LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Senorise Perry and Dominique Brown are working to reclaim their places in Louisville's ground game while welcoming former Auburn tailback Michael Dyer to the fold.
Both veterans are aiming to prove they're healthy enough to be the starting running back after knee injuries. Their returns are crucial to providing balance to Louisville's high-powered offense led by junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
The backfield got a huge boost with Monday's addition of Dyer, who ran for 1,000 yards in each of his two seasons at Auburn and helped the Tigers win a national championship in 2010 season but hasn't played since 2011 following disciplinary issues at two schools.
Dyer's arrival, coupled with the renewed health of Perry and Brown, could give Louisville one of its deepest units.
Perry and Brown, though, are more concerned about showing the form that made them part of the Cardinals' offense not long ago.
``I still got a long way to go because I'm still trying to get back in the groove of things,'' Perry said during Louisville's media day on Thursday. ``But I'll just be fine if I just keep working along with my teammates.''
The senior tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in a loss at Syracuse last November, halting a breakout season in which he ran for a team-high 11 touchdowns in 10 games and was second with 705 yards.
Seeing Perry back at practice nine months later was enough for Cardinals offensive coordinator Shawn Watson to boldly compare his recovery to that of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who came back from torn knee ligaments in December 2011 to rush for an NFL-best 2,097 yards.
``The thing I'm most excited about and a little in awe about is how fast Senorise has come back,'' Watson said. ``That's due to his hard work and the hard work of our training staff. ... They did a great job with Senorise, and of course he had to do the work. He's done a great job of finding his way back. You can't tell there's anything that he's been through.''
Brown's recovery from last year's injury took much longer but the road back into becoming part of the tailback picture has been no less remarkable.
Hoping to be part of last season's backfield rotation, Brown's knee didn't respond and he was eventually redshirted as Perry and rushing leader Jeremy Wright (824 yards, 10 TDs) shared the load. The Cincinnati native showed no effects of the injury during spring practice, displaying the same speed and strength that helped him run for 533 yards and four touchdowns in 2011.
Even better is Brown's mental grasp of the position.
``My game has changed tremendously, knowing when to cut, knowing when to run,'' said the junior. I was playing off athleticism two years ago. Now I pretty much know the offense and where I'm supposed to be.''
The returns of Brown and Perry present a good problem for Louisville as it continues through the first week of practices. Watson said he has five guys who can play the position and seems eager to see how the competition unfolds for the Cardinals, who open on Sept. 1 against Ohio.
``We all come here to work as a team and he's part of the team now, so we're going to work as one and help him out,'' Perry said of working with Dyer. ``Whoever works the hardest will get the job. If I don't get the job, I'm OK because you've got to earn the job. That's the motto we go by.''