• Columbia linebacker Ethan Umstead (right) talks with linebacker Jaylen Brown (left) and safety Ahmad Williams during Wednesday’s practice (JORDAN KROEGER/Lake City Reporter).
    Columbia linebacker Ethan Umstead (right) talks with linebacker Jaylen Brown (left) and safety Ahmad Williams during Wednesday’s practice (JORDAN KROEGER/Lake City Reporter).

PREP FOOTBALL: Umstead expected to be ready for season opener

Columbia middle linebacker is out of cast following fractured ankle.

Columbia linebacker Ethan Umstead received some good news on Monday.

Umstead, who suffered two fractures in his left ankle at a camp earlier this summer, was told by his doctor that he should be 100 percent healthy for the Tigers’ season opener against Gainesville on Aug. 23. The rising senior had his cast removed on July 16 and says he’s been progressing well in physical therapy, even taking part in some light practice this week as Columbia opened fall camp.

The news has rejuvenated Umstead, who’s been sidelined since early July. 

“I was extremely excited,” Umstead said. “I’ve been sitting out pretty much half of the summer just watching my boys grind and wishing I was healthy. You feel good when you’re healthy. When you’re not healthy you want to be healthy. When (the doctor) told me (the news) I was thankful.”

Umstead’s doctor put him on a four-week plan that will increase his workload by 25 percent per week and have him ready for week one agains the Hurricanes. But this week he’s been limited to just some light running and stretching in addition to physical therapy.

“Right now I’m 25 percent so I’m not doing too much, just doing the linebacker drills and that’s pretty much it,” Umstead said. “Next week I’ll be getting into a little bit of inside run but not too much. The third week I should be pretty much to full go and then game week I’ll be 100 percent.

If Umstead remains on course to return, his impact on the field goes without saying. The loss of Columbia’s 2017 defensive MVP has forced head coach Brian Allen to reshuffle his depth chart, which has seen Jaylen Brown move from outside linebacker into Umstead’s middle spot while Shyheim Brown and Michael Scippio have split time on the outside opposite Marlon Pollock.

When the injury originally occurred, doctors thought Umstead had a great chance of returning for the season opener. Monday’s news only provided that extra bit of relief for Allen.

“Even if we were going to miss him for the one week of the (preseason) classic, it wouldn’t have been a big deal from that stand point but I’m definitely happy with getting him back starting at 25 percent,” Allen said. “We’ll works towards 100 but it may be a little bit of a blessing in disguise if we don’t have a classic because we’ll have our top playmaker back in the middle.”

Columbia will have an experience group at linebacker when the season begins. Umstead has been a starter since his sophomore year while Brown has started on the outside since he was a freshman.

Pollock has plenty of work under his belt as well thanks to last season when Jaylen Brown suffered a torn labrum in week one. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it forced Pollock into the lineup and he’s now poised to have a big senior year alongside Umstead and Brown.

Umstead’s injury as done the same this summer, forcing Brown to learn the middle while giving Shyheim Brown and Scippio some valuable practice should another injury occur during the season.

“Marlon is now a veteran and with Jaylen back we have that backer that we wouldn’t have had ready to play right away if that injury wouldn’t have occurred. It’s the same thing with Ethan this year,” Allen said. “That’s enabled somebody else to step up that was maybe at another position but now it’s allowed them to learn that linebacker position and made somebody else switch from another position and now they’re good to go. 

“In high school football you don’t have the ability to recruit and have three deep at the position that. This has put us in a situation where we’ve bene able to realign guys from their normal position to be able to play in a different way and now it’s added depth not by the fact that there’s another player but we can move a player from one position to another.”

Umstead is looking to capitalize on a junior season where he led the team in tackles. He’s hoping to secure a collegiate offer and he already has interest from schools such as Princeton.

“As soon as I get back full go, it’s lights out,” Umstead said.

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