By Rocco Gasparro for UofLsports.com
June 19, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -
Spring practice is an integral part in the development of a football team. With just 15 sessions, coaches use every minute to shape and mold their teams for the upcoming season. However, the one thing the coaches try to stay away from during this time of the year is injuries.
A serious knee injury to a key player can take down a team's chances to compete and a derail a season that was full of expectations. And for the University of Louisville, that nearly happened when senior offensive tackle Alex Kupper went down early in the Red-White Game in April.
Kupper lain still on his on his back on the turf, wondering if his senior season just vanished into thin air with one injury. All his hopes and dreams for his final season were hindering on just how serious this knee injury was for this former walk-on from Trinity High School.
"I thought I tore it all," said Kupper. "I heard a pop in the front of the knee, but it was a patella subluxation. They said it was an MCL sprain, which was a big relief for me. I didn't know what to expect. It was very scary at first, but I'm glad it wasn't very serious."
Kupper's road back is almost complete. He has worked hard to strengthen that knee and is close to returning to the form that made him one of just three linemen to start all 13 games for the Cardinals. He opened the year as the starting center because of an injury to Cardinals' slated starter, Mario Benavides. However, Kupper moved over to left tackle and was a mainstay at that position all season.
"I feel great," said Kupper. "I'm almost back. In a couple of weeks, I start run progression and jump progression. Then, I will be able to get into a stance and then I'll be ready to go. I'm rehabbing every day, and sometimes a couple times a day. I rehab as much as possible, because I have all this time. I'm hoping to come back to full strength in a couple of weeks. The goal date for me to be back at full strength was in July so I'm pretty close to that. I'm doing a lot of upper body work right now and starting to do a little bit of squatting on my legs."
The Cardinals are coming off a 7-6 campaign and their first BIG EAST title since 2006. Louisville returns 18 starters, including 10 on the defensive side of the football. While poised to make a run at another title, head coach Charlie Strong and the players know they will have to work harder than ever to repeat as champions and build upon their success from last year.
"We are taking things one game at a time," said Kupper. "The message from the staff is the same to the players - take it one game at a time. Right now, it's just work hard and get better as a player, then work on the team stuff in August. We know we have a lot of work to do to get better, and we aren't satisfied. Everyone is working hard right now and we are determined to be good football players."