Canes return key players on both sides of the ball

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Miami linebacker Colin McCarthy has one goal for this season -- to stay healthy.

Can't blame him.

McCarthy, who only played the first four games last fall, has had three surgeries on his left shoulder, and said it's been a nagging injury since he was at Clearwater Central Catholic High School. The third surgery, he said, finally "did the dirty work and got everything fixed up." McCarthy said he's now free of pain and has no real limitations. He has also been awarded a medical hardship and has two more seasons of eligibility remaining. So this season should be the start of something good for McCarthy, whose experience will be important up front.

"I've been battling injuries for a little while now and I'm finally back feeling healthy. I'm just excited to get the season started," he said. "Being up there at Florida State makes it that much better."

McCarthy, who has 14 career starts in 24 games and 94 career tackles, isn't the only Cane whose return from injury will be noticeable this fall. Tight end Dedrick Epps, who tore his ACL and meniscus and missed the Emerald Bowl last year, has also regained his form in summer camp. Epps earned the starting job last year and started 10 of 12 games and tied for third on the team in receiving yards (304) and was fourth in receptions (22). Together they helped each other through the rehab process.

"We were with each other every day," McCarthy said. "We went through the ups and downs as far as the pain, and having to deal with overcoming the surgery, but he's doing great now, I feel great, and I think we're both going to help the team out a lot."

Epps said he was in the training room every day, three times a day working on strengthening and balance exercises, and getting massage treatments and ice. He was also going to meetings and on the practice field so he didn't fall behind in the new system under first-year coordinator Mark Whipple.

"I wasn't trying to rush it," Epps said, "but it was very important to get back out there. I heal fast."

And the Canes are thankful for it.