The flurry of high-profile players attempting comebacks this season made us wonder if we could put together a full lineup of guys returning from season-ending injuries or illnesses.
So that's what we did.
We've put together a 22-man starting lineup -- 11 on offense, 11 on defense -- of players who missed at least half their team's games last season.
We cheated a little bit by going with an unorthodox offensive formation that included three running backs and no tight ends. But the remarkable number of solid running backs coming back from injury forced us into that move.
And while we had to scramble to find cornerbacks for our defense, any school in the country would love to have our linebacker corps. We were so loaded at the position that we couldn't make room for Oklahoma State's Orie Lemon, who recorded 90 tackles in 2008 before missing the 2009 season with a knee injury.
PARTICULARS: 6-2/210, Soph.; Copperas Cove (Texas) High
BUZZ: One of the nation's most exciting dual-threat quarterbacks, Griffin has thrown for 2,572 yards and rushed for 920 yards in 15 career games. He also has a sparkling 19-3 touchdown-interception ratio. Griffin threw 15 TD passes and ran for 13 more scores as a freshman in 2008. He was performing at a similar level last season before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the third game of the season. Griffin rejoined the team for non-contact drills this spring and has three years of eligibility left.
PARTICULARS: 5-11/220, Sr.; Snow College (Utah), preceded by West Valley (Utah) Hunter
BUZZ: Asiata rushed for 707 yards in 2008 and was leading the Mountain West Conference in rushing before injuring his right knee in the fourth game of the season. Asiata rushed for 330 yards and four touchdowns in four games, including a 156-yard performance against Utah State. Asiata is back this season to form a dynamic duo with Eddie Wide, who replaced him in the starting lineup last year and rushed for 1,069 yards and 12 touchdowns. Asiata received an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA; he had missed all but one game in 2007 with a broken leg.
PARTICULARS: 6-0/223, Jr.; Indianapolis Warren Central
BUZZ: Evans set an ACC freshman record two years ago with 1,265 rushing yards -- including a school-record 253-yard performance against Maryland -- but he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a preseason workout last summer. Evans is back this season and will team with Ryan Williams to form perhaps the nation's top tailback tandem. Williams ran for 21 touchdowns last season and gained 1,655 yards to break Evans' ACC freshman rushing record.
PARTICULARS: 5-5/170, Sr.; Pittsburgh Central Catholic
BUZZ: The NCAA granted Jarvis a sixth year of eligibility after a kidney injury knocked him out in the second game of the 2009 season. It was discovered after the injury that Jarvis was born with only one kidney. Jarvis leads all active FBS players with 3,426 career rushing yards. He heads into his season needing only 564 yards to break Astron Whatley's school rushing record.
PARTICULARS: 6-5/211, Sr.; Calhoun (Ga.) High
BUZZ: Durham never has caught more than 13 passes in a season, but he did make four starts in 2008 before missing the 2009 campaign with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He is listed as a second-team split end on Georgia's preseason depth chart.
PARTICULARS: 6-3/222, Sr.; Sierra College (Calif.), preceded by Rancho Cordova (Calif.) Cordova
BUZZ: Moore caught 14 passes for 184 yards in 2008 and scored a touchdown in the SEC championship game victory over Alabama that year, but he missed the '09 season with a back injury. He returned in time to participate in spring practice and needs to play a featured role in the Gators' passing attack. Florida's receiving corps also welcomes back redshirt freshman Andre Debose, a former five-star prospect who missed last season after hamstring surgery.
PARTICULARS: 6-5/300, Jr.; Melbourne (Fla.) Palm Bay
BUZZ: Gaskins was expected to win a job as the Tar Heels' starting right tackle last season, but he tore the ACL in his left knee during the preseason. He heads into this preseason as the likely starting left tackle as North Carolina seeks a replacement for departed three-year starter Kyle Jolly.
PARTICULARS: 6-5/321, Sr.; Milani (Hawaii) High
BUZZ: The versatile Kia started eight games at tackle in 2007 and made seven starts at three positions (left tackle, left guard and right tackle) in 2008. He sat out last season after tearing the ACL in his right knee on Aug. 19. Kia, a fifth-year senior, participated in non-contact drills during spring practice but is expected to be the Bruins' starting left tackle this fall.
PARTICULARS: 6-2/306, Jr.; La Canada (Calif.) St. Francis
BUZZ: Roxas made eight starts in 2008, but he missed the '09 season after acquiring a long-term illness in fall camp. Although a high ankle sprain limited him in spring practice this year, Roxas has a good chance of opening the season in the starting lineup. Roxas is the only Cougars player with any starting experience at center.
