War Eagle Extra

Auburn football notes: Coaches marvel at Philip Pierre-Louis' rehab

Had surgery for torn ACL

By ANDY BITTER

abitter@ledger-enquirer.com

AUBURN, Ala. — Wide receiver Philip Pierre-Louis returned so quickly following surgery for a torn ACL, he has left Auburn coaches marveling at how he did it.

It’s been barely over four months since the sophomore injured his knee during a scrimmage, one that by all accounts was turning into his breakout performance of the spring.

“He’s setting a record for rehab on an ACL,” wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said. “I don’t know if you know anybody who’s ever come back faster than Philip has.”

He is trying to make up for lost time after a shaky few years on the Plains. Hyped as one of Tony Franklin’s best weapons prior to 2008, Pierre-Louis tore ligaments in his knee on the opening kickoff of the first game and missed the season.

He wasn’t in good standing with head coach Gene Chizik and his staff upon returning. The receiver missed practice early last August for what coaches termed “personal reasons,” then had to work his way out of the doghouse once he was back on the team.

He got his first action in the fifth week against Tennessee as a punt returner, holding the job for several weeks.

“I’ve been really hard on that kid, to be honest,” Taylor said. “For me, he’s really shown that he wants to be here and has done things right, because we set a standard and I didn’t know if he could live up to it when he first started.

“If you had asked me last year, could he live up to that standard, if I was a betting man, I would have lost, because I would have said no.”

Now, Pierre-Louis’ trying to earn playing time as a receiver, even though he’s only 5-foot-8, 150 pounds.

“That’s not all his fault. That’s DNA and God,” Taylor said. “His heart is big … He just wants to be out there.”

On the mend

Pierre-Louis isn’t the only receiver working his way back from a knee injury. Travante Stallworth tore his ACL last fall against Furman but is back on the field, nearly at full strength.

Stallworth, a 5-foot-9, 188-pound receiver, emerged as a speed sweep option in Auburn’s wildcat formation midway through his freshman year, getting three carries for 48 yards against Mississippi and Furman before the injury.

“It was real frustrating,” he said. “I started doing real well, started getting in the flow of things and something like that happened.”

He missed spring practice, still wears a knee brace and has an occasional limp, but he said he is close to 100 percent.

The football field is a haven for Stallworth, whose dad, James, is a Sergeant Major in the Army and will be deployed to Iraq again soon.

“I think about it,” he said. “But on the field, I try not to let it bother me. Coach Trooper always says, when you get between those white lines, it’s just football, so I try not to let it bother me. …

“I know my dad is going to be all right over there. The Army has trained him to do a good job.”

‘The Animal’

Freshman defensive end Craig Sanders spends so much time in the weight room, fellow defensive lineman Antoine Carter has taken to calling him “The Animal.”

“As long as I’ve got an iPod, I can stay in the weight room all day,” Sanders said.

Sanders spent a bunch of time in there during the offseason. When he enrolled in January after graduating early from Ariton (Ala.) High, he weighed 225 pounds. Now he’s 250.

“The offensive linemen, they weighed 300 pounds, most of them, and I came in at 225. They could just throw me around,” he said. “So I had to get bigger. That’s why I stayed in the weight room so much.”

Quick hits

The Tigers are off today but will resume practice in full pads for the first time Monday at 6 p.m. … Chizik on Auburn’s No. 23 preseason ranking in the USA Today coaches’ poll: “Obviously nothing matters until the end of the year. … It’s all kind of window-dressing.”

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