Freshman left guard Nick Linder, who started against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and North Carolina this season but sustained late-season injuries to his knee and wrist (among other body parts), increased his workload Monday at practice.
After landing at Shreveport Regional Airport in the afternoon, the Hurricanes bused to the First Baptist Church in Bossier City, where they practiced on two newly installed artificial turf fields in temperatures that hovered in the mid-60s.
It previously appeared that Linder would be unable to play against South Carolina (6-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, but UM coach Al Golden seemed more inclined to open the door for the possibility of Linder participating.
“Nick did a better job,” Golden said.
The coach compared Linder to his older brother, Brandon, the former UM guard who now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“He’s going to tell you he’s ready to go,” Golden said. “He’s tough. He’s going to fight and scratch and claw. So, we’ve got to see how he looks [Tuesday]. But he was definitely moving a lot better, and the last 72 hours off helped him tremendously.
“He’s got a chance now. I wasn’t sure about that last week.”
Starting left guard Jon Feliciano will continue to wear a protective covering on his left hand and lower arm during the game, Golden said.
▪ Cornerback Tracy Howard, who Golden has praised lately for his practice performance, wore a black jersey given to players excelling. “I’m just trying to go out there and get better every day,” Howard said.
▪ Riding exercise bikes near the practice field were tackle Kc McDermott (knee) and fellow offensive lineman Hunter Knighton. Knighton has been slowly rehabbing this season after being hospitalized last February, when he was diagnosed with heat stroke following a workout. He spent two weeks in intensive care.
▪ Quarterback Brad Kaaya met the media Monday wearing a gray Miami Dolphins cap that he said went with his gray UM warmup. “I’m a Dolphins fan now,” Kaaya said. “The city’s adopted me, so I’m a fan.” Kaaya said his favorite Dolphin is quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and that he hopes he can one day meet him.