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March 14, 2012

Injury doesn't have to mean loss of offers

The most painful moment for Snellville (Ga.) South Gwinnett linebacker Reginald Carter didn't come when he hurt his knee in his season-opening game last fall.

No, the real agony occurred later that evening when he received his official diagnosis.

Carter didn't understand the severity of his injury until he underwent an MRI that revealed he had a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. As soon as Carter received that cold slap of reality, the questions started entering his mind.

What did his future hold? Would schools start pulling their offers? How soon would he get back to full strength?

Before Carter could really start feeling sorry for himself, his father offered a dose of tough love. Carter still remembers what his dad said that night.

"Stop crying," Carter recalled his father saying. "You've got to move on. We're going to work. We're going to get you ready and we'll shock a lot of people. It's good it happened now, not my senior year. We're going to get through this."

Carter has been following that advice ever since. So have the other 2013 recruits coming back from injuries that sidelined them for most or all of their junior seasons.

Many of them also feared the constant rings of their cell phones would fade to silence. They worried that schools would stop recruiting them. In most cases, that hasn't happened.

"I thought maybe after the injury, schools would kind of back off a little bit," said Statesville (N.C.) High quarterback Carlis Parker, who tore the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee in his 2011 season opener. "But no schools whatsoever have backed down or whatever. All schools kept telling me to get back in shape, and they'll still recruit me hard and everything."

Schools generally haven't withdrawn their verbal offers to these injured prospects.

But in some cases, they're showing more caution.

A prime example of that thinking involves the case of Tulsa (Okla.) East Central cornerback Stanvon Taylor, the nation's No. 188 overall prospect. Taylor's only major-conference offers thus far have come from Arkansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech.

That's not a typical offer list for a Rivals250 recruit, yet schools apparently are remaining wary as Taylor recovers from a broken ankle that knocked him out in his 2011 season opener.

"I think this one's definitely a wait-and-see approach," Rivals.com Southwest recruiting analyst Brian Perroni said. "He was a guy who picked up his first couple of offers before his junior season. He's a guy who's been talked about a long time, real talented. I think schools really want to see how he does coming back. I think this spring will go a long way toward doing that."

Here are some notable 2013 prospects coming back from injuries that sidelined them for much or all of their junior seasons. All players on this list with a ranking are rated as four-star prospects.
NamePos.High SchoolRank
Peyton BarberRBMilton (Ga.) HighNA
Barber missed half his junior season with a high ankle sprain. His offer list includes Clemson, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, UCF and Vanderbilt.
Keelon BrookinsCBOakdale (Minn.) TartanNA
Brookins tore his ACL in the spring of his sophomore year and played only one game for Tartan as a junior. He verbally committed to Minnesota last month.
Reginald CarterLBSnellville (Ga.) South GwinnettNA
Carter tore the ACL in his right knee in South Gwinnett's season-opening game last fall. He has resumed running but hasn't started making cuts yet. Carter has received verbal offers from Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee among others.
Antwuan DavisCB Bastrop (Texas) High171st
Davis missed half his junior season with a stress fracture in his back. His offer list includes Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M among others.
Chris DavisRBCincinnati (Ohio) ColerainNA
Early projections suggested Davis could rank among the top five or 10 Ohio prospects for the Class of 2013 until he tore three knee ligaments in the second game of his junior season. He has verbal offers from Cincinnati and Minnesota.
Rickey JeffersonWRDestrehan (La.) High104th
Jefferson, the younger brother of former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, missed much of his junior season with a torn ACL. He has offers from Alabama, Florida State, Houston, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee and USC.
Adam LaneRBWinter Haven (Fla.) HighNA
Lane missed his entire junior season after breaking the fibula in his right leg during a team practice, but he says he's now at about 90-95 percent. Lane committed to Florida in January.
Carlis ParkerQBStatesville (N.C.) HighNA
Parker tore the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee during Statesville's 2011 season opener, but he said he recently was cleared to resume all football activities. He has offers from East Carolina, North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
Hayden RettigQBLos Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral123rd
Rettig, the younger brother of Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig, missed most of his junior season with a torn ACL in his right knee. His offer list includes Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Boston College, Purdue, Rutgers, Vanderbilt and Washington State.
Adam TaylorRBKaty (Texas) High247th
After rushing for 1,553 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore, Taylor suffered a knee injury in his 2011 season opener. Taylor has received offers from Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Wisconsin among others.
Stanvon TaylorCB Tulsa (Okla.) East Central188th
Taylor broke an ankle in his first and only game of the 2011 season. He has offers from Arkansas, Arkansas State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Tulsa and Utah State.
Altee TenpennyRBNorth Little Rock (Ark.) High20th
Tenpenny sat out the entire 2011 season after breaking an ankle in a scrimmage. He committed to Alabama in January and is listed as a soft verbal.
Aregeros TurnerRBCopley (Ohio) HighNA
Turner rushed for 14 touchdowns and nearly 1,700 yards last fall despite breaking a leg in his seventh game of the season. He has received offers from Illinois, Tennessee and Washington.
Plenty of other Rivals250 recruits also were sidelined for much of their junior seasons.

