Cornerback Julius Lewis and offensive tackle Trey Elliott, expected to be sidelined in 2016, have returned to practice, and center Austin Schlottman and receiver KaVontae Turpin are close to returning to action, TCU coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday.
Lewis was projected to be a starter, but he suffered a non-contact injury shortly before spring training.
Patterson announced the day before the start of fall camp that Elliott and Bryson Henderson, backup tackles, would sit out the year.
Schlottman suffered a foot injury at SMU, and Turpin has been out since hurting a knee the week before against Iowa State. He was the Big 12’s all-purpose yardage leader when he was injured. Both players have started to run, but they have yet to practice, Patterson said.
The return of Lewis could mean competition for Jeff Gladney, who took his spot in spring training and won the starting position. But Gladney missed a game with a foot injury and has been spotty since his return. Tuesday, Patterson said Gladney worked with the scout team.
“We’ve got to get Jeff to play better,” Patterson said. “We’re going to find somebody who wants to practice. You can’t play well on Saturday if you don’t practice well.”
Asked if the injury affected Gladney, Patterson said, “No. It’s because he’s a freshman. He needs to grow up. He’s got a chance to be a really good player.”
But it’s no sure thing that Lewis will play. Patterson said he’s weighing whether to use Lewis, who started four games last year as a freshman and made seven tackles in the Alamo Bowl.
“I don’t know if six games would be the right thing to break his redshirt,” Patterson said. “But we’ll see. He’s got two weeks to get himself back up to speed.”
Elliott’s return potentially means depth for an offensive line that struggled against Kansas, particularly at right tackle. Aviante Collins gave up two speed rush sacks.