By Zac Ellis
Louisville is set to add an intriguing piece to its offense. Michael Dyer, the former Auburn and Arkansas State running back, has decided to join the Cardinals and will enroll at the school next week, according to George Schroeder of USA Today.
Dyer, who graduated from Arkansas Baptist College with an associates degree in June, will immediately be eligible to play in the fall. He recorded consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons as the starting tailback at Auburn in 2010 and 2011, and he won offensive MVP honors after the Tigers’ victory over Oregon in the 2011 BCS title game, when he carried 22 times for 143 yards.
Dyer's issues were always of the off-the-field variety, however. He transferred to Arkansas State after he was indefinitely suspended by then-Auburn coach Gene Chizik following a failed drug test in 2011. Dyer later testified in court to having his gun used in a March 2011 robbery by four of his Tigers teammates. Once at Arkansas State, Dyer was dismissed by then-coach Gus Malzahn for another run-in with the law: Dyer was pulled over for speeding and had a gun confiscated from his car.
An Arkansas native, Dyer said last month that he preferred to walk-on at Arkansas. But Dyer's mentor, Arkansas Baptist president Fitz Hill, said potential teams were hesitant to speak with Dyer largely because of his checkered past.
At the time, Dyer assured suitors that his focus would be purely on football at his next destination:
“I’m only gonna go to school, make good grades and play football,” he said. “I don’t bring anything with me. No registered gun, and I’m not gonna waste your time smoking marijuana. I want to put a jersey on, sweat and play football. I want to show people the true Michael Dyer.”
Hill also told USA Today that he witnessed nothing but maturity from Dyer during the player's time at Arkansas Baptist College.
"Based on what he has done at Arkansas Baptist College, I don't have one negative," Hill said. "I can't talk about (what happened at) Auburn or Arkansas State, but I can talk about Arkansas Baptist College. It's been all positive."
Charlie Strong and Louisville ultimately opted to take a chance on Dyer, and the tailback could add another dimension to the Cardinals' already potent offense. Louisville returns a handful of key contributors from last season, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who passed for 3,718 yards and completed 69 percent of his attempts.
But while last year's Cardinals' passing attack finished first in the Big East and 24th in the country, respectively, the rushing game was decidedly more mediocre. It averaged 122.7 yards per game, sixth in the league and 102nd in the nation. Leading rusher Jeremy Wright is gone, and Senorise Perry, who finished second on the team with 705 rushing yards in 2012, and Dominique Brown, who missed last season with a knee injury but was the team's second-leading rusher as a freshman in 2011, are vying for the starting role. Brown and Perry have an entire spring practice and offseason of workouts behind them, while Dyer hasn't played football since 2011.
Dyer is a wild card, and his stint with Louisville essentially amounts to a third chance after brief stays at Auburn and Arkansas State. But reports suggest the leadership of Charlie Strong played a big role in Dyer's decision to join the Cardinals, and some feel having Strong as a mentor could pay dividends for Dyer's future.