PARTICULARS: 6-5/313, Sr.; West Valley City (Utah) Granger
BUZZ: After lettering in 2007 and 2008, Speredon was a projected starter at left guard last season until a torn rotator cuff kept him on the sideline. The return of Speredon and teammate Houston Reynolds from injuries should add plenty of depth to a BYU offensive line that already returns four starters. Speredon could start at guard or tackle.
PARTICULARS: 6-5/320, Jr.; Wadesboro (N.C.) Anson
BUZZ: Sturdivant started at left tackle as a true freshman for Georgia's Sugar Bowl championship team in 2007, but injuries have hampered him since. He missed the 2008 season after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his left knee, then tore the ACL in the same knee during the '09 season opener. At the least, he will give the Bulldogs talented depth at tackle.
PARTICULARS: 6-3/310, Soph.; Miami Northwestern
BUZZ: This former five-star prospect played just three games and didn't make a tackle before missing the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. He had 3.5 sacks two years ago and was named a Rivals.com Freshman All-American. The No. 7 overall prospect in the 2008 recruiting class, Forston should move right back into Miami's defensive tackle rotation, whether or not he cracks the starting lineup.
PARTICULARS: 6-4/253, Jr.; Hialeah (Fla.) High
BUZZ: Ojomo delivered 22 tackles and three sacks as a redshirt freshman in 2008, but he suffered a broken jaw in 2009 and missed the season. Ojomo will return this season and should earn plenty of playing time as a complementary pass rusher to All-ACC end Allen Bailey.
PARTICULARS: 6-5/298, Jr.; Laurinburg (N.C.) Scotland County
BUZZ: Robertson started each of South Carolina's first four games last season before tearing the ACL in his right knee against Ole Miss. He recorded eight overall tackles, including one for loss. Robertson didn't participate in spring drills, but he is expected to open the 2010 season in the starting lineup at tackle.
PARTICULARS: 6-4/238, Sr.; Berwyn (Pa.) Conestoga
BUZZ: Herzlich was the ACC defensive player of the year and a Butkus Award finalist in 2008, but he missed the 2009 season while recovering from Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. His remarkable 2008 performance included six interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Herzlich also recorded 110 tackles that season to lead Boston College to the ACC Atlantic Division title.
PARTICULARS: 6-4/255, Jr.; Lewisburg (Tenn.) Marshall County
BUZZ: Hightower won a starting job as a true freshman in 2008 and was developing into one of the nation's top linebackers before tearing the ACL in his left knee during Alabama's fourth game of the '09 season. If he stays healthy all season, Hightower should contend for All-America honors.
PARTICULARS: 6-1/235, Sr.; Teachey (N.C.) Wallace-Rose Hill
BUZZ: Irving suffered a collapsed lung and a compound fracture in his left leg in a June 2009 car wreck that could have killed him, but he rejoined his team in for spring practice this year. Irving averaged 8.7 tackles and picked off four passes -- the most ever by an NCSU linebacker -- in 2008 before the car wreck knocked him out for the 2009 season.
PARTICULARS: 6-2/229, Soph.; Mandeville (La.) High
BUZZ: Mauti made 26 tackles as a true freshman in 2008 and forced a fumble with a huge hit on Michigan's Sam McGuffie during a kickoff return. He tore the ACL in his right knee during an August practice and missed the 2009 season, but he is expected to start -- and be a star -- this season. He's the son of former Penn State, New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins wide receiver Rich Mauti. Penn State's tradition of producing outstanding linebackers gave Mauti a slight edge over Oklahoma State's Orie Lemon for the final linebacker spot on our team.
PARTICULARS: 5-11/185, Jr.; Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, preceded by Marlin (Texas) High
BUZZ: This former four-star prospect was expected to provide an immediate impact, but he missed the 2009 season while recovering from shoulder surgery. Healthy again, he exited spring practice as a second-team cornerback but could win a starting job during fall drills.
PARTICULARS: 5-11/185, Jr.; Dallas Carter
BUZZ: Madison made 11 starts and had 38 tackles in 2008, but he missed the 2009 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during an August scrimmage. He participated in spring practice on a limited basis and could move right back into the Razorbacks' starting lineup this fall.
PARTICULARS: 5-11/200, Sr.; Albany (Ga.) Westover
BUZZ: Savage ranked third on the team in tackles as a freshman in 2006, but he has struggled with injuries ever since. He missed six games in 2007 and hasn't played at all the past two seasons. A knee injury sidelined him in 2008, and his Achilles tendon was the problem last season. Savage, who turns 24 on Dec. 29, already has earned his Master's degree. He returns this season and could take over as a leader of Auburn's secondary.
PARTICULARS: 6-4/208, Soph.; Atlanta Marist
BUZZ: Although he started only three games in 2008, Taylor still ranked third on his team with 69 tackles. He started the first three games of the 2009 season before missing the rest of the year with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which causes a disruption in the heart's normal rhythm.