BOISE — The Boise State football team welcomed a missing piece back into the offense as fall camp began Monday.
Gabe Linehan, who was out for most of last season and was limited to drill work in spring ball, participated in his first 11-on-11 action since a brief appearance Sept. 29 at New Mexico.
Linehan had surgery to repair a hamstring injury in October.
Its been tough, he said. When youre injured, personally you feel like youre not exactly part of the team. You cant do things with your teammates that you wanted to do. So its just really special, especially after having a little hiatus there, to be back and going, fully contributing and fully active with the things youre supposed to be doing as a teammate.
Im trying to savor every minute of it. It seems like its going to end in a second, so Im just trying to savor whats left.
Linehan leads an inexperienced group of tight ends that sustained a major loss this summer with a knee injury to junior Kyle Sosnowski, who will miss the entire season.
Junior Connor Peters (small role last year) and sophomore Holden Huff (17 catches last year) are the only other experienced, scholarship tight ends. Sophomore walk-on Jake Hardee, of Bishop Kelly High, is coming off a breakout spring and its possible a true freshman Jake Roh or Alec Dhaenens will crack the rotation that usually runs five deep.
The youth increases the importance of Linehan, who made 23 catches for 252 yards and five touchdowns in 2011. He made just one catch in 2012.
Thats huge for us, having a guy whos played in games and done a lot of things around here, tight ends coach Scott Huff said.
Linehans value was clear last year, when the Broncos tried to delay surgery and get as much out of him as they could. He appeared in each of the first four games.
He wasnt the same player,offensive coordinator Robert Prince said, so I thought he made the right decision to shut it down and get surgery. I think hes improved tremendously.
Linehan's injury was an avulsion fracture, which caused the hamstring to separate from the bone. It left him with the uneasy feeling of not being able to trust his body a feeling, he says, that is gone.
Ive done so much intense therapy that I have the confidence that Ive strengthened my hamstring enough to be able to be as full speed as possible, he said. Confidence comes with your preparation and your training.
And now Linehan is set for what could be a memorable senior year.
He graduated with a marketing degree in May, which allows him to increase his attention on football, and coaches still see the tools that could make him an all-around tight end a dangerous receiver and devastating blocker in one.
Were expecting a senior leader, a go-to guy, Huff said. Hes got to take the next step in the run game. Hes got to run good routes, be a playmaker for us. Hes got to be everything like our tight ends typically have been.
That has been Linehan's goal for his four years as a Bronco.
He was closing in on it a year ago.
Its that one last shot, he said of his senior year. Everything has kind of come to this. Its kind of the pinnacle of your career. Im ready to do as much as I can for the team and make sure Im satisfied with myself and how Ive helped the team.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat