BOWLING GREEN — Last season, Bowling Green State University’s Jamari Bozeman suffered injuries that forced him to miss the entire season.
While losing one of the better safeties in the Mid-American Conference was a blow to the defense, Falcons coach Mike Jinks said there was a silver lining.
“It was a blessing for Jamari to have a redshirt [to not lose a season of playing time],” Jinks said. “I think it’s really going to be a year down the road  before we see him back all the way.
“He had a pretty serious injury — at one point we thought it might be career-ending. Luckily for him and for us it wasn’t.
“If he’s out there in the fall competing for a starting spot, that’s a huge bonus. But I’m not planning on that.”
When the redshirt junior from West Palm Beach, Fla., heard those words, he simply smiled.
“That’s motivation to me,” Bozeman said. “I want to be the best Christmas gift coach Jinks ever had.
“I want to be the gift he wants the most.”
It will take some work for Bozeman to return to the form that saw him become one of the team’s top defenders in 2016. After playing in 11 games as a true freshman, he started all 12 games in 2016 and finished second on the team with 71 tackles while intercepting three passes and forcing a fumble.
After earning third-team All-MAC honors that season, the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder was poised for bigger things last year — but disaster struck instead.
Bozeman suffered a torn right labrum and had a hip impingement, injuries that led to surgery in September and kept him off the field for four months.
While rehabbing the injuries was not easy, Bozeman said that was not his biggest struggle with 2017.
“It was different not being with the team last season,” he said. “I kind of felt apart from them, so this spring is about bonding and getting back on the team.”
This spring is complicated by Bozeman and his defensive teammates learning the system of new defensive coordinator Carl Pelini.
“It’s been fun because we’ve been learning new stuff and seeing how it fits with the old stuff we ran,” Bozeman said. “And coach Pelini is a great coach, so it has been great to learn from such a great guy.”
While Bozeman said he is “110 percent” in his recovery from the injuries, Jinks said he still plans to use the safety carefully this spring.
“We’re going to be very patient throwing him back into the mix,” the coach said. “I’m glad to see him moving around this spring because that’s something I did not expect.
“We’ve got to build his body, get some weight back and get some strength back.”
That might be a problem for the Falcons’ “gift” defensive back who is itching to get back on the field.
“I’ve been waiting for eight months to get back on the field,” Bozeman said. “I can’t wait for September.”
SCRIMMAGE THURSDAY: The Falcons will conduct the first of two scrimmages Thursday in the lead-up to their spring game April 14. Jinks said injuries will affect the length of the scrimmage, but it will not change the goals he has for the scrimmage.
“From an offensive standpoint, we want to get [quarterbacks] Grant Loy and Bryce Veasley some quality reps on tape so we can get a clear evaluation of them,” Jinks said. “From a defensive standpoint, we’ll stay basic but watch to see if the habits these guys have learned on the practice field can transfer in a game-type situation.
“This will be the first time we’ll have coach Pelini in the booth, so we’ll see about getting signals in clearly. And we’ll push tempo to put some pressure on them.”
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