After both suffering torn ACLs last season, offensive lineman Matthew Bedford and wide receiver Cam Camper are working towards returns in 2023.
Neither player has a timetable for a full return yet. Both are hoping to be ready in time for Indiana’s first game of the season against Ohio State, but it’s all dependent on rebuilding both full strength and confidence in their knees, which can take time.
Bedford suffered his injury during Indiana football’s season-opener against Illinois on September 2. He underwent surgery and missed the rest of the campaign.
But Bedford is back for another ride, as he used his redshirt year last season. He didn’t redshirt as a freshman, so he didn’t need to apply for a medical exemption.
He’s working his way back to full strength, though still limited this spring. He’s mainly doing individual work, and has not yet faced a live defense. He’s mostly working on reaction time and sprinting.
But it was momentous for him to just get back on the field at all.
“It was huge. I missed it. Football is my lady, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been with her,” Bedford said. “It felt good to be back.”
The senior has been part of Indiana’s starting offensive line unit since the middle of his freshman year. He earned an honorable mention All-Big Ten honor as a junior in 2021. He’s played all over the line for IU — Bedford has started at both guard and tackle spots.
He was set to start at right tackle last year before the injury. His flexibility could be valuable in the coming year though, as Indiana continues developing younger offensive linemen.
Bedford has played a role in that development. Even after his injury, he could often be spotted on the sideline at home games, wearing a headset, and talking with the other offensive linemen throughout the games.
He got a different perspective on the game last season, watching things unfold from the sideline. That’s continued this spring, as he’s often standing near new offensive line coach Bob Bostad while the rest of the team is practicing.
Those mental reps have been big for Bedford while he’s still unable to get the physical reps in.
“You get to see things from a different perspective,” Bedford said. “A lot of times you get tunnel vision because you’re on the field and you’re seeing things from first person. But when you’re on the sideline and you get to stand next to coach, you see things as soon as they happen.”
Camper, like Bedford, has not seen a ton of action this spring. He suffered his injury in late October, so he’s understandably a little behind Bedford in terms of his recovery.
He’s done a little bit of individual work, but still isn’t participating in drills. Camper is still working on getting back into his running motion. He said he’s made strides every week this spring, but knows there’s still a lot of work ahead of him.
It’s not an easy process to go through, both mentally and physically. But Camper said he’s found it a fun challenge to attack.
“It’s just something new that I’ve just got to deal with. So I’m just trying to make it fun for myself,” Camper said. “(I) just come in with the right mindset. I know I’m trying to get (the knee) better so I can be the player I want to be.”
Camper came in from Trinity Valley community college last year and quickly established himself as Indiana’s best receiver. He led the Hoosiers in receiving despite missing five games, including the final four games of the year. He caught 46 passes for 569 yards and two touchdowns.
A healthy Camper would once again lead the IU wideouts in 2023. Indiana rotated through a lot of different receivers throughout the season last year, partly by design, partly out of necessity. There could be many new faces involved in that equation this year, so Camper’s stabilizing presence would be massive — especially with uncertainty and youth at quarterback.
He can’t fully focus on that yet, as he needs to be healthy enough to fill that role on the team. But when he reflected on last year and thought about what he wanted to build on, it was clear he wasn’t only focused on himself.
“I definitely want to pick up where I left off,” Camper said.
And then he paused, collecting thoughts that seemed to be racing through his head, and thoughts he’d clearly been processing since the end of last season.
“We’ve just got to be better than last year. That’s all. That’s really it. Just be better.”
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