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September 30, 2007

Michigan: Wolverines Rally, Need Repair

Michigan went into Saturday's conference game against Northwestern battling a host of injuries, and the Wolverines left Evanston in significantly worse shape. The team came from behind to earn a 38-16 decision and Chad Henne did play, but tight end Mike Massey, right guard Tim McAvoy and linebacker Chris Graham were all banged up in the effort, putting them in the same boat as five other players whose injuries forced them to watch the game from the sidelines.

The team announced earlier in the week that starting right guard Alex Mitchell would not play against Northwestern due to injury, and that his backup, Jeremy Ciulla, was questionable for the game. Questionable quickly became not up for discussion as neither player so much as dressed.

Starting middle linebacker John Thompson joined the guard duo on the sideline, and his presence was clearly missed fromt he getgo. Backup Obi Ezeh had trouble calling the right formations on defense to counter Northwestern's spread offense, leading Michigan into a 16-7 halftime deficit.

Special teams player Anton Campbell and tackle Perry Dorrestein were also unavailabe for the game, but as the day went on, they would have to make some extra room on the bench.

Starting tight end Mike Massey sustained a leg injury in the contest that put him on crutches for the remainder of the game and head coach Lloyd Carr has not made any speculation as to when Massey will return. Starting linebacker Chris Graham was also hurt, and there appears to be some funny water being served to the team's right guards, as third-string right guard Tim McAvoy sustained an injury in the game as well, sidelining him next to the starting and backup right guards. Who will be willing to step into that doomed position next week is anybody's guess.

West Virginia: Grey Area For White

West Virginia cannot be pleased with anything that happened last Friday night. The Mountaineers were upended by No. 18 USF, the same conference team that upset them last year, and lost their starting quarterback in the process. Junior QB Pat White is listed as day-to-day as he recovers from a bruised thigh he sustained in the second quarter of Friday's game. White did not play in the second half as he hobbled around the sidelines with his thigh tightly wrapped, and it looks like we might have to get used to that picture, at least for a little while.

Head coach RIch Rodriguez said on Sunday that White will need to rest before Rodriguez can think about deciding whether or not White will play in Saturday's game at Syracuse. The nature of the thigh bruise, which White sustained in helmet-on-leg contact as he was tackled at the end of an 18-yard run, puts White in a day-to-day situation. His ability to play will be based on how quickly the bruising goes down. He was not scheduled to practice on Sunday and Monday is an off day for the team, so White has two full days to recouperate before being evaluated in Tuesday practices.

Through 4.5 games, White has completed 61 of 87 passes for 717 yards, 6 touchdowns and one interception. Against USF he completed 12 of 18 passes for 100 yards and threw his only pick of the season.

Jarrett Brown came in to finish the game for the injured White and is the likely candidate to start next week if White cannot go.

USC: Hurting All Over

What a weekend for USC. Unlike five of last week's Top 10, the Trojans actually won their game, hanging on to beat Washington 27-24, but lost their No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll along with a lot of healthy bodies, as injuries hampered five of the Trojans' top players.

It was a good thing that center Matt Spanos' injured triceps had healed enough to allow him to make the trip to Washington, as center Kristofer O'Dowd hurt his kneecap in the first half of the game, taking him out of the action and calling on Spanos to step into the center of the line for the first time since 2005.

Spanos, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound fifth-year senior, was ruled academically ineligible for the 2006 season before tearing a triceps muscle in training camp as he prepared to make a comeback for 2007. Instead of having surgery right away, Spanos decided to take his chances rehabbing the muscle and reaped the rewards last week when he was cleared to play, albeit with a brace protecting his arm. When O'Dowd went down with the kneecap injury, Spanos was called upon to return to duty.

His comeback was not immaculate, as Spanos was called for a penalty on one play and and fumbled a snap on another when his knee brace got caught on his arm brace. But he did his job protecting the quarterback, as John David Booty was sacked only once, and making room for the run game, as the Trojans rushed for 224 yards.

"It was a remarkable return for him," head coach Pete Carroll said.

O'Dowd was not the only casualty on the line as guard Chilo Rachal sprained his knee and also left the game in the first half. Other key injuries included cornerback Shareece Wright's pulled a hamstring muscle, tailback Stafon Johnson's foot injury and tailback C.J. Gable's ongoing groin injury that flared up to him out of the game after the sophomore had dressed, expecting to play. Gable will be reexamined later in the week. Luckily, Wright said his hamstring was not serious enough to keep him out of next week's game.

