Dominique Brown back after "very hard" season

University of Louisville junior running back Dominique Brown spent what he describes as a "very hard" season watching his team from the sidelines in 2012. Brown is now fully recovered from the knee injury that put him out of action and ran well during the open practices over the weekend.

Dominique Brown had high hopes and expectations heading into the 2012 season. The Cincinnati native was going to be a key member of the Louisville ground attack Until a preseason knee injury sidelined him for the year.

As a sophomore in 2011, the one-time quarterback played 12 games, starting 3, at running back and finished second on the team with 533 yards. At 6-foot-2, 226-pounds, Brown is a bruising back that has the ability to make tacklers miss just as much as run over them.

"It means a lot because I have been out of football for a whole year," Brown said following a recent practice. "It's fun to be back out here and be around my brothers."

After spending a season on the sideline, watching others take the majority of practice reps, Brown is getting back to things quickly this spring. The departure of Jeremy Wright to the NFL and with senior Senorise Perry continuing to rehab his injured knee, Brown will receive the majority of the snaps during the spring practice session.

"The good thing about Dominque is that two years ago he was a starter at that position," said U of L head coach Charlie Strong. "Now with him being healthy, you have a running back in place because Senorise [Perry] is banged up and Jeremy Wright is gone, so it's great to have Dominque Brown back."

For Brown, who had recovered from the injury during the later stages of last season and was available to play if needed, it's been a difficult waiting process.

"It's been kind of a hard experience for me," he said. "I was itching to get back out there, but my coaches talked to me and explained how they didn't want to take my redshirt from me. It was very hard for me."

It became even harder when the Cardinals secured a spot in the All-State Sugar Bowl as the Big East Conference champions.

"The atmosphere there was amazing and I would have given everything to play."

Back on the field, Brown ran well during the open practices, but he admits that he is still not completely where he needs to be.

"My goal for the spring is to be more fundamentally sound as a running back," he explained. "I want to pick my game up more as a running back. I still have some learning to do."

"The biggest thing was getting back in shape. Other than that it has just been getting my feet wet again and getting toned back up as a running back. My fundamentals slipped a little bit because I haven't been doing it for so long."

At times this season, Brown will lineup in the backfield with 6-foot-2, 275-pound fullback B.J. Butler.

"We try to put the defense at a disadvantage," said Brown. "We're both over 225 pounds, so that's pretty hard for the defense to stop."

U of L offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said Brown "looks leaner" than he was before his injury but noted he's "actually heavier."

"He has it packed in right," Watson said. "He looks really good. I really like where he's at right now."

Senior linebacker Preston Brown agrees.

"That's a lot of weight coming at you," said Brown. "For the teams we have to play, that's going to be trouble for them."

The Cardinals will continue spring practice through the April 13 Spring Game.

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