- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It seemed as if every time Sheldon Day took a step forward from his ankle sprain, a setback would soon follow.
He warmed up before the Michigan State game on Sept. 21 after leaving the Purdue game a week earlier, but he ended up needing another week. Another week — and another warmup — came before the Oklahoma game, then Day tweaked the ankle prior to kickoff, forcing him to miss his second straight game as reserve nose guard Kona Schwenke again slid over and took his place.
Coach Brian Kelly then said two days before the Arizona State game that Day would definitely play, but the sophomore ended up leaving the field after the game's first snap.
A bye week since has appeared to be the perfect medicine for the 290-pound defensive end as he readies for a return in Saturday's primetime affair with USC.
"I feel like last week during the bye week I became really confident in my ankle, and just the things that I can do, my abilities and just the little things," Day said of when he finally felt healthy.
Day, who suffered the injury late in a Week 3 win at Purdue, said the view from the sideline gave him a different perspective on the game and his position, as he would regularly help explain to younger fill-ins like Isaac Rochell what he saw on certain plays.
He thinks the time off allowed him to shore up some loose ends of his own, too.
"Just definitely my hand placement," Day said. "I feel like when I was playing, I was kind of losing my hand placement, going everywhere, and I've been focusing on that and just getting back to the little things."
The Indianapolis native sat with a smile on his face throughout Wednesday night's session with reporters, happy to put behind the injury that had him so close yet so far these past three games. He's finally ready to reclaim his starting role along the defensive line.
"I feel like it's just a nice little process," Day said. "You never know where the process ends up or how long the process will take. But at the end of the day, it's all about feeling your best."