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Coach: Brace may let Bonani avoid surgery



USF sophomore kicker Maikon Bonani, recovering in a Tampa hospital after a 35-foot fall Saturday while working at Busch Gardens, should find out this week if he’ll need surgery or just a brace to heal a cracked vertebra, his high school coach said Monday.

Rod Shafer, who coached Bonani at Lake Wales High and visited him in the hospital on Monday, said Bonani is in good spirits – “looked good, just tired of laying down” – and appreciative of an outpouring of support from fans, friends and teammates.

The early prognosis from doctors, Shafer said, is that Bonani can be optimistic of being able to return to college football. Whether that can happen at some point this fall remains to be seen.

Bonani has not spoken publicly since Saturday, when he fell from the SkyRide at Busch Gardens after trying to stop a gondola with an unlocked door. The impact of the fall left him with a fractured 12th thoracic vertebra, Shafer said, echoing what USF coach Jim Leavitt said Saturday night.

Shafer said doctors will determine -- perhaps as early as today, after X-rays -- whether Bonani can be fitted with a brace that would allow the vertebra to heal over approximately two months, or whether he needs to have surgery, which would require a longer rehabilitation. Even with the brace, Bonani would miss the start of football season, and would be trying to return after an extended time with limited physical activity.

Shafer said while it’s possible Bonani could return this fall, “I’m not sure it’s necessary,” suggesting that Bonani would be best served by redshirting this season and preserving his remaining three years of eligibility by returning in 2010.

Bonani, he said, has confidence in senior Delbert Alvarado, an experienced if inconsistent player who was USF’s primary kicker in 2007 before losing the job to Bonani after two games last fall. Alvarado, who also is USF’s starting punter, holds school records for field goals in a season (19) and career extra-point accuracy (97.5 percent). He also has the longest field goal in Big East history, a 56-yard kick he made against Syracuse in 2006, but is 25-for-42 in field-goal attempts over his USF career.

USF opens fall practice on Aug. 6, in less than three weeks, but Bonani could return much later and still make an impact on the Bulls' season. USF's first game against a BCS opponent isn't until Sept. 26 at Florida State, and the Bulls' Big East opener at Syracuse isn't until Oct. 3, more than 10 weeks away, so a decision about Bonani's season wouldn't need to be made for some time.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 6:48pm]


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