Injuries are a big part of any college football season. Just ask the coaching staffs at Maryland, Missouri or USC.The Terrapins lost four quarterbacks to season-ending injuries last year, while the Tigers played 2012 without the services of standout running back Henry Josey. USC lost defensive end Devon Kennard in the preseason, which played a role in the Trojans’ defense finishing seventh in the Pac-12 in yards allowed.
With the 2013 season approaching, it’s time to take a look at how the return of injured players from 2012 will impact their team. Kennard, Josey and Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown are all expected to start in 2013, but there's no guarantee all three will be at full strength by the opening snap.
This list only includes players who missed all of last year – with one exception. So while players like Georgia’s Michael Bennett, Texas’ Jordan Hicks and Jackson Jeffcoat and TCU’s Waymon James missed significant snaps last year, each played in 2012, which made them ineligible for this article.
10 Key College Football Players Returning From Missing 2012 With Injury
Chris Black, WR, Alabama
After Amari Cooper had a breakout season last year, it’s not out of the question Alabama’s offense has another standout freshman receiver in 2013. Black was expected to play major snaps in 2012 but a shoulder injury in August sidelined him for 2013. The Jacksonville native ranked as the No. 2 receiver prospect by ESPN and was a top-100 recruit by Rivals. Black’s return will only add another weapon to Alabama’s deep (and improving) group of receivers for quarterback AJ McCarron.
C.J. Brown, QB, Maryland
Maryland was the victim of a handful of quarterback injuries last year, starting with Brown’s torn ACL in August. The Terrapins also lost Perry Hills, Caleb Rowe and Devin Burns to injuries, forcing converted linebacker Shawn Petty to step in at quarterback late in the season. Brown did not play in the spring game, and his last snap came in the 2011 season finale against NC State. The senior threw for 842 yards and seven touchdowns, while rushing for 574 yards and five scores in 2011. His best performance that season came against Clemson, recording 339 total yards and four scores. Junior college recruit (and former New Mexico signal-caller) Ricardo Young will push Brown for time this year, but the senior is the favorite to start, especially since his mobility will be an asset under coordinator Mike Locksley.
Dominique Brown, RB, Louisville
With quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a deep cast of receivers returning, Louisville should have one of the nation’s top offenses in 2013. And the Cardinals will be even more dangerous and balanced on that side of the ball this year, as Brown is returning from a knee injury that forced him to redshirt in 2012. The Ohio native rushed for 533 yards and four touchdowns in 2011 and is expected to split time with Senorise Perry in the Louisville backfield. Brown doesn’t need to be a 1,000-yard rusher for the Cardinals’ offense to thrive, but his return will help ease Perry back into the lineup while he also recovers from a knee injury, giving Louisville a solid one-two punch in the backfield.
Travis Carrie, CB, Ohio
The Bobcats saw their MAC East title hopes derailed by injuries last year, as several key players missed time due to various ailments. Carrie missed all of 2012 due to a shoulder injury but is poised to return as one of the MAC’s top defenders in 2013. In 2011, Carrie recorded 42 tackles and 13 passes defended, earning MAC second-team all-conference honors. Carrie is one of the Bobcats’ top defenders and will be expected to provide leadership as one of the team’s leaders in his final year in Athens.
Blake Countess, CB, Michigan
We are going to cheat a little on listing Countess in this article. Although he played in the opener, Countess suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter, so he was almost robbed of a full season. That counts right? Countess was one of the Big Ten’s top freshmen in 2011, recording 44 tackles and one forced fumble in 12 games. He also defended six passes and had a career-high eight stops in the bowl win over Virginia Tech. It may take a few games for Countess to knock off the rust, but the sophomore should be one of Michigan’s top defenders in 2013.
Henry Josey, RB, Missouri
Josey was one of the nation’s top running backs in 2011, but a knee injury against Texas in mid-November ended his season prematurely. Josey had 1,168 yards and nine scores, along with four consecutive 100-yard performances before his injury against the Longhorns. The Texas native’s knee injury was devastating, which included a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus, along with a patellar tendon rupture. Josey sat out all of 2012 to recuperate but returned to play in the 2013 spring game, rushing for 13 yards and one touchdown on eight carries. There’s no guarantee Josey returns at full strength, but his return should help Missouri’s ground attack. The Tigers ranked 12th in the SEC in rush offense and must replace Kendial Lawrence after he led the team with 1,025 yards last year. Josey is expected to open the season as Missouri’s No. 1 back.
Devon Kennard, DE, USC
Kennard has moved from defensive end and linebacker throughout his USC career, so new coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s 5-2 scheme should fit his talents. The Arizona native missed all of last year with a chest injury but all signs point to return to full health for 2013. Kennard recorded two sacks in 12 games in 2011 and has 135 tackles in his career. The senior has the size and athleticism to be a perfect fit as a hybrid rush end in USC’s new-look defense.
Stefan McClure, CB, California
After leading the Pac-12 in pass defense in 2011, California took a step back last year, finishing 11th in the conference and 104th nationally. McClure was expected to be one of the top contributors in the secondary for the Golden Bears last season, but he did not recover in time from a knee injury suffered late in 2011. As a freshman, McClure recorded 24 tackles, three passes defended and picked off one pass. With more than a year to recover, California’s defensive staff hopes to have the sophomore at full strength for 2013. And his health is important for a secondary that must replace safety Josh Hill and cornerbacks Steve Williams and Marc Anthony. If he’s healthy, McClure has the potential to be an all-conference performer.
Ronald Powell, DE/LB, Florida
Powell was ready to emerge as one of the SEC’s top defenders, but he suffered a torn ACL in spring practice before the 2012 season. The California native suffered a setback early in the fall, which forced him to end any shot at a comeback for 2012. Powell may not be the same player he was in 2011 early in 2013, but the junior will be a key cog in Florida’s defense. Powell recorded 32 tackles and six sacks as a sophomore and if he’s healthy, he could easily surpass those numbers in 2013. Even if Powell isn’t at 100 percent, his return will help to bolster one of the SEC’s best front sevens.
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
Very few things went Colorado’s way on offense last year. The Buffaloes struggled to find consistent quarterback play, and the offense finished 117th in points scored and 116th in yards per game (302.8). However, Colorado should be better on offense this year, as new coach Mike MacIntyre and coordinator Brian Lindgren did an outstanding job of developing San Jose State’s offense in 2012. Richardson’s return should also provide a boost for the Buffaloes, as the junior has the talent to be one of the Pac-12’s top receivers. In two seasons in Boulder, Richardson has caught 73 passes for 1,069 yards and 11 scores. He is also averaging 14.6 yards per reception for his career. Assuming Colorado can find some stability at quarterback, Richardson should push for All-Pac-12 honors after missing 2012 with a torn ACL.
Other Key Players Returning After Missing All of 2013 With Injury
Kelby Brown, LB, Duke
Jordan Canzeri, RB, Iowa
Khairi Fortt, LB, California
Hau’oli Jamora, DE, Washington
Tre Madden, RB, USC
Jacobbi McDaniel, DT, Florida State
Michaelee Harris, WR, Louisville
Barkley Hill, RB, Iowa
Andre Monroe, DL, Maryland
Mario Pender, RB, Florida State
D.T. Shackelford, LB, Ole Miss
Brandon Wilds, RB, South Carolina
Jarrick Williams, DB, Alabama
Lo Wood, CB, Notre Dame
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