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Darren Evans returns to Virginia Tech practices

Virginia Tech running back Darren Evans, who sat out the 2009 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, missed football so much that teammates overheard him telling his pads that he missed putting them on when he first participated in light workouts last fall.

But as Virginia Tech's spring practices get into full swing, Evans is working back into the fray as the starter along with Ryan Williams. Evans said his knee is 100 percent healthy, but the biggest challenge was overcoming the mental hurdle associated with trusting his surgically repaired left knee.

"You’re out there running and cutting, and you're doing that with no one around, and you know it's healed," Evans said Wednesday after his first full practice with the team since suffering the injury in a preseason practice last August. "It’s a mental thing, when you see someone who wants to bring you down."

In 2008, Evans set an ACC freshman rushing record (1,265 yards), which was broken in 2009 by Williams. The duo started preseason practices tied atop the depth chart, but how the Hokies' coaches manage the two stars will be one of the most intriguing story lines of the 2010 regular season.

And whether Evans, a barreling, brutish runner, can return to form is a lingering question. He said he added 10 pounds, and his noticeably bulky upper body seemed indicative of that weight-room effort, which could make him a valuable third-down option.

Aside from adding mass, the other benefit of the time away from the field for Evans was the ability to spend time with his 3-year-old son, James. But although he did not participate in practices, Evans attended physical therapy sessions five to six times a week, for two hours each session. Also in the offseason, Evans got married his girlfriend, Taneesha.

But he is happy to return to the practice field. "It feels good," he said. "But it’s the same thing I've been doing all my life, so I told myself, 'Don’t sweat it too much.' "

By Mark Viera  |  April 2, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
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