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Comeback trail: Chubb, Russell among rehabbing spring stars

Detailed and accurate information about players returning from injuries is often difficult to dig up during spring practice.

Many coaches treat that sort of intelligence as classified and occasional updates are usually spun toward the positive. Plus, players on the mend tend to be placed in handle-with-care jerseys. Don’t expect to see you favorite team’s healing star taking – or giving out – hits during the spring game.

So fans will be sifting through a stream of coach-speak for nuggets of news about their comeback candidates.

Six players who will be asked about a lot over the next two months:

Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

Chubb blew out his left knee in the sixth game of last season, depriving the Bulldogs of one of the best running backs in the country. New coach Kirby Smart has been cautious about making predictions regarding Chubb’s return and you can all but guarantee the running back will spend more time riding a stationary bike at spring practice than carrying a ball. If you’re a Georgia fan, as long as the word setback is nowhere near in any reporting about Chubb, consider it good news.

Tarean Folston, RB, Notre Dame.

Folston tore the ACL in his right knee in the second game of last season, and the Fighting Irish proved to have the depth (C.J. Prosise and Josh Adams) to withstand the loss. Prosise is gone but Adams flashed star potential as a freshman and the Irish appear to have other promising young players in the mix. Folston may only be part of a rotation for the Irish, but as coach Brian Kelly found out last season, depth at tailback is more necessity than luxury.

The Irish are also looking forward to the return of quarterback Malik Zaire (leg), which will set up one of the most interesting quarterback competitions of the offseason.

Darius Hamilton, DL, Rutgers

How bad was last season for Rutgers? Having the most talented defensive player on the team play 15 snaps because of an apparent knee injury was probably not among the three worst things to happen to the Scarlet Knights in 2015. There was speculation Hamilton would leave for the NFL, but he returned to rebuild his value and give new coach Chris Ash at least one player with the potential to remind him of the defensive linemen he had at Ohio State the last two seasons.

Seth Russell, QB, Baylor

Russell has been cleared to begin football activities after neck surgery cost him most of last season. Those activities will likely be very limited when the Bears crank up spring ball, regardless of how Russell is feeling. Still, coach Art Briles does need to come out of spring having some idea if Russell can be counted on this fall.

Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA

In a season that was littered with injuries to talented and high-profile players, few teams were hit as hard as the Bruins. Vanderdoes was yet another player felled by a torn ACL. With defensive tackle Kenny Clark off to the NFL, UCLA needs a healthy Vanderdoes to anchor its defense.

Mike Williams, WR, Clemson.

Williams injured his neck running into the goal post on the opening drive of last season. The Tigers reached the national title game without their best receiver. Thanks, Deshaun Watson. Still, getting back the 6-foot-3 Williams, who had 1,030 yards receiving and six touchdowns in 2014, sets up Clemson to have an even better offense in 2016. Coach Dabo Swinney has said Williams won’t be hit during the spring, but everything else seems a go.

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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