CORAL GABLES — For a player with a future as bright as Darrion Owens, last Sept. 11 was a very dark night.
He was in tears on the Miami sideline at Florida Atlantic, his knee shredded, his sophomore season over.
“I just was running and tried to stop,” he said, recalling the play. “I was thinking if I wanted to jump over somebody or just stop. The second I hesitated, my knee buckled and I felt it tear, blew it all out.”
By blown out, he means a torn ACL and meniscus tears on either side of his right knee. After months of rehab, he feels better — almost like himself.
“I’m close to 100 [percent,” said Owens, who was praised by coaches as one of UM’s best all-around players before his injury. “I feel good. There are certain days I’m sore and all, but that comes with injuries. Once all that goes away, I feel like I’ll be back.”
Owens said “for sure” he’ll be ready for UM’s season-opener, and expects to participate in fall practices. He can run and lift during UM’s summer conditioning sessions. He’s aching to “get back and hit somebody,” he said, but not at the risk of further injury.
“There’s no need to rush it, because I want to come back bigger and better,” he said. “I don’t want to get hurt again, so I’ll do whatever it takes to protect that.”
Owens, who played strong-side linebacker and rush end in Al Golden/Mark D’Onofrio‘s defense, is likely to play the weak side in Manny Diaz’ scheme, though he said UM coaches haven’t assigned him a role yet. He wants to start, but said he’s prepared to earn it.
“I’m going to play my best and my hardest and see what happens,” he said.
Jermaine Grace is expected to start at Sam linebacker, a rover-like position with heavy coverage duties. It’s similar to what he did last year as a Will.
Owens’ thoughts on what he watched in the spring?
“I feel it’s an aggressive, attacking defense,” he said. “That’s what I want to do. I want to attack and hit people. Just watching the playcalling and how it works, I visualize myself in that situation, it gets me hyped. I’m ready to go out there and make some plays.”
Owens, from Orange Park-Oakleaf High, loved seeing his former high school teammate, freshman middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman, earn a starting role.
“Shaq, man,” he said. “I knew what he was capable of. I’m just proud and always talked to him. ‘I know you’re going to come in and dominate, man. It’s all in your hands.’ … I love having that dude on my team.'”