This wasn't how Trevard Lindley's senior season was supposed to go.
Lindley bypassed the NFL Draft, where he was projected to be a second-round pick, to return to Kentucky in 2009. He received pre-season accolades as an All-Southeastern Conference and All-America candidate.
Lindley got off to a nice start with an interception-return touchdown in the season opener against Miami (Ohio). But he suffered a high-ankle sprain in the fourth game against Alabama and has been a spectator ever since.
"It's been frustrating," Lindley said. "When they've played away I've had to sit and watch at my house, and when they're home, I'm just there on the sidelines. It's my last year, and I really want to be out there playing. I've just been rehabbing and trying to get better."
Lindley finally will get back on the field Saturday against Eastern Kentucky and will be in the starting lineup. Although he's not 100 percent, his presence should be a big boost to a defensive unit still smarting from a 31-24 loss to Mississippi State last week.
"If he's well it makes a major, major difference in our defense because you usually don't have to worry about the guy he's covering," UK Coach Rich Brooks said. "That makes a pretty significant difference, and if you think back at a few games that we played, it might have made a major difference."
Lindley said he really doesn't know what to expect when he gets on the field.
"I can't press or do some of the things I did before I got hurt, but I've been slowly trying to get back into it during practice," he said. "We'll just have to see how it goes in the game. It's just a matter of seeing what I can and can't do."
Lindley isn't the only player who chose to return to school only to have to deal with injuries and other issues. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford would have been a high first-round pick but had to shut it down after a shoulder injury, and Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes has missed time with Achilles' and groin problems. Spikes also was suspended for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt after being caught trying to gouge a Georgia running back's eyes.
It's unclear how the injury will affect Lindley's draft status, but Brooks said the cornerback still has the chance to finish strong.
"I feel bad for him, but the games he played in he played extremely well," Brooks said. "There's still some things he can accomplish coming back as a team, and he has now four games to finish up, hopefully five, that can put him in good shape for his future."
Lindley is trying to look at the bright side.
"I can still go out there and play my last year," he said. "I'm just going to go out there and give it my all these last few games, and hopefully the ankle will get better as it goes along."
The Wildcats will be gunning for their 18th consecutive non-conference win, which would be a school record and is the second-longest streak in the nation. But the Colonels won't be a slouch. EKU went to Bloomington in the season opener and came within a late fumble of knocking off Indiana.
EKU Coach Dean Hood said playing an SEC school is a different animal.
"Not to take anything away from Indiana, but SEC football is top-notch," he said. "Still, the fact that we did play well and have a chance at Indiana should give us some confidence, but SEC football is a step above."
This marks the seventh straight year that Eastern has played a Football Bowl Subdivision program. Its last win over an FBS opponent was in 1985, 45-21 over Louisville. Hood expressed gratitude to the UK administration for the opportunity.
"It's unbelievable," Hood said. "We're so grateful to Coach Brooks and the administrative staff at Kentucky for playing us. They could play anybody in this slot. To put us on the schedule helps us in recruiting. It plays a big budgetary role for our program. And it's good for the state.
"We've tried to do the same thing. We played Morehead (2008) and we've got them on our schedule again. We've tried to set up a game with Kentucky State. I just think it's good business for the state schools to help each other."