Long ready to make his return

Scott Long hasn't been hit since last October when he led Louisville to a win over South Florida. Though Long didn't scrimmage during fall camp, the senior receiver is ready to take the field again Saturday night against Indiana State in UofL's season-opener.

Scott Long slowly worked his way back during fall camp.

The 6'2, 214-pound wide receiver hasn't taken part in contact drills or scrimmages leading up to Louisville's season-opener but Saturday night against Indiana State he'll make his return after tearing the ACL in his right knee last October during practice before the Syracuse game.

"I definitely feel 100 percent," Long said. "It's game week and I'm ready to go."

Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe says Long won't be back until he makes his first catch – and takes his first hit – against Indiana State.

"Physically I think he'll be 100 percent when we walk on the field Saturday and I think after he makes that first catch mentally he'll be 100 percent," Kragthorpe said.

That's something – being hit – that Long hasn't experienced since leading UofL to a win over South Florida last October. Since suffering a season-ending knee injury after that contest in practice, Long didn't see any contact during spring practice and he hasn't been tackled during fall camp.

"This is a very physical game and I haven't scrimmaged yet or played since last October," Long said. "So it's been a long time since I've been hit or tackled to the ground. It's going to take that first hit to knock some cobwebs out and know that the knee is OK from a mental standpoint."

Long's a vital piece to the puzzle for the Louisville offense. He's the team's best wide receiver and has the ability to change a game with his size, speed and big-play ability. With Long sidelined after the win over USF, Louisville struggled on offense and lost their final five games last season.

While the results on the field without Long weren't good to end the season, Kragthorpe said there was a silver lining with his injury – additional experience for receivers Troy Pascley and Josh Chichester. Pacsley averaged 21 yards per catch and led the team with four touchdowns and Chichester caught 30 passes and two scores.

"Scott's one of our better football players," Kragthorpe said. "I thought it was valuable last year for Troy and Josh to get those repetitions when Scott wasn't out there. It put them in a position where they played a whole lot more than I ever anticipated they would and I think they benefited from that. They're much further along than they would have been had Scott played last year."

Now that Long's back, Louisville's wide receiver corps should be the strength of an offense with questions at quarterback and along the offensive front. So how does the senior wide receiver envision his first catch against Indiana State Saturday evening?

"A fade ball for a touchdown," Long said.

Voted a team captain, Long established himself as a team leader during the off-season. He says this year's team is closer than it has been the past couple seasons.

"I feel like we're a lot more together than we were in the past," Long said. "That's the feeling I get in the huddle and locker room. I feel a sense of togetherness and family out there."

During the summer, Long led his teammates through study groups to help build team unity. He hopes those off the field efforts will prove beneficial during games this season.

"This team has been tested with adversity the last two years and we've done a great job responding to that with those trust activities and team bonding activities that we did this summer," Long said. "Hopefully we'll carry that over to the field when adversity times hit during the game."

With his return to game action now only a few days away, Long feels blessed to be recovered from both knee and foot injuries that slowed him most of last season. Long missed the first four games last season with a broken foot.

"I get excited for every game but this one will have a little more excitement to it coming back off this injury," Long said. "I'm just blessed to be able to be in this opportunity and play this game."

Steve Kragthorpe, who will call the offensive plays this season, is certainly glad to have Long back on the field as a viable weapon. It's probably a safe bet Kragthorpe will call on #84 often this season.

"He's a phenomenal person, a leader, a worker and a student that already has a degree," Kragthorpe said. "He's probably one of the most unselfish people I've ever met."

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