North Little Rock (Ark.) running back Altee Tenpenny (No. 20) broke his ankle early in his junior year. Destrehan (La.) High wide receiver Rickey Jefferson (No. 104), the younger brother of former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, tore an ACL. Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral quarterback Hayden Rettig (No. 123) also had a torn ACL. Bastrop (Texas) High cornerback Antwuan Davis (No. 171) is recovering from a stress fracture in his back. Katy (Texas) High running back Adam Taylor (No. 247) suffered a knee injury in his 2011 season opener and missed the rest of the year.

Some of these players were so highly regarded anyway that the injury had little impact on their recruitment. Tenpenny committed to Alabama in late January, though he is listed as a "soft verbal." Davis, Jefferson and Rettig are uncommitted but have plenty of offers from national powers.

"It wasn't like I tore anything in my arm," said Rettig, the younger brother of Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig. "Everyone has knee injuries. Everyone goes through it and everyone has surgery. Coaches tell me all the time this is a regular thing, knee injuries are regular things. People get back stronger than ever.''

At least one player has even referred to his injury as a potential blessing in disguise.

Winter Haven (Fla.) running back Adam Lane missed his entire junior season with a broken fibula in his right leg. Lane said the injury made it easier for him to make his college choice based on how schools acted toward him afterward.

While Lane noted that each of the schools recruiting him said all the right things after his injury, he could sense which coaches cared the most about his situation.

"They were all acting like they really cared, but you can tell when someone is genuinely concerned about your injury and well being, not just worrying about when I can get back on the field but wanting to know what I'm dealing with emotionally," Lane said. "That was a big factor."

Lane verbally committed to Florida in January. How could he sense the Gators really cared about him?

"Every time I called them, they'd tell me not only to keep your head up but to make sure your teammates are with you and to make sure you keep your teammates hyped up the whole time," Lane said. "(They said) don't become a stranger to the team. Always be at all the practices and help them keep their heads up."

The committed players already have given themselves at least a perception of security as they recuperate from their injuries. The players in the Rivals100 also probably don't have to worry too much about whether schools will continue to pursue them.

But the uncommitted players from outside the Rivals250 understand how much is at stake for them in the next few months.

That's particularly true of a dual-threat quarterback such as Parker. Whereas Rettig is a drop-back quarterback who relies much more on his arm than his legs, Parker thrives on his speed. Parker reportedly ran for 1,200 yards and threw for 1,800 yards while accounting for 27 touchdowns in his sophomore season.

Parker has been cleared to resume full football activities. Now he wants to show he still possesses the speed that helped him collect offers from North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia Tech among others. Parker said he also had received contact from Clemson, Florida and Purdue. But he knows the likelihood of additional offers depends on his future health and production.

"I think I have a lot to prove," Parker said. "If I come out and have a bad season, a lot of schools that are in the process of offering now are going to back down. This is going to be a big season."

Carter also understands the importance of the next several months.

He already has received offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Carter said he's probably leaning toward Georgia at this point and noted the Bulldogs' coaches had mentioned that they have a history of continuing to recruit players who had torn their ACLs.

Carter has resumed running, though he hasn't started cutting yet. He can't wait to show that he's regained the form that made him such a coveted recruit in the first place.

"It's going to be an exciting year," Carter said. "I feel more hungry than I've ever been. I feel hungrier because I missed my whole junior year. Most people's stock went up this season. That pushed my stock down, so now I've got to show that I can play."

And that's why he continues to heed the words his father delivered last fall.

There's no more time for crying.

There's too much work ahead.

Steve Megargee is the national college columnist for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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