One area of the team that has flown under the radar heading into this season is the running back position. That's not really a bad sign or a slight in any way. It's really because of just how steady things are at the position. Louisville will head into the season with five running backs that could get the ball this year. With two of those players being known commodities, fans are rightfully excited about the position as a whole.
The most experienced back returning to the lineup this year is Dominique Brown. Brown finished last season with 825 yards and 8 touchdowns. While he lost some weight going into last season he has actually added a ton of mass coming into his senior year. He also caught the ball out of the backfield very well when needed. Brown's role, at least in practice, hasn't been tailored in any specific way. He has run read option plays as well as sweeps and screens. His added size should really help him against the physical defenses in the ACC.
Michael Dyer was expected to come in last year and light the world on fire. His season actually ended up being somewhat of a letdown due mostly to a sports hernia injury. When he was on the field he showed flashes of the skills that helped him become the MVP of the 2011 National Championship Game. Dyer has great speed through the hole which is needed in the new offensive system. There is less misdirection and much more of a system that asks backs to hit the hole and go. Dyer's only potential weakness is catching the ball out of the backfield. He hasn't shown that he has been able to do so, and it's a pretty big part of the system.
L.J. Scott has been an absolute monster since he's been on campus. For a freshman, that is. Scott exploded in the spring game for 128 yards, including a 50-yarder against the first team defense. He was utilized as a fullback some during last week's open practices. I think that his added size to go along with his pass catching ability will help him get on the field early. He ran a lot of the plays that Brock Bolen ran during Petrino's first stint.
Corvin Lamb and Brandon Radcliff are no slouches themselves. They spent last week practicing with the "newcomer" group of players during the morning sessions. Both are speed backs that will find themselves getting some kind of playing time this year. Lamb is the fastest player on the team and I personally think he could see himself in the slot as well as being the primary kick returner. Radcliff runs harder than anyone on the team. He just looks violent when he gets the ball in his hands. If he can stay healthy, I think he will see some carries this year, also.
These guys aren't garnering the excitement that the wide receivers are on offense but it should be noted that Garrick McGee's one season as offensive Coordinator for Petrino was the best season of offensive balance at Arkansas. The running backs ran for over 2,000 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Petrino is known for being pass heavy, but at least for that year, McGee seemed to have things trending to more of a balanced attack. We could see the same thing this year with such a deep group of backs.
AROUND THE ACC
Louisville will be going against the undisputed top running back in the ACC when the season kicks off this year. Johnson was injured last season and sat the bowl game out. Miami couldn't get anything going without Johnson and the running game was nonexistent. Johnson is a workhorse back that can break a big play at any given moment. He has averaged 6.8 and 6.3 yards per carry in his first two seasons, respectively.
Williams did this as a freshman safety a few years back and it has been etched in my memory ever since. He dominated the Under Armour All American Game after his senior year and I was amazed watching such a big kid move as well as he did. He didn't really see the field too much as a defensive player at FSU so they just moved him to running back and he averaged 8 yards per carry last year. With a year of coaching as well as more carries, he really has a chance to blow up.
NEXT IN LINE:
Parks was pretty much Virginia's offense last year. He ran for over 1,000 yards and nearly led the team in catches and receiving yards. Those numbers are more impressive when you factor in just how bad Virginia was last year. Parks should reach 3,000 career yards sometime this season, so he has been productive since day one.
Dominating a bowl game is a good way to garner some serious hype going into the next season. Conner's 229 yards while also lining up for a handful of snaps on defense garnered him national attention during bowl season. Conner has gotten even bigger and Paul Chryst's power run offense should suit him well in year three of the system.