Welcome Back - Stars On The Mend
Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton
Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton
Campus Insiders & CFN
Posted Feb 11, 2014


Stars on the Mend - The 2014 season gets back a slew of banged up stars ready to shine.

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- Stars On The Mend – Part 2. No. 11 to 25

10. DT Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma
Having addressed a chronic back injury with surgery, Phillips is hoping to be better than ever in 2014. He was on the verge of becoming one of the defensive anchors for the Sooners through the first month of 2013, but he missed a pair of games and decided to shut things down for the balance of the year. If Phillips returns with no setbacks, he has the talent to emerge next fall into an All-Big 12 performer from the inside of the OU line.

9. RB Johnathan Gray, Texas
Charlie Strong is demanding more toughness from his first Longhorn team. The coach's mindset could really benefit Gray, provided he suffers no setbacks from last November's torn right Achilles tendon. Despite missing the final four games, the sophomore still wound up leading the team with 780 yards and four touchdowns on 159 carries. Since the injury happened so late in the year, Gray will not have a chance to audition for the new staff until the summer.

8. WR Austin Hill, Arizona
When Hill tore the ACL in his left knee late last spring, the ‘Cats were robbed of one of the most productive and physically imposing receivers in the country. Prior to getting hurt, the blueprint was to build on a monster sophomore campaign—81 catches for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns—just in time to wow NFL scouts. Instead, Hill will use 2014 to show those same scouts that he's back at full strength. The good news is that the injury happened so long ago that he's been running for months.

7. RB Venric Mark, Northwestern
Mark was never quite right in 2013, hobbled by a nagging ankle injury that neutralized the cutting ability and explosiveness that make him so dangerous in the open field. The NCAA has already granted him a medical hardship for last fall, meaning he'll be back for a fifth year in 2014. Mark managed just 31 carries and sat out nine Wildcat games. However, he's still the same jackrabbit who busted out for 1,366 yards rushing, 20 catches and touchdowns as a runner, receiver and punt returner.

6. QB David Ash, Texas
On Sept. 7, Ash suffered a head injury in a loss to BYU. He sat out the following week as a precaution and returned on Sept. 21, but hasn't played a down since. Recurring concussion symptoms prevented Ash from being cleared by the medical staff until weeks after the 2013 season had ended. He will participate fully in the spring, his first statement in front of a new staff as the battle with touted sophomore Tyrone Swoopes gets into full swing.

5. DE Devonte Fields, TCU
Fields is looking for a do-over for a sophomore season that careened off the tracks. Not only did a foot injury require surgery in October, but he was attacked and robbed at gunpoint in January. It's no wonder that the First Team All-Big 12 selection is looking for a fresh start in 2014. As a true freshman in 2012, he delivered a remarkable opening act by collecting 53 tackles, 18.5 stops behind the line and 10 sacks. Although Fields is seeking a medical redshirt for last year, it's unlikely he'll use up all of his eligibility before heading off to the NFL.

4. RB Duke Johnson, Miami
Johnson's sophomore season ended prematurely, the result of a broken ankle in the Nov. 2 loss to Florida State. At the time, he was hurtling toward a 1,000-yard season and a spot on the All-ACC First Team. Johnson is one of the most dynamic all-around playmakers out of the backfield in America, a long ball threat whenever he touches the ball. He'll take it easy through the spring before going full throttle again when the Hurricanes reconvene in August.

3. QB Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
Just when it looked as if Keeton was ready to go primetime, he suffered a devastating injury that prematurely ended his junior season. The talented leader of the Aggies tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee while being tackled in the Oct. 4 loss to BYU. At the time, he'd already accounted for 20 touchdowns—and just two picks—while earning more national notoriety. Keeton is on track in his rehabilitation to begin participating in June workouts with the team.

2. Half the Florida Roster (but especially QB Jeff Driskel)
No, it's not an excuse for last season's 4-8 shipwreck, but, yeah, the Gators did suffer through an inordinate number of season-ending injuries. It all began in early August with a torn ACL from WR Andre DeBose, who's returning for a sixth year. Starting RT Chaz Green tore his labrum and didn't play a down. Driskel broke his fibula in the third game. RB Matt Jones was lost on Oct. 12 to a torn meniscus. And leading tackler Antonio Morrison tore his meniscus on Nov. 9. Jones' injury is worse than expected, requiring a second surgery. Everyone else is moving forward as planned, including Driskel who's ahead of schedule and will participate in spring camp.

1. QB Everett Golson, Notre Dame
Okay, so Golson has no physical ailments, rehabbing his academics instead. Still, he didn't play a single down in 2013 and was sorely missed by the Irish. The encouraging news in South Bend is that Golson appears to have made the most of his time away from the field, maturing, adding good weight and honing his passing skills with the help of noted quarterback guru George Whitfield. The junior is poised to become an improved version of the rookie who went 10-1 as a starter in 2012, accounting for 2,703 yards and 18 touchdowns.

- Stars On The Mend – Part 2. No. 11 to 25