SHREVEPORT, Louisiana – Freshman left guard Nick Linder, who started against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and North Carolina this season but sustained late-season injuries to his knee and wrist (among other body parts), increased his workload Monday at practice.
After landing at Shreveport Regional Airport in the afternoon, the Hurricanes bused to the FirstBaptistChurch in Bossier City, where they practiced on two newly installed artificial turf fields in temperatures that hovered in the mid-60s.
"From not practicing for a couple days, we had a couple days off I heard a lot of guys say they felt fresh and they felt fast,'' linebacker Denzel Perryman said. "It felt pretty good to start up again."
It previously appeared that Linder would be unable to play against South Carolina (6-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, but UM coach Al Golden seemed more inclined to open the door for the possibility of Linder participating.
“Nick did a better job,’’ Golden said. The coach compared Linder to his older brother Brandon, the former UM guard who now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“He’s going to tell you he’s ready to go,’’ Golden said. “He’s tough. He’s going to fight and scratch and claw. So, we’ve got to see how he looks [Tuesday]. But he was definitely moving a lot better and the last 72 hours off helped him tremendously.
“He’s got a chance now. I wasn’t sure about that last week.’’
Starting left guard Jon Feliciano will continue to wear a protective covering on his left hand and lower arm for protection during the game, Golden said.
*** Cornerback Tracy Howard, who Golden has praised lately for his practice performance, wore a black jersey given to players excelling.
“I’m just trying to go out there and get better every day, just improve my overall game,’’ Howard said. "I hone in on my mistakes and the next day I try to work on my mistakes and my negatives and keep moving on forward. So, each day I’ll get better and better and eventually I’ll be the best."
*** Riding exercise bikes near the practice field were tackle Kc McDermott (knee) and fellow offensive lineman Hunter Knighton. Knighton has been slowly rehabbing this season after being hospitalized last February, when he was diagnosed with heat stroke following a workout. He spent two weeks in intensive care.
"Unbelievable,'' Golden said of Knighton. "He’s our Christmas…that’s a Christmas gift. We’re just ecstatic. He looks unbelievable. I said that to him the other day. He weighs now more than he did this time last year, he’s really making a lot of progress and I know he has a March…he has a timeline in his head, he’s making a lot of progress. So this first 30 days is something we have to monitor a lot. We’re getting toward the end of that, at least the last third of that and next month it’ll be a little bit more aggressive. He’s doing great. He’s a tremendous young man. I’m so proud of him.”
When asked what Knighton has been doing lately, Golden said: “He’s been doing a lot of cardio and rehabbing and doing the little things he needs to do to move forward, and he will.”
*** Quarterback Brad Kaaya met the media Monday wearing a gray Miami Dolphins cap that he said went with his gray UM warmup.
“I’m a Dolphins fan now,’’ Kaaya said. “The city’s adopted me, so I’m a fan.”
Kaaya said his favorite Dolphin is quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and that he hopes he can one day meet him.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN