot is safe on the team. “We don’t really have one guy,” Brown said. “Your spot could be gone like that. We all just worry about being physical. We’re going to run the ball a lot in the Petrino offense.”
Brown is taking nothing for granted and he’s going to be highly motivated. That’s a winning combination for an individual with his talents in a high-powered Bobby Petrino offense this season.