As South Carolina offensive guard Terrence Campbell was leaving the Gamecocks practice field Tuesday, sweat was dripping off his forehead thanks to the early April heat wave touching Columbia.
But the fifth-year senior could not think of a better place to be. After starting the first two games of 2009 at left guard, the Austell, Ga., native missed the rest of the season with a neck/shoulder stinger.
"I'm blessed for the opportunity to be back out here," Campbell said. "I didn't know what the situation was going to be when we started hitting. I couldn't tell how I was going to feel, but so far I feel great."
There were questions whether Campbell would return at all. He tried rehab and rest after sustaining the stinger against Georgia, but could never recover enough to play.
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The biggest issue came when he engaged defensive lineman in workouts. The pain would shoot through his neck and both shoulders, leaving his arms numb and weak.
But he has persevered and has been pain free this spring. He is working out with the first team at right guard and hopes to be in the lineup for the season opener against Southern Miss on Sept. 2.
"Terrence is a guy that has done pretty well this spring," first-year offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said. "He's got a long way to go for him to be back. To have him back out here healthy and he doesn't have any ill-effects from his stinger problem from a year ago is a positive."
Campbell came to South Carolina as a defensive lineman, but redshirted in 2006 after suffering a left knee injury that required season-ending surgery. He began 2007 on defensive, but switched lines and played one game that season on offense.
He became a mainstay on the line in 2008, starting nine games. He wanted to build on that experience last season, but the injury cut short those plans.
Instead, Campbell watched on the sidelines as USC allowed 37 sacks, tied with LSU for most in the SEC, and finished last in rushing offense.
"It was hard not being able to play," Campbell said. "I really wanted to be with my teammates. It was hard going from being with the fellas all the time to not being with the fellas at all. It was hard not being part of the team. I was just here in Columbia. I rehabbed every day, but the big thing was me getting rest and letting it heal on it's on."
T.J. Johnson, who started every game at guard last year and is moving to center this year, who is glad to have Campbell back.
"He is one of my closest friends on the offensive line so having him work beside me is a lot of fun," Johnson said. "Obviously the offensive line struggled and that was one of our guys that weren't available. We could never get the correct rotation in last year and not having him contributed to that. He's making a lot of strides in improving so that can only help us."
Campbell has returned to practice under the guidance of Elliott, his third offensive line coach in as many seasons. Campbell likes what he has learned of the new schemes.
"I think once we all learn the system fully, you will see a big difference in the O-line play this year," Campbell said. "We're ready to go."