As schools’ academic years are virtually wrapped up, last season’s juniors are now this season’s seniors, and with that comes extra responsibility and expectations. In the ACC, while there were plenty of players selected in the NFL Draft, the conference still returns a strong group of seniors — many of whom are set to make a strong impact in their final seasons of eligibility.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his respective squad, and why he’s so important. Think we should’ve featured another player, though? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
With a strong start to his 2012 season, Perry gained wide praise for his role in an impressive Louisville running game. As a result of the two-headed monster of both he and Jeremy Wright in the backfield (and of course, QB Teddy Bridgewater), the Cardinals racked up nine straight wins to start the year. But as Perry’s production fell off, and then vanished when he tore his ACL, so went Louisville’s sterling record. The Cards were just 3-2 in their final five games, and just 1-1 in games Perry played. In those two contests (versus Temple and Syracuse, respectively), he carried just 16 times for 81 yards and zero scores. Wright, while certainly a capable back in his own right, just couldn’t keep up the same level of productivity, and Louisville’s offense became increasingly one-dimensional in his absence (just 139 rushing yards over the final three games). With big expectations for this team come the fall, that simply can’t happen again.
At this point, Perry appears as if he may be ready to go for Louisville’s season opener, as he already started running again back in February — just three months following the injury. For Louisville, his return is obviously essential, especially with Wright foregoing his final year of eligibility. As a result, Perry is now the featured back in a system that must take some of the pressure off Bridgewater in order to maximize efficiency, despite a paltry list of opponents this year. Past Perry on the depth chart, Corvin Lamb and Dominique Brown (also returning from injury) have complied just 50 rushing yards combined in the last 12 months. While it would be nice to ease Perry back into the featured role, that’s simply not an option anymore.
On the bright side, the end of the year allowed this offense to truly operate through Bridgewater, and it will likely to continue to do so as the junior passer mounts his Heisman Trophy campaign. But as mentioned earlier, it’s always nice to have another option to take some pressure off. As the end of last year proved, despite how good Bridgewater is, this team does need a capable rusher in order to win most games. Based on Perry’s current level of activity, it looks like he’ll be answering that call, as the Cards aim high for a shot at a national title.