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Injuries spoil UAB year for Cox, Autrey

 

University of Alabama at Birmingham offensive lineman Quartney Cox is considering a redshirt season after he had surgery to his hand.

University of Alabama at Birmingham offensive lineman Quartney Cox is considering a redshirt season after he had surgery to his hand. Photo by: Special to the Dispatch

 

Adam Minichino

 

It''s a waiting game for Quartney Cox and Billy Autrey. 

 

The former West Point and Columbus high school standouts used their times at East Mississippi Community College to earn scholarships to play football at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

 

Both players envisioned the 2010 season as the one they would realize their dream to play college football at the highest level of Division I. 

 

Injuries have delayed those dreams, which is why both players likely won''t see action at 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU) when UAB (2-4) takes on No. 24 Mississippi State (5-2) at Davis Wade Stadium. 

 

Cox, who spent two seasons on the offensive line at EMCC, had surgery on his hand to remove fluid and to relieve the pressure from a compressed nerve. The injury prevented Cox from doing a variety of conditioning drills and, as a result, his weight shot up to 305 pounds. 

 

After completing a summer session of classes at EMCC in the summer, Cox reported to UAB and knew he would have a difficult time getting back in shape in time to contribute. 

 

Now down to 285, Cox, who is 6-foot-3, had hoped to hit the playing field this season, but after not seeing action in the first six games he knows that is growing less probable. In fact, Cox said earlier this week he is ready to take a redshirt this year so he will have a full season of perfect health to learn the system, to work out, and to compete for playing time for the 2011 season. 

 

"I''m still approaching every game like I am going to play," Cox said. "I have to prepare just in case I have to go in. If somebody goes down or if somebody has a bad game or if they need a breather, I might get a chance to go in, but I don''t think it is going to happen this year." 

 

Cox made an impact in his two seasons at EMCC, helping the Lions go 19-3 and win back-to-back MACJC North Division titles and the school''s first state football title. He was a NJCAA second-team All-American as a sophomore and a two-time NJCAA All-region 23 and MACJC All-North State First Team pick. 

 

Cox said his wrist is fine and that he is back lifting weights and working hard to get to a point where he can control his playing weight. He said his goal is to build a foundation so next season he will be able to compete for the starting right tackle job.  

 

UAB coach Neil Callaway said last week a decision about redshirting Cox and/or Autrey hadn''t been made. He said Cox''s injury cost him valuable time, which made put a lot of pressure on him to catch up. He said the coaches didn''t want to rush Cox because they feel he can be a solid contributor. 

 

"He hadn''t been working out (after the injury) and it takes a little time," Callaway said. "If guys are not ready it is better to hold him out. It isn''t etched in stone (Cox will redshirt)." 

 

Cox also has seen a little practice action at left tackle. He said he continues to push his teammates in practice because that''s the best way he can contribute to the squad right now. Next season, he feels a redshirt will give him an advantage when it comes time to compete for a starting position. 

 

"I will be able to get my body in shape and to build confidence with everybody on the offensive line," Cox said. "I am willing to do it." 

 

Unlike Cox, Autrey, a 6-2, 290-pound sophomore, was on the field at the start of the season. Unfortunately, the 2009 second-team MACJC All-North State performer strained a medial collateral ligament in the last scrimmage out of camp. The injury forced him to miss a couple of weeks. He didn''t return until the third game of the season against Troy.  

 

Just when Autrey, a guard/center, appeared ready to get comfortable, he suffered a badly sprained ankle that has kept him out of action. Autrey has been receiving treatment for the injury twice a day, but he still isn''t 100 percent. 

 

"They might have to redshirt me and they might use me in an emergency situation," Autrey said. "I wouldn''t mind not playing if I knew I was going to get another year to get ready and to do my academic work." 

 

Autrey said the injuries have been frustrating because he started camp with the first string in part due to suspensions and injuries to other players. He said he was going hard when he suffered the knee injury and everything went "downhill" from there. 

 

Autrey isn''t sure when he will find out what the coaches have in store for him, but he knows it all will be for the best because "God has a plan for everything" and he is "not too down about it." 

 

Callaway praised the play of Autrey in the summer. Like Cox, he said Autrey has the potential to be a great player. 

 

"He is a great guy and we love him to death," Callaway said. "We think he is going to be a good football player. We are tickled to death (Autrey and Cox) are here."

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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