The past 12 months have been a challenging mix of progress and adversity for University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offensive lineman Taylor Dodds. Of the players practicing Saturday at Finley Stadium, perhaps none appreciated it as much as Dodds.
"I'm feeling good and getting back strong," he said. "I'm just working and trying to get back to where I was before I got hurt."
A redshirt freshman in 2011, Dodds started the Mocs' first three games at left tackle -- after needing shoulder surgery the year before -- before true freshman Brandon Morgan moved ahead of him on the depth chart.
Dodds filled in for Kevin Revis as the starting right guard against Elon on Oct. 22, but a couple of days later his season was over after he tore the ACL in his right knee during practice. The injury required surgery, and it wouldn't be the only one.
After a lot of rehab, Dodds developed complications in the knee and needed more surgery. He missed spring practice and a chance to get some more valuable experience in the Mocs' new offense. Then in June, he again had complications with the troublesome knee and went under the knife one more time.
Dodds said it wasn't hard to keep the adversity from getting the best of him.
"It's a lot of adversity, but you've just got to keep your head on tight and just push through," he said. "You've just got to work your butt off to get up there.
"It's very frustrating, but you can't worry about stuff you can't control."
Behind Morgan on the depth chart at left tackle, Dodds said he's at about 85 percent. To get to that last 15 percent, back to where he was last October, will just take some time and work.
Offensive line coach Alex Atkins said he can tell that Dodds closely watched and studied what the Mocs were doing before his return to the field last week.
"What's good is he's mentally paid attention and he's done a lot of mental reps, so he hasn't had a lot of missed assignments,"Atkins said.
Head coach Russ Huesman said UTC needs a healthy Dodds available.
"He's just had setback after setback, and hopefully he's healthy now and ready to go," Huesman said. "He's going to be a valuable guy for us this year."