TUCSON — When senior running back Nic Grigsby had to sit out for a while during the first day of fall camp because of a toe injury, there was a sense of “here we go again.”
Grigsby’s junior season was limited to a mere 26 carries in Pac-10 play, as he never was able to fully recover from a shoulder injury suffered on the first series in the first league game, against Oregon State.
“Running backs get hit every play, and you just can’t come back from a shoulder injury,” said Grigsby, who rushed for 1,153 yards as a sophomore.
“I kept trying to do that because I wanted to provide for my team, instead of being smart and just sitting out and taking the injury as it was and getting rehab.
“I kept trying to come back and I was suffering.”
While his playing time and his stats suffered, the sacrifice was worth it — his 50-yard touchdown dash in the fourth quarter against Stanford gave Arizona a critical comeback victory.
The senior version of Grigsby is one that is bigger — he’s 5-10 and reported to camp at close to 200 pounds — having spent the summer especially focused on bulking up his shoulder areas.
“This is the best I’ve felt in a long time,” he said.
Arizona has ample depth at running back — with hard-charging Keola Antolin and bigger-back Greg Nwoko as the other main options — but Grigsby is the one who gives the attack some needed wiggle.
Without Grigsby’s big-play ability late last season, opponents started ganging up on Arizona’s variety of screens and choking off the offense.
He might not get enough carries to break Trung Canidate’s school career record of 3,824 yards, but if he stays healthy, he has a shot. Grigsby will start the season 1,400 yards behind Canidate’s record.
He denies having any personal yardage goals in mind.
“Just be coachable, be a playmaker for our team, be a leader, be a guy coach wants to go to in the fourth quarter,” Grigsby said.
Sophomore fullback Taimi Tutogi, who was one of the breakout stars of spring practice, suffered what coach Mike Stoops called a sprained ankle in Monday morning’s practice.
“We hope that is all it is,” Stoops said. “It will be a day-to-day, week-to-week kind of injury. He’s a big part of our offense. We certainly need him to do the things we like to do.”
Tutogi’s injury appeared serious, as he left the field on the back of a cart.
Tutogi, 6-foot-1 and 258 pounds, is a versatile piece of the offense as a fullback/H-back/tight end/short-yardage tailback.
Junior Juron Criner, the team’s leading returning receiver, sat out Monday’s practice. He was hit in the mouth in Sunday’s practice and needed stitches on both sides of his lip, Stoops said. Criner was also suffering from headaches, the coach said.