As Arizona football players Adam Hall and Jake Fischer recovered from spring ACL injuries, they marked success by first being up to walk up the steps of the football stadium.
Then, they could jog up the stairs. Then they could run.
“Now, I’m full-speed sprint,” Hall, a projected starter at safety, said Wednesday as veteran players reported to camp. “It has been a lot of progress.”
The stadium workouts were twice a week during summer — 10 times up and down the west side of the stadium, 10 times up and down the Zona Zoo side of the stadium.
The status of Hall and Fischer, a returning starter at strongside linebacker, is one of the big questions of Arizona’s fall camp, but it is not an issue that can be answered right now. What both players said Wednesday was encouraging, though.
“We don’t have a date yet for a return, but we’re all moving faster than we were supposed to,” Fischer said. “All of us are way ahead of schedule.”
By “all of us” Fischer is including backup running back Greg Nwoko, who torn his ACL during spring practice, and second-string defensive tackle Willie Mobley, who sustained an ACL injury in May playing pickup basketball.
It is the health of Hall and Fischer, both juniors, both from local high schools, that is most critical.
Hall, from Palo Verde High, is a game-changing, hard-hitting defender. The absence of Fischer, from Ironwood Ridge, leaves an experience hole at linebacker. Coach Mike Stoops says both were becoming the kind of impact players needed to counter the prolific offenses of the Pac-12.
Stoops said last week that he was eyeing mid-October as a possible return date for each player. He said it likely would take until the end of this month before the doctors and trainers could firm up their projections.
“We’re doing everything they want us to do,” Fischer said. “I’m confident I’m going to be able to come back this year, but we’re not rushing anything.”
Each player has a redshirt year available. That’s a nice thing to have at this stage, but it also complicates things a bit. It’s not just if Hall and Fischer can came back at some point in the season, it’s whether they can come back in time to justify using an entire year of eligibility.
Would they want to redshirt if they missed the first four games? Five? Seven?
Fischer said he and the coaches and his family have discussed the point-of-no-return date when it comes to a redshirt decision, but added he wants to “keep that under wraps” for now.
Said Hall: “There is not really a cut-off date to me, personally. We’re supposed to go through our whole process. There isn’t like an exact date.”
While they push forward, they push each other. Brothers in arms, brothers in ACLs.
“For the first couple of weeks there were times when none of us wanted to do stuff,” Hall said.
“I would be sore. Jake would be sore. Greg would be hurting. We were in the pool swimming, doing rehab, working out together. Every day. There have been days when I didn’t want to continue doing stuff, and Jake was like, ‘C’mon, we got this.’”
Will it be enough to play this season? We’ll just have to continue waiting.