Is Carter Turning the Corner?

Tight end Donnie Carter is trying to find his way on the field after spending the past year rehabilitating a torn ACL in his right knee. Carter got off to a slow start this fall, but coaches say he is starting to show signs of coming around and being the player he was before the injury.

Senior TE Donnie Carter isn't saying much this fall, but this time it's out of choice.

Just over a year removed from an anterior cruciate ligament injury that put an end to his 2004 season before it even began, Carter wants to find his place on the field again and let his play issue the first statement. He's remained reserved through two-a-days, usually retiring directly to the locker room after the end of practice.

"It's so easy to forget that he hasn't done anything with a football uniform on in a year," tight ends coach John Lilly said.

It was during a preseason scrimmage last August that Carter tore the ACL in his right knee, and up until this past summer he spent most of his time in rehabilitation. Prior to the injury, Carter was closing the gap between himself and starter Paul Irons.

Since returning to practice, Carter has responded well to being "pushed pretty hard" by Lilly. If there was more time to reacquaint Carter with the rigors of fall camp, the speed and the hitting, then the coaches would've taken things slow. But with only a few weeks to prepare for Miami upon Carter's full recovery, they were forced to accelerate the process.

"In the last two or three days he's looked like he really has gotten used to carrying the equipment again and playing the way that he had really started to play (before the injury)," Lilly said.

For now, Carter will likely share playing time with TE Matt Henshaw. Lilly said the team is fortunate to have a reliable rotation of tight ends. Henshaw has solid hands, is built well, and averaged 8.5 yards per catch on four receptions last season. Add in Carter's big frame (6'4" 265) and physical style of play and the mix is complete.

"Donnie got off to a slow start but I think he's made progress every day out here as far as getting back in the swing," coach Bobby Bowden said. "I think he'll really perk up as the season goes."

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