Matt McCann spent a lot of last season getting his right ankle securely taped.
He’s hoping to not have to do that this season.
After playing on the badly sprained joint much of last year — he rolled it during the bye week in mid-September, then missed the following game vs. Nevada, before fighting through the issue the last nine games — he had offseason surgery. And only now is he starting to get back into action; last week, the offensive lineman was in uniform, although participating only lightly during the Boilermakers’ spring practices. It’ll be about the same this week, as Purdue practices twice before Saturday’s spring game.
“I didn’t do anything since the IU game and that kind of put me out of shape a little bit,” McCann said Friday, “but now I’m getting back into it.
“… I kind of got back here earlier than I thought. So I’m doing pretty well.”
Purdue needs McCann back — healthy — for the fall, because the 6-foot-6, 324-pound sophomore is one of the few offensive linemen with experience. Only he and center Kirk Barron have more than a handful of starts to their careers.
For McCann, that’s 10; he started all but the Nevada and Maryland games last season at right tackle, returning as a reserve vs. the Terrapins after missing the week before only after Purdue had multiple issues in its front.
He labored through that game, visibly hobbled but able to at least throw his body in front of rushers, then was able to brace up the ankle enough in following weeks to play more effectively.
“But when a sprain doesn’t heal properly, you know something is wrong,” he said. “Normally, sprains had only taken me two or three weeks (to heal) in the past, but this one just kept going and going. I knew something was wrong.”
Now, McCann is trying to get as many mental repetitions as possible, feeling like he can do so better from ground level, at practice, than up in the film room.
“Basically what I’m getting here is the footwork, get back into the flow of things a little bit, get out there, get a feel,” he said.
McCann says he doesn’t know what position he’ll play once he returns 100 percent. It could be right tackle, a position manned by Eric Swingler right now. Maybe McCann shifts to left, where redshirt freshman Grant Hermanns is getting repetitions and where Purdue doesn’t have any returning experience, not with Martesse Patterson’s departure from the program.
Or, McCann could be a guard, where he had practiced during his redshirt season in 2015. He says he’s willing to do whatever is asked.
“We’ve talked about it,” Coach Jeff Brohm said. “Certain guys might have to be swing guys. He’s played tackle quite a bit, and I think until we actually see him and what he can do with our own eyes, we can determine where exactly he’ll land. But yes, we may have to shuffle some things around when he gets back.”
Until then, McCann will keep rehabbing so he can be ready for the fall.
“Most of the rehab from now on is running, get a little more strengthening,” he said. “But a lot of it is range of motion. I’ve got to be able to get my foot complete on the ground, but that’s one of my main goals in rehab. But that’s not that hard, it’s just stretching, not that bad.”