A Healthy Hand

Saturday's Blue-Gold game can't get here soon enough for defensive lineman Derrell Hand. The junior broke his fifth metatarsal early in fall camp this past season, and hasn't played in a game since last year's spring scrimmage.

"I don't know if you can tell by the huge smile on my face, but I'm anxious to get out there and play in front of everybody," Hand said. He has been working as both a nose tackle and defensive end during camp. "That'll be the biggest crowd I ever played in front of, so I'm very excited."

Hand was also very excited going into last season. The 6-foot-3, 287-pound Philadelphia product didn't play a down his freshman season, and was really looking forward to getting a taste of game action. Then came the break and then the boot, then the bike.

"It was really hard," Hand said. "I was looking forward to actually contributing to the team. Come off the bench as that fifth man for the d-line and just really help anyway that I could."

Hand tried to make it back during the season and eventually practiced again. He mostly ran on the scout team, but could never shake the injury bug completely. He kept feeling lingering effects from his metatarsal break.

"There were times I couldn't go the whole way," Hand said. "I kept moving and showed some signs of progress."

Progress he has taken with him into the spring.

Hand wasn't sure where he was going to line up in defensive coordinator Corwin Brown's new 3-4 defensive scheme. With spring ball nearly complete, he still doesn't know. Taking most of his reps with the second unit, Hand has found himself at all three positions along the defensive line. Last week it was defensive end, this week it was nose tackle.

"I feel as though the coaches are really trying to find out where I fit best at," Hand said. "What exactly I can do because I had to sit out for awhile.

"I feel comfortable playing anywhere. I'd be happy just being in the game."

Just like he's not sure what position he is going to play next season, Hand can't get a read on what the coaches are thinking about his play thus far.

"The coaches are really hard on us, so it's hard to say whether I moved up or moved down," Hand said. "Right now they're preaching consistency from me. I'm really trying to focus on that, being good each and every play."

When Hand was out last season, he went through the why-me phase for a minute before taking a more positive attitude.

"It was really tough," he stated. "I was really hurt because I felt as though I could really help the team, and coming down like that right in the beginning of camp, it was kind of hard because I kept thinking about how hard it would be to get back where I was.

"I tried to keep a happy face, tried to keep my voice out, make sure everybody still realized I'm still here. Tried to become more of a character on the team, and tried to help out where I could."

This fall, Hand hopes to be helping out on the field.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories