LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's the first name, really, that jumps off the University of Louisville football depth chart heading into the start of spring practice, which begins today for the Cardinals.
Dominique Brown is back on top. Or at least, back on top of the running back depth chart. After a long year on the sidelines with a knee injury, a year in which he was probably the most-asked-about player on the team (as in, "When is Brown coming back?"), Brown finally is back.
But he's not the same back you saw before.
When we last saw Brown, he was a converted running back learning the position. His running style was powerful and fast, but he was more of an upright runner and likened himself to a guy "running blind," even if he did net 533 rushing yards as a sophomore.
This spring, U of L offensive coordinator Shawn Watson says Brown will display a more polished running style. And while the return of 2012 leading rusher Senorise Perry from an injury and a deep stable of backs means that Brown may be far from the lone feature back in the U of L backfield, his presence could mean punishment for opposing defenses.
"He's done a great job of coming back and rehabbing," Watson said. "By the end of the season last year he was back to full form. By that time we obviously had played a whole season and were going to redshirt him, but we could see during bowl practices that he was beginning to develop tailback instincts.
"When he was transitioning from quarterback in 2011 he was really finding his way, figuring out how a tailback runs. He's a natural runner because of his background. . . . He's a physical, north-south runner, a punishing runner. I'll never forget the hit he had on the defensive tackle from North Carolina. He can lower his pads and be a forceful runner. During bowl practice, you could see he was developing as a physical runner."
But Brown himself says the biggest change in his game isn't physical, but mental. In his time on the sidelines, he's had the opportunity to study the position, and not just his own position, but the overall offense. He's counting on that making him more effective when he gets back onto the field.
Brown's power and short-yardage ability is something the Cardinals missed last season. And that's not all. Watson said his return means a return of the "WildCard" direct snap package to the offense.
But Brown is hoping to be more than a short-yardage back, though he says he's ready to accept his role in a multi-faceted running scheme
"I've been working hard, gaining some pounds, getting back into the rotation, being physical," Brown said. "That's what I thrive on. We've got other backs, Corvin (Lamb) and Senoise who are very elusive and make guys miss. I thrive on being the power back, running down hill, punishing the defense. That's my role in the running back room, to be a powerful, downhill runner."
Now that he has finished an uphill health battle, Brown said he's more than ready to be back on a football field. He said his teammates and former U of L running back Bilal Powell were some of the most supportive voices he got through the long season away from competition. He's also been busy in the classroom. He'll graduate with a degree in communications this summer, in 3 1/2 years, and will pick up an accounting major along with that.
As he looks across the offense, Brown, says he's looking forward to seeing how it comes together.
"Teddy (Bridgewater) has been doing a great job, the wideouts, and offensive line and backs," Brown said. "Watching last season and everything come together, it was great and exciting, but I'm ready to be able to get out and do my part. The main thing is we've found our identity. We know who we are right now."
And after a year of looking at his new position from the outside, Brown knows where he wants to go.
Wednesday, June 19 2013 5:39 PM EDT2013-06-19 21:39:52 GMT
SPARTA, Ky. (KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY) - University of Kentucky Men's Basketball Head Coach John Calipari will be the honorary Ford Fusion pace car official for Kentucky Speedway's June 29 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesMore >>
Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has been named the honorary pace car official to start the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway on June 29.More >>
Monday, June 17 2013 1:07 AM EDT2013-06-17 05:07:51 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In some ways, this is going to be an arbitrarily framed discussion. But there is some reasoning behind its logic.The premise: Since the University of Louisville gained an equalMore >>
Since moving to a BCS conference of its own, Louisville has outperformed UK in a variety of sports in the postseason, despite being outspent by millions.More >>
Sunday, June 16 2013 4:03 PM EDT2013-06-16 20:03:21 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Football recruiting in June is a lot like the first precincts of an election. It's nice to win, but you're always wise to wait for those big late ballots -- particularly in DadeMore >>
A look at UK's stunning early football recruiting success, plus Tim Brando picks U of L to win the national championship and Charlie Strong runs down his depth chart.More >>
Saturday, June 15 2013 9:47 AM EDT2013-06-15 13:47:40 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The WDRB College Basketball Notebook has not had a Maker's Mark bottle created in its honor. But on the up side, you don't have to scramble to liquor stores all over the cityMore >>
WDRB's weekly college basketball notebook brings more than 2,000 words of notes of all kinds on Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana and Western Kentucky hoops, and more.More >>
Friday, June 14 2013 11:50 PM EDT2013-06-15 03:50:48 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Louisville's best year ever has forced the Cardinals to re-arrange the trophy cases around the athletic department. The Cardinals have had to make room for that big crystal basketballMore >>
University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said the run his athletic program is on at present "is magical," but added "we're not going to gloat."More >>
Thursday, June 13 2013 4:42 PM EDT2013-06-13 20:42:56 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- ESPN is reporting that the University of Kentucky football coaching staff has offered a scholarship to a 13-year-old seventh-grader out of Indiana.Get ready. Cries of astonishment --More >>
ESPN reports that UK has offered a 13-year-old out of Indiana a football scholarship. It's sure to fire up debate again whether that's a good thing.More >>
Tuesday, June 11 2013 11:05 AM EDT2013-06-11 15:05:46 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- You wonder what Tom Jurich has to do to receive an athletic director of the year award. He was passed over in favor of late Alabama athletic director Mal Moore for the SportsMore >>
UnderArmor gave out National Athletic Director of the Year Awards to four recipients. Tom Jurich of Louisville wasn't one of them.More >>
Monday, June 10 2013 2:53 PM EDT2013-06-10 18:53:18 GMT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- You've heard of the Louisville Slugger. Over the next couple of weeks, you're going to hear a lot about the Louisville Slam.No program had ever captured a Grand Slam of the NCAA's mostMore >>
The University of Louisville baseball program's roll to the College World Series puts the university's athletic program on uncharted ground.More >>