Carroll put it best: "We really got hammered."

September 29, 2007

Texas: Extreme Deja Vous

Saturday afternoon must have been horrifyingly familiar for No. 7 (for a few more hours) Texas. The Longhorns faced off against Kansas State, the team that kocked them off by a score of 45-42 at the end of last season, thereby roping the Longhorns out of the national title picture and taking out their starting quarterback in the process - quarterback Colt McCoy injured his neck on a one-yard run in the game's opening drive and sat out the rest of the contest. This time it took a little longer, but the same chorus sounded its ugly refrain in Austin: Kansas State topped Texas and injured McCoy while they did so.

This time around, McCoy got almost a full half of football in before the Wildcats compromised his health with a mild concussion. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore QB took a big hit from Kansas State defensive end Clayton Cox with two minutes remaining in the first half. McCoy walked off the field woozy and headed for the locker room, where his status was up for debate throughout the halftime break.

"We discussed it with the trainers and there was a time during halftime when we weren't sure if we would have him available for the third quarter," head coach Mack Brown said after the game. "But after I got to the [press] box I was told he would be available. We spont most of the halftime thinking that we were not going to have him, and so we discussed it in that matter. We just felt like we had to make some plays regardless of who was in there."

At that point, making plays McCoy was not, as the sophomore had completed only 12 of 21 pass attempts in the first half for 120 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. By the end of halftime, however, doctors cleared McCoy to return to the field, and McCoy was back in the game in time for Texas' first drive of the second half. He was yanked again by medical personnel near the end of the game.

But things did not get better for the Longhorns. McCoy finished the game 19-of-39 for 200 yards passing with just one touchdown and four costly interceptions. He also rushed five times for only 13 yards.

Brown did not elaborate on McCoy's injury in his post-game comments, but more information should be available on the status of the quarterback as he is evaluated over the course of the week. As much luster as next Saturday's Red River Shootout with Oklahoma may have lost, the Longhorns will still want their starting quarterback back on the gridiron, concussion-free.

Ulatoski Back Out
Right tackle Adam Ulatoski, who saw his first gametime in three weeks due to a lingering elbow injury, left the game midway through the third quarter with a sprained left knee. He did not return.

September 28, 2007

West Virginia: White Seeing Red

West Virginia quarterback Pat White left Friday's game against USF with a bruised theigh late in the second quarter, but that wasn't the worst news the Mountaineers would receive for the evening. The Heisman Trophy candidate spent the rest of the game on the sideline, noticeably limping around while his teammates passed up several opportunities to get themselves back into a losing ballgame. The result put West Virginia on the bottom half of a 21-13 score, but White's injury is equally upsetting, as the junior quarterback was noticeably in pain throughout the second half and no words have been said about his return.

White took a hit while converting on a run late in the first half to try to get his fifth-ranked team looking like top 5 material once again (at that point, the Mountaineers were trailing 14-0). The helmet-to-theigh contact he sustained did not look good, even from the comfortable distance of my kitchen table, and White returned from the halftime break wrapped in layers of bandaging and, according to ESPN2's witty sideline reporter, "doing some serious grimacing."

Whatever his facial expressions, his body movement said it all - we may have seen the last of the Pat White-Steve Slaton touchdown tandem for a while. Or at least, the last of the 100 percent version.

White was 12-for-18 in those two quarters for an even 100 yards passing with one interception, his first on the season. He also rushed nine times for 36 yards in the contest.

When Jarrett Brown's first pass attempt turned into another fumbled exchange by the Mountaineers, things did not look good for the backup QB. But Brown righted his own ship, to some extent, completing 11 of 29 passes for 149 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He played the entire second half and, if White does not stop limping on that sore hamstring, should see a lot more time in the coming weeks.

Top 25 Updates

Week 5 is upon us and with conference matchups heating up around the country, the injury tally is climbing faster than Tim Tebow's Heisman rating. From No. 1 USC to No. 25-wanna-be Miami, everyone is dealing with something injury-related this week, but some news has been better than others.

Taking it from the top, No. 1 USC's injury report begins with some good news, as senior linebacker Thomas Williams returns to the starting lineup this week for the first time since 2005. Williams sprained his knee cap against Cal in the 2005 season, relegating him to the sideline for the remainder of that year, only to see linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing overtake him on the depth chart in 2006. He played in all 13 games as a fullback last season, but never returned to his preferred strong-side linebacker role. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound senior should get his first start in 19 games on Saturday when the Trojans travel to Washington.