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Virginia football expects Malcolm Cook, others to return from injury in 2017

Mendenhall highlights defensive players who missed most of 2016

Virginia v Duke Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

There’s a kind of hidden recruiting going on for the UVA football staff at the McCue Center these days: getting veterans back from injury and illness.

After a year sidelined by an undisclosed “medical situation,” linebacker Malcolm Cook is expected to be able to return to the field in 2017.

Cook acted as almost an assistant coach in 2016, coaching up his young replacements in Jordan Mack and Chris Peace.

As he did for the Cavaliers' first five games, Cook will wear a headset Saturday and listen to -- and learn from -- the back-and-forth between Mendenhall and the other defensive coaches. That's also how he gets the play call from Mendenhall. Cook then uses hand signals to relay the play to the defense on the field.

While Cook’s career at UVA has been injury-riddled—his 2015 season was cut short only three games—he was one of the top defensive recruits in the Commonwealth coming out of FUMA.

In addition to Cook, Mendenhall said that defensive backs Tim Harris and Myles Robinson are “probable” for spring practice, too.

Harris was a starter for the majority of the 2015 season but was slowed by a preseason injury and only appeared in 2 games last year. A senior, he is applying for a medical hardship waiver.

Robinson was a revelation in his abbreviated sophomore year, which was cut short after the Central Michigan game.

The back seven of Virginia’s defense is shaping up nicely headed into Bronco Mendenhall’s second year. Captain, signal-caller, and All-American linebacker Micah Kiser has said he plans to forego the NFL Draft and return for his senior season.