TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- He was there every day, pumping the peddles, waiting his turn and letting his knee heal.
The tear to Damion Square’s anterior cruciate ligament late in the second game of the 2009 season threw his whole plan to the side. Instead of practicing every afternoon, the rising pass rusher was forced to the sidelines at the Alabama football complex. He worked on the exercise bike and did other non-football workouts to get him in gear for the return.
That time has come and Square is ready.
He figures to play a central role as one of the more versatile defensive players. He can play defensive end or outside linebacker. Coach Nick Saban said he was likely the third defensive end in the Tide’s 3-4 base defense behind Marcell Dareus and Luther Davis. He’s also expected to have a role in the nickel package that Alabama used frequently last fall.
Where Square plays makes no difference at this point. He’s just eager to get back out there after losing most of his redshirt freshman season to the knee injury suffered late in the win over Florida International.
“The (recovery) process was a slow process the sped up at the end with the great guys that we have down in the training room,” Square said. “I mean, my knee couldn’t be a lot better than it is right now and every day I go out and practice as if I’m 100 percent if I’m not.”
The potential of the Houston product was exemplified by Saban’s occasional mention of the impact his loss had on the 2009 defense. Coming out of Yates High School, Square was ranked the No. 9 linebacker in the nation by Scout.com and the 37th best defensive tackle by Rivals. He was on the cusp of making a serious impact when he went under the knife to fix his damaged knee.
Thus far in practice, tight end Michael Williams doesn’t see any hesitation in the speedy defensive end.
“Rushing, (he is) tip notch,” Williams said. “With him coming off knee surgery, you couldn’t even tell with him coming off the edge the way he does. Run blocking, he’s just as strong as any d-lineman we’ve got. It’s kind of hard to press him out of the hole and it’s hard to pass block on him.”
Spending last fall on the bike, Square was able to make a special bond with another nicked up defender, though one with more name recognition. Two weeks after his knee injury, Dont’a Hightower tore his ACL and MCL against Arkansas.
It wasn’t where the two wanted to be, but Square and Hightower made the most of their time rehabbing.
“We had a lot of good times down there in the training room despite the situation,” Square said as a smile cracked his face. “After a while you have to take the situation for what it is and understand that he is my motivation to go in there and get better every day and I am his motivation to come in and get better every day because we knew what we were going to have to bring to the team this year.”
Saban has been impressed with the way he recovered and the impact he’s made through more than two weeks of practice.
“He hasn’t had any issues coming back from the injury,” Saban said. “So we’re very pleased with the progress that he made. We think he has some pass-rush ability, so we’re excited to have him back and we’re pleased with the job he’s done to this point.”