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August 12, 2008

Number of players fighting back from injury

MORE: South Carolina happy to have Brinkley back

No matter how painful last season was for some fans, these 11 players hurt more.

They had to endure the pain of a significant injury, months of rehabilitation and also had to watch their teams' seasons unfold for better or worse from the sideline.

Here are some of top players, listed alphabetically, returning from injury for the 2008 season:

LB Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina
BUZZ: It's safe to assume that if Brinkley would have stayed healthy in 2007, Vanderbilt's Frank Mordica would still hold the SEC's single-game rushing record by himself. Arkansas' Darren McFadden tied Mordica's 29-year-old mark with 321 yards against South Carolina last season as Brinkley watched from the sideline. Brinkley missed the final eight games last season after having reconstructive surgery on his right knee. He's back and bulked up to 269 pounds. His return makes South Carolina a sleeper in the SEC East.
WR Brent Casteel, Utah
BUZZ: Utes quarterback Brian Johnson has been in and out of the lineup with injuries, but Casteel's health could be nearly as important. Casteel missed most of the season after sustaining a torn ACL in the second game. With Johnson and Casteel healthy, Utah is a sleeper candidate for a BCS game. Casteel is the Utes' best deep threat after catching 39 passes for 600 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2006.
DT Brigham Harwell, UCLA
BUZZ: In Harwell's last full season, the Bruins led the Pac-10 in rush defense and defeated conference champion USC. After missing 11 games last season with a knee injury, he will team with sophomore Brian Price to form one of the nation's best defensive tackle tandems. Harwell made 18 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in his first two seasons as a starter (2005-06).
TE Anthony Hill, N.C. State
BUZZ: The Wolfpack offense needs a boost if NC State hopes to reach its first bowl of the Tom O'Brien era. In Hill, the Wolfpack welcome back a tight end of all-conference caliber. Before he missed last season with a torn ACL, Hill had 15 more catches than any other teammate. He caught 45 passes for 619 yards in 2006. NC State desperately needs improved quarterback play. Having a target like the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Hill can't hurt.
WR Derek Kinder, QB Bill Stull, Pittsburgh
BUZZ: In some respects, Pittsburgh's season was over before it started because of these two hits to the passing game. Kinder, who caught 57 passes for 847 yards in 2006, sustained a torn ACL in his right knee in the first week of camp. Stull started the opener but sustained a season-ending injury to his thumb. With a junior quarterback and senior wide receiver back on the team, Pittsburgh can take some of the pressure of sophomore tailback LeSean McCoy.
DE Albert McClellan, Marshall
BUZZ: If Marshall has any hope to return to a bowl for the first time since 2004, the Thundering Herd needs McClellan to return to form. In 2006, he was the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year when he led the league with 11 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss. After McClellan suffered a torn ACL before last season, the Herd finished last in the conference in both categories.
WR Sammie Stroughter, Oregon State
BUZZ: Stroughter endured a heart-breaking in season in 2007. He missed much of fall camp and the early season after the death of two relatives and assistant coach Jim Gilstrap. Then, Stroughter missed the final nine games with a lacerated kidney. Oregon State welcomes him back with open arms. Stroughter is a team leader and the kind of playmaker the Beavers need. In 2006, he had 1,293 receiving yards and five touchdowns on offense and three touchdowns on punt returns. His performance in the upset of USC was one of the best individual games of the season that year.
LB Brian Toal, Boston College
BUZZ: Boston College was No. 2 in rush defense last season even though Toal missed the season with a shoulder injury. The rebuilding Eagles will welcome back Toal to a defense which returns only four starters. He had 50 tackles and two interceptions in six starts in 2006. He also rushed for five touchdowns in '06 as a short-yardage specialist on offense.
OT Phil Trautwein, Florida
BUZZ: After losing tight end Cornelius Ingram for the season, the Florida offense is looking for some good news. While Trautwein's return won't receive that much fanfare, his presence is important nonetheless. He missed last season with a stress fracture in his right foot. His return means Florida will have three senior starters on the line and gives the Gators two tackles who could earn all-conference accolades.
DE Lawrence Wilson, Ohio State
BUZZ: Ohio State led the nation in scoring and total defense last season and finished in the top 10 in sacks and tackles for a loss. Think what could have been if Wilson hadn't suffered a broken right leg in the opener. He should fill in nicely for NFL first-round pick Vernon Gholston. In Wilson's absence, Cameron Heyward became a Rivals.com Freshman All-America. Wilson and Heyward should form a great duo off the edge.

OTHERS OF NOTE: RB Delone Carter (hip), Syracuse; RB Yonus Davis (ankle), San Jose State; RB Jeremiah Johnson (knee), Oregon; LB Tim McCarthy (knee), Northern Illinois; WR Kevin Ogletree (knee), Virginia; G Jeremy Perry (knee), Oregon State; TE Kory Sperry (knee), Colorado State; FS Latarrius Thomas (knee), Louisville; DT Russell Tialavea (knee), BYU.

David Fox is a national college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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