TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama freshman running back Dee Hart sustained a knee injury Tuesday, a source close to Hart told The Tuscaloosa News. The injury was also confirmed by Hart's former position coach at Orlando Dr. Phillips High School, Riki Smith, who said the UA freshman tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
"He's good, you know Dee," Smith told the Orlando Sentinel. "If that had to happen to any of our kids, that's who I'd rather it happened to because he has the right mindset. The trainer told him 'ok, you have surgery on Thursday and can start rehab next week' and Dee said 'What about Friday?'"
According to Smith, Hart sustained the injury during a seven-on-seven summer workout, will undergo surgery Thursday morning, and is expected to require 7-10 months of rehabilitation pending surgery results. If that projection does not change following surgery, even the most optimistic scenario for Hart would still prevent him from playing at all this season.
An Alabama spokesperson said Wednesday that the school would not have an official comment on Hart's condition on Wednesday. Statements from UA on off-season injury matters typically are released only after surgical procedures are complete. Hart was unavailable for comment, as UA freshmen are not subject to media interviews by team policy.
Hart was a heralded member of the Crimson Tide's 2011 signing class from Dr. Phillips, enrolled early and played in Alabama's annual A-Day Spring Game. He carried the ball five times for 10 yards and a touchdown on A-Day, caught three passes for 11 yards and also returned three punts for 4 yards. Hart was expected to compete for playing time this season and drew praise in the spring from head coach Nick Saban.
Because he enrolled in January for the spring semester, Hart is not a candidate for a grayshirt and would count against the NCAA's limit of 25 signees even if lost for the season. Incoming signees who are rehabilitating injuries but do not enroll in January are sometimes candidates for deferred enrollment.
Without Hart for the 2011 season, the Crimson Tide would be left with only three scholarship running backs. Trent Richardson is Alabama's only returning running back with significant experience. Reserve Eddie Lacy saw limited action last season, while sophomore Jalston Fowler played even less than Lacy. UA had six scholarship running backs on hand for spring drills, but has since lost Demetrius Goode (transfer to North Alabama) and Corey Grant (transfer to Auburn).
If the UA coaching staff decided to move a player to running back to add depth, quarterback Blake Sims would be one of the more obvious options. Sims practiced at running back throughout the 2010 season while redshirting, but was moved to quarterback and assumed the No.3 quarterback role during spring drills.
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