By Jeff Goodman
CORAL GABLES, Fla. - When I walked into the weight room, I almost didn't recognize him.
A slimmed-down version of Reggie Johnson was in the midst of his rehab.
I'll be honest. I had written Johnson off the moment I heard the news back in early July that he would be out 5-6 months after suffering a major knee injury.
But that was when he was, well, fat (please don't tell him I said that).
That would put his return around the New Year - and usually, 300-plus pounders (Johnson played at about 310 a year ago) aren't able to come back quickly and in shape after being on the mend for such a lengthy period of time.
But Johnson has dropped about 20 or so pounds and is down in the 285 range - and Larranga and his staff are hopeful he will be able to make an impact when he returns, whether that be in December or January.
"I'm no doctor and just know the doctors told me it would be six months for him to be 100 percent," Larranaga said.
"We're going to have three different seasons," he added. "Without Reggie, when Reggie comes back and then with a healthy Reggie. We're obviously a different team with him."
Johnson gives the Hurricanes something few teams can boast these days: a legitimate inside presence and a guy who can score in the post. He averaged 11.9 points and 9.6 rebounds last season.
Larranga has already gone through plenty of adversity since taking the job down in Miami - as I documented in my story last night - but the return of a sub-300 pound Johnson for ACC play would give the Hurricanes a chance to be an NCAA tournament team this season.