Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown said Saturday he’s encouraged by what he’s been told about Eric Stephens’ rehabilitation from the major knee injury he suffered last season.
Stephens and DeAndre Washington, Tech’s top two rushers in 2011, are both recovering from knee surgery.
“It’s positive,” Brown said. “I’m optimistic, more so than I really expected to be on Eric. He’s even a little bit ahead of DeAndre right now, with a more severe injury.”
Stephens had a dislocated left knee plus a torn anterior cruciate ligament, for which he underwent surgery Nov 22. Washington had surgery a short time later for a torn ACL. Head trainer Arnold Gamber said before spring practice that it was too early to project a return date for the two, though he said six months is a general guideline for recovery from an ACL tear.
“We’ll know a lot more in about six weeks,” Brown said. “They’re going to kind of get put back in with the rest of the guys in summer-one (offseason workouts). I’m cautiously optimistic.
“I’m not to the point where I’m planning that they’re going to be there, but I’m getting closer.”
Stephens, a senior for next season, and Washington, a sophomore, have never redshirted. So Tech coaches have said that’s an option if they aren’t ready.
One or both returning to full health would ease a lot of concerns with no proven running backs behind the two. Kenny Williams was a true freshman last season, when he carried 43 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns. So was Ronnie Daniels, who had nine carries before he was suspended for the season.
Newcomer SaDale Foster has looked versatile in scrimmages the last month, but he’s playing running back for the first time since high school after spending two years as a receiver in junior college.
Brown said if everyone’s available, the pecking order coming out of spring would be Stephens, Williams, Washington, Foster and Daniels.
And if everyone’s not available?
“There’s some challenges on it,” Brown said. “I mean, that’s not a secret. There’ll be some challenges. I feel good about Kenny Williams being able to play every down. SaDale’s not there yet. Ronnie’s not there yet.
“SaDale just needs reps. I’m more worried about him in pass protection than anything.”
Foster was the top rusher in the Red-Black Game Saturday with 70 yards on nine carries, and Daniels had 65 yards on 16 attempts. Williams did not play Saturday, though he has practiced since his arrest two weeks ago in an off-field incident.
Daniels was the leading rusher in the most recent scrimmage before Saturday, but Brown said he needs to shed 15 pounds and then work on elements of his game.
“Ronnie’s got to get in shape,” Brown said. “When he’s in shape, he’s got to get his pads down and he’s got to be better in pass protection. When he has the ball, he runs it pretty well, but he takes a lot of hits he shouldn’t take because he runs upright. I don’t know; I don’t think you can make it through a schedule in this league standing straight up.”
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