Any athlete recovering from a season-ending injury will always deal with questions about their ability to recover. Injuries limit abilities, restrict movement in some capacity, and always make things difficult in the first year back. There's going to be a natural hesitation built up by the body to favor the injury and ensure protection
On the Boston College roster, we've seen players go down to injury. We watched Ifeanyi Momah's career end due to injury, and Harrison Jackson will miss this season. Bobby Swigert continues the long road back. We've seen players lose significant time, and we know that nobody is immune, not even Andre Williams.
But of the players who missed most of last season due to injury, it'll be very interesting to see the bounceback of the towering defensive line pair of Mehdi Abdesmad and Malachi Moore. Both stand 6'7" tall, and both are nearly 300 pounds. Both have explosive traits. But Moore played two years ago as a freshman, part of the burnout of redshirts Frank Spaziani decided to employ. Missing his sophomore season may actually help a long term development, even though it hurts in the short term. He'll be able to refine his game with a redshirt from last year and eventually work back slowly within the defensive scheme.
Looking at Abdesmad, though, we can see a display of some serious explosiveness. It existed last season for four games before injury robbed his 2013 campaign. He had three tackles and a sack of Jameis Winston prior to hurting his knee. Before that, he dominated with seven tackles and a sack against USC. In four games, he had 17 tackles. In short, he was quickly developing into the type of lineman scouts took note of before, just like that, he was gone.
The season ended on Abdesmad when Florida State's Nick O'Leary delivered a cheap shot that shredded his patella tendon. The rest of his junior season was lost; the FSU game was the proverbial point of no return. A guy poised for a breakout was gone, sidelined through the spring until returning this summer.
That's what makes him the leading candidate to bounce back and have a breakout season. He was on his way to that season last year when he was wiped out, and it's almost like he's playing with house money as he works his way back. The defensive line will need someone to step into a dominator type role, and he has the body type to really cause problems.
How does he fit into the breakout player mode? For starters, he's big. When he takes the field in the first game of the season, he'll be bigger than all but two of the UMass offensive linemen, one of which is a redshirt freshmen and one of which is a sophomore. That's the same number of offensive linemen bigger than him on Florida State's roster. That's a handful to block.
But there's more to him than just size. Abdesmad can easily break out if he can develop the smarts of a guy like Kasim Edebali. Edebali didn't have the physical attributes to be an elite defensive lineman, but he used his smarts and a quick first step to get in the backfield and do what he wanted to opposing backs. He had great awareness and knew where the play was going before it developed. If Abdesmad can combine his size with a developed awareness, it won't matter if he was hurt or not. He'll be able to get in the backfield and do bad things to backfields.
The thing about a knee injury is that it costs a player a step or two. For players who rely solely on their speed and muscle, their game drops off considerably if they lose that step. If Abdesmad steps on the field thinking his size is the be-all, end-all, he'll be successful but he'll make mistakes. He'll also find that, if he's lost a step, he won't be able to do what he could do before he got hurt.
If he steps on the field and is able to utilize his skills within a system designed for his success, we're going to see a big, nasty lineman who can go to the next level. With Don Brown's blitz-heavy defense, Abdesmad represents a guy who could see substantial improvement in the havoc-based scheme. If he can get penetration, he'll make the defensive backs better by rushing throws. He'll take away running lanes. And he'll be forced to occupy multiple blockers, leaving someone else open.
Mehdi Abdesmad's 2013 season ended with his knee shredded from a bad hit. But that doesn't mean 2014 has to be something he can't use to make this year one of the most memorable in recent Eagle history.