The practice field during spring ball has resembled a creative physical therapy center more than a football practice field. Players with crutches, knee braces, bandages and black leg boots hobble and scoot around the practice field to watch the uninjured play.
“I’ve got all these papers strewn out on my desk,” said head trainer Kevin Morris. “The NCAA has shown twice as many injuries [during spring] as fall football [and in any other sport]. I don’t know why that is and we’re trying to find the facts.”
Those offensive players that are able to participate in a limited capacity gather together during practice to run at half speed through some plays.
“We’re doing a short period where it’s mainly the offensive players,” said tight end Richard Wilson. “It’s for guys that have been hurt to come out and get some reps. We call it ‘perfect plays,’ so it’s mainly for the guys that can’t go full speed and it gives them a chance to come out and continue practicing somewhat and be with the team.”
“He’s looking good!” said Morris about Wilson. “I watched him run and catch that pass [Tuesday]. That was good to see them go at that speed.”
This is the second spring camp that Wilson has missed time due to injury. After suffering a tear to his anterior cruciate ligament against Oregon State last season, Wilson spent a lot of time in the weight room transforming his upper body. His arms look like former Cougar Fui Vakapuna’s and are some of the biggest ever seen at the tight end position.
“Right now I’m just trying to get my legs back,” Wilson said. “My upper body feels really good and I’ve had some good time to get that strong. Now it’s just getting my legs back and getting myself back into football shape.
“My upper body is probably in the best shape that I’ve ever been in. I kind of used the offseason to work out really hard and all I could really do was upper body, and now it’s just a matter of time of me getting my legs back.”
Wilson feels he’s making progress, though he still has a ways to go.
“I’m at around 70 to 75 percent right now and about five months out,” Wilson said. “I’m feeling pretty good running around and I’m back in lifting and squatting. Now it’s just a matter of time of getting my strength back in my leg and feeling confident running routes and cutting. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.”
“He’s about three and a half months [away from full recovery],” Morris said. “I’d like to see him at about six before we do anything, but he’ll be great for fall camp. You know, that’s the nice thing – we have guys out for spring right now but they’re going to be back for fall camp.”
Wilson anticipates being ready for fall.
“I expect to be back by fall and more than 110 percent by that time,” Wilson said. “I’ve been working hard to get stronger in the weight room than I was last year. I plan on getting the strength of my leg back and having that confidence to go out there and run routes and play at a higher level than before.”
“That’s the good news to take from this,” Morris said. “They’re missing some reps in spring ball but they’ll be ready for fall camp.”