DESTIN, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp isn't going to bet against Ronald Powell coming back this fall.
Despite the rising junior defensive end/linebacker undergoing ACL surgery on April 23, Muschamp said he's still holding out hope that Powell will return at some point during the fall.
“I think so. I really do," Muschamp said during the 2012 SEC spring meetings Tuesday. "I’m not going to bet against him. He’s working extremely hard. His range of motion is way ahead of where it should be at this time. His strength levels are good. Everything points really good."
By all accounts, Powell, who led the Gators with six sacks and recorded nine tackles for loss in 2011, had a tremendous spring and showed a lot of improvement in the maturity department before his injury during Florida's spring game.
Earlier this month, Muschamp said that Powell was off crutches and appeared to be ahead of schedule, but he's still in wait-and-see mode.
"Like I’ve said, I think the last 30 percent of an ACL is the hard part," he said. "That’s when you start cutting, that’s when you start to take on people, the weight, all of that that you’ve got to deal with. Those are the things that I think will decide (when he returns) as we move closer and when we get into August and September and that four-month timeframe. Our (medical) people do a great job and the surgery went very well. We’re pleased with how the surgery went and how the swelling and all things hold up.”
Redshirt senior Lerentee McCray backed Powell up at the Buck position last fall, but missed spring while recovering from shoulder surgery. Muschamp also said that sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball could compete at Buck or the Sam linebacker position this fall if he's medically cleared to play. Ball missed all of the 2011 season because of the arteriovenous malformation found in his brain in February of 2011, but Muschamp said Ball has recently started lifting and running again.
“He’s got one more appointment with the doctor,” Muschamp said. “I think he should be fine. He’s in Gainesville.
“You never know, something might pop up at the end. But he’s going back for one more deal to make sure he’s really cleared. Our medical people would not clear him if they thought there was an issue of any sort.
“I totally trust their opinion. Nor would he want to play if there was any chance for anything happening.”