For Lindy’s College Football Annuals this year, we listed 10 comeback players we found most intriguing for 2012. The criteria was that the player had to miss all, or a significant part, of last season.
So, how are they doing?
Well, results have been mixed.
Let’s take a look:
Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas (ankle): His slow start, coupled with the Hogs’ loss to Louisiana-Monroe, has squelched any talk of a Heisman run for the junior, who ran for 1,322 yards in 2010. Davis has 34 rushes for 132 yards, an average of only 3.9 per carry. Davis says he’s 100 percent, but he hasn’t shown the burst that made him a star two seasons ago. “Is Knile back to where he was? Not yet,” coach John L. Smith told reporters this week. Davis and Arkansas can change minds this Saturday vs. No. 1 Alabama.
Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh (knee): He was on pace for a 2,000-yard season in 2011 before suffering a knee injury. At the pace he’s on this season, through an 0-2 start, he will reach 1,000 yards … but just barely. He’s still gathering his explosiveness, although last week’s game vs. Cincinnati was encouraging — 103 yards rushing and 51 receiving. He’ll see if he can reach top speed this week against a stout Virginia Tech defense.
Montel Harris, RB, Boston College (knee): Harris, the career rushing leader in BC history, was booted from the program in May and landed at Temple with a season of eligibility left. He had five carries for 12 yards in the season-opener before suffering a hamstring injury that sidelined him last week vs. Maryland.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee (knee): So far, so good for Hunter, who has 17 catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns in two games. His receiving mate, Da’Rick Rogers, landed at Tennessee Tech after a suspension, but Hunter and junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson form one of the nation’s best WR duos.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (knee): He has shown flashes, such as his 23 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns in a hard-fought win over Vanderbilt in the season-opener. That earned him SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors. The key to his season will be how much coach Steve Spurrier can lean on him in big games. The junior already has 30 career rushing touchdowns, just one shy of the school record.
Brandon Magee, LB, Arizona State (Achilles’ tendon): Magee is the talented, mature leader of an ASU defense that shed malcontent Vontaze Burfict after last season. Magee had a 45-yard interception return for a TD in the Sun Devils’ opener, but missed the Illinois game because of concussion symptoms. He is back for a big game at Missouri this Saturday.
Kenny Tate, LB, Maryland (knee): The former All-ACC safety suffered a knee injury in preseason camp and could still be a week away from making his season debut.
Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State (collarbone): He seemed like a lucky guy, getting to play for passing guru Mike Leach and throwing to stud receiver Marquess Wilson. But the Cougars’ first game was a disappointment — with Leach responding “Eh, average” when asked at halftime about Tuel’s performance against BYU, which would go on to win 30-6. WSU barely escaped Eastern Washington in its second game, and Tuel might not play this week vs. UNLV because of a leg injury.
Nathan Williams, DT, Ohio State (knee): He has 21.5 career tackles for loss, but this season looks to be a grind for Williams, who underwent microfracture knee surgery last year. Williams had two stops in the opener vs. Miami (Ohio) and then had to sit out the second game. He figures to be on a week-to-week status all season, coach Urban Meyer said.
Arizona’s ACL Army: Well, the Wildcats have three happy returns among their four players who suffered ACL tears last year. Junior linebacker Jake Fischer is the heart of the defense, averaging 13.5 tackles per game. Sophomore cornerback Jonathan McKnight, the brother of former USC running back Joe McKnight, had a key 48-yard interception return for a TD in the upset of Oklahoma State last week. He has the look of a future star. Defensive lineman Willie Mobley is becoming an increasing part of the rotation. The one non-success story is safety Adam Hall, who suffered a second ACL tear in this year’s spring game.