"It's only the second day but it feels like we've been here longer,' senior linebacker Joe Brockington said. "I don't really remember how sore I was last year. But now, I'm sore. Whenever I can take a nap and sleep, I do it."
Brockington is in a unique position this season. He spent 2005 as a reserve linebacker, totaling just five tackles while spending most of his time on special teams. The graduations of Corey Mays at middle linebacker and Brandon Hoyte at the weak side opened two starting spots. Brockington's chances to start this year may have passed him up as running back Travis Thomas made the move over to defense. Thomas has been placed at the Will position while Brockington is currently backing him up. Brockington knows fall camp is a time to put up or shut up to the coaching staff.
"I just need to show up everyday," Brockington said. "I think I've practiced pretty well. I've made some mistakes but that's going to happen. If I keep showing up, they'll see what I can do."
It might have been easier for Brockington had he been healthy. After the Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State, he underwent back surgery. The problem had been affecting him for some time but it was kept in the dark.
"I hurt my back my sophomore year (in 2004)," Brockington said. "I played with it all last year. No one really knew about it. I had surgery then after the bowl game. It was pretty bad. It was my back, which is more core. Your legs hurt. Your upper body hurts. It was kind of weird. I did a lot of treatment for it. Some days it would be fine. Others I felt like I was 90 years old. It just depended."
Spring ball was the first opportunity for Brockington to assume one of the two starting spots at linebacker. But the back surgery severely limited what he could do and Brockington was never 100 percent. He still put forth the effort to help other players.
"It was frustrating because being a senior I thought it was my year," Brockington said. "Sitting on the sideline at anytime is frustrating. I rehabbed during the day, watched film with the team and went to practice with them. I did most of the stuff in the beginning. But when it came to contact stuff, I stayed back and helped the younger guys learn the defense. I was kind of an assistant coach."
What's next? Now that Thomas appears to be settling into place at weak side linebacker, Brockington is just looking to get on the field. Maurice Crum, Jr. is slated to be at the Mike spot while senior Mitchell Thomas is occupying the Sam position. Brockington does participate on special teams and credits his Pennsylvania upbringing for the mentality to be a member of this group. But if it's not at the Will spot, Brockington is open to any suggestions.
"Since I've been out here, I have played weak side linebacker," Brockington said. "In high school, I played middle backer. I still think I can play middle backer. I haven't said anything about playing middle. When I was a sophomore, someone got hurt at the Mike spot and I started to play the position. I felt like I was back in high school. I enjoyed it. But Will is where they want me at so that's where I'm at."
Brockington has been working hard since fully recovering from the back problem. In the Spring Ball Media Guide, he was listed at 212 pounds. Now, the roster has Brockington at 220 pounds.
"My back is why I was so light," Brockington said. "I couldn't run or lift in the summer last year because of my back. I was just benching and doing squats with 30-pound dumbbells. I've been out here the entire summer working out with the strength and conditioning staff trying to get ready to go."