The redshirt freshman was told when the bone defect was found in his left ankle that he would be out for a while. In Dallas for the Cotton Bowl, when he began running in a straight line, they were still telling him he would miss spring training.
But there he was Saturday, not only out there, but out there looking good. Mike Shula said Upchurch has looked more consistent in the spring than he did in fall training camp before he was hurt.
On Saturday he had four carries for 39 yards, behind only the massive Jimmy Johns (Kenneth Darby is out with an injury). And while his coaches have been impressed with his bounce-back ability and his running, Upchurch wasn't exactly satisfied after Saturday's practice.
"I'm glad to be out there," he said. "I did alright."
"Just alright," he repeated. "I have to do better on pass protection and get my steps right, and keep the ball high and tight."
Suggesting he had a couple of big runs nevertheless, Upchurch said, "That's not the way the play was designed. I feel like I'm back, but I just have to get my fundamentals down."
Despite being ahead of schedule, and despite the coaches' good impressions of Upchurch early in the spring, he and Ali Sharrief and all the other running backs with the exception of Johns are wearing green third-team jerseys. Johns wears white, designating the first team, and there's no halfback in the second team yellow (called gold) jersey. Darby wears orange, indicating he's injured.
Upchurch is hoping his work today might get him a promotion.
"I gotta get rid of this green," he said. "I like gold."