Kendric Salley sums up his life these days on Twitter with one word: rehab.
There’s one word you likely won’t hear from the Williston-Elko High running back and South Carolina commitment: grayshirt.
Salley got the good news about his future Monday from new USC running backs coach Everette Sands and recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr.
“They told me that there’s a good chance it won’t happen,” Salley said of grayshirting, the prospect of a player deferring enrollment for a semester to alleviate a scholarship crunch. “I was thrilled to hear that, ecstatic actually. That was a boost of motivation right there.”
Salley speaks of motivation quite a bit lately, and he’s finding it in his recovery from a knee injury in order to start his USC career on time.
He tore his right ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in late September and is well into his post-surgery rehabilitation. He had a brace removed Friday, a month after surgery. And he said doctors told him he is progressing well in the four- to six-month recovery window.
“He’s right on course,” Williston-Elko coach Dwayne Garrick said. “He’s going to work so hard at it that there’s really no doubt in my mind he’s going to be ready come early June.”
Salley (5-foot-8, 205 pounds) took a hard hit to the knee in Week 6 of this season. The ACL tear happened in the next game.
“In the third quarter, I had a sweep to the right, and I was making a plant to the left,” he said. “It snapped all the way on me. I just fell. Once I felt it pop, I knew it was something significant.”
Salley was cleared to play later in the season and contributed in a limited role during the Blue Devils’ playoff run. He finished with 1,198 yards and 21 touchdowns on 139 carries. In 2010, he rushed for 2,191 yards and 39 scores despite seldom playing in the second half.
“I hated it for Kendric’s sake that it didn’t work out his senior year for him to be able to finish. He had a great year going,” Garrick said. “The good thing for him was the fact he knew he was going to play more football.”
Salley drives 30 minutes to Aiken three times a week for physical therapy. Each session lasts about an hour but will get longer when he can do more with his leg.
He is no longer walking with a limp and hopes to resume running again in late March. He will start with straight runs only and then gradually work on planting.
“I’m progressing. We’re basically strengthening my leg right now,” he said.
The possibility of grayshirting arose when USC’s class of 2012 swelled to 24 commitments this month, one fewer than the Gamecocks can sign to a national letter of intent. If all 24 qualify academically, USC will be on track to have more than 90 scholarship players, five more than the NCAA maximum.
Salley, USC’s first pledge for the 2012 class, will sign with the Gamecocks on Wednesday, Garrick said. Whether or not the idea of grayshirting is brought up again “will all depend on how well he progresses with his knee,” the coach said.
Salley said USC coaches told him “the numbers look good” and to keep working hard on his rehab.
“They’re expecting me to come in in June and contribute to the team the best way I can,” Salley said. “I know I’m going to get to play again someday. Every day I go to rehab, that’s the motivation I’ve got stuck in the back of my head.”