A first-team All-America selection in several pre-season publications and easily one of the top five running backs in the nation for 2006, Louisville's Michael Bush chose to return for his senior season instead of entering the NFL Draft.
Bush gained 1,436 total yards and scored an amazing 24 touchdowns in just 10 games. And now, Bush tells CardinalSports.com that he could have an even better season this year. Could a run towards the Heisman be in the future?
"I think so. I think last year I had good numbers even though I missed two games," Bush said confidently. "I told the guys on the radio (Paul Rogers and Howie Lindsey) earlier that 30 touchdowns and 1,500 yards would be a great season."
Bush is an amazing running back, no doubt. But some schools of thought would say to keep quiet about such lofty goals. Bush says he is confident in his team and confident in his ability.
"I welcome it. I never back down from a challenge," Bush said. "I'd rather go up against the best. I know I can do it. That Heisman list is full of great guys, and I think I have the opportunity to be up there with them."
Bush may have a point. His 24 touchdowns in 10 games last season could be a precursor to bigger and better things in 2006. If Bush reaches the end zone 30 times in 2006, it would tie the Cardinal rusher with Texas' Rick Williams in 1998 and push him ahead of some amazing company.
Bo Jackson rushed for 1,786 yards in 1985, but only found the end zone 17 times. Earl Campbell had 18 touchdowns in 1977. Herschel Walker had 17 touchdowns in 1982. Tony Dorsett had 23 touchdowns during his Heisman campaign, and Marcus Allen had 22 touchdowns during his amazing senior season.
Bush credited the offensive line and his teammates for helping him succeed last season. Without three starting linemen, could this year's team rival the 11-1 season of 2004?
"We went 11-1 that season. We've got a tougher schedule this season, but we still have a lot of the weapons we had the year Stefan (LeFors) played," Bush said. "We have (Brian) Brohm and we still have a lot of the wide receivers coming back. We've got a young defense that's not too young. They've been out there and had game experience. I don't think we'll skip a beat."
The cast of running backs around Bush could be a key to the season. While the team started summer passing workouts just last week, Bush says his fellow Cardinal rushers are up to the task.
"Oh yeah. We'll hit you with a lot of different combos," Bush said. "You have me coming at you and a lot of guys will just say I'm all power, but I'd say I've got finesse and power. You've got Kolby (Smith) who can do the same thing, then you have (George) Stripling who is the speedster. Everybody doesn't know this yet, but if we give the ball to Sergio Spencer, he'll do a lot of good things too."
Louisville begins the season against in-state rival Kentucky in the Governor's Cup on Labor Day weekend at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.