Tape It Up: Comeback Kids

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Comeback Kids

Isaac Newton was clearly a football fan. He figured out that for every team devastated by a player's injury, there is another team uplifted by a player's recovery. (Granted, he made it a bit more general, since the despair of losing a starting quarterback does not always equal the elation at getting a third-string linebacker back, but you get the idea.) In an effort to move away from the depressing news of season-ending injuries suffered on day one (add to that category Arizona defensive end Ron Jackson, who dislocated his hip after an offensive lineman fell on him), today's focus shifts to the equal-and-opposite-reaction side of the equation. The ever-diligent Rivals.com has come up with a list of the top 10 comeback players bringing hope and excitement to teams throughout the country, and their top two picks are not who you'd expect.

Wake Forest running back Micah Andrews is listed as the No. 1 player returning from injury this season, but based on Rivals' own commentary, I have no idea why. Sure, Wake Forest was the sleeper team that took the ACC by storm last season, but the little bio explaining the pick says that the Demon Deacons continued to win even when Andrews was not in the lineup. Andrews is certainly a talented running back, tallying the second-best numbers in the conference before tearing is ACL in the third game of last season, but given that Wake played nearly the entire year without him, and played well enough to win a championship, Andrews should be bumped down on this list.

Replace him with the No. 2 selection(s), Texas defensive tackle Derek Lokey and offensive guard Cedric Dockery. Actually, split these guys into two separate selections and put them in at one-two. (To keep it an even 10, bump USC junior safety Josh Pinkard. The Trojans are too stacked a defense to warrant mentioning a potential backup on this list.) Lokey started eight games for the Longhorns in 2006 before breaking his right leg, hurting the Longhorns on both sides of the ball - Lokey also took some snaps at fullback, contributing to short yardage and goal line situations on offense.

"I thought Derek was probably our biggest lost of the year," head coach Mack Brown said at Big 12 media days in July. A four-point student and a dominant leader, Brown describes Lokey as "tough as nails. He's got the toughness and the attitude and the senior leadership that we need to lead this team. I don't think there's a better football player, total combination of person, character, grades and leadership ability than Derek Lokey in the country."

Along with Frank Okam and Roy Miller, having Lokey back should give Texas one of, if not the best, run defense in the nation. And a significantly better grade point average.

Having Dockery back is also huge for the Longhorns, especially considering the losses they face at offensive line (and the fragile cargo they are to protect - 6-3, 205-pound quarterback star-in-the-making Colt McCoy). Dockery will bring experience back to the line, having started the first six games of last season before tearing the ACL in his right knee. The blow of losing all-Big 12 selections Lyle Sendlein and Kasey Studdard and all-American Justin Blalock should be softened considerably by having Dockery back up front.

Rivals also lists The Rivals Five, the top five players expected to contribute fully this year after being hampered with injuries at points during the 2006 season. Topping the list is Iowa State wide receiver Todd Blythe, a former all-Big 12 selection who missed three games late in the season last year with mono. Another near-1,000-yard season would be huge for the Cyclones, who are out to prove themselves under first-year head coach Gene Chizik, formerly of Texas defensive coordinator fame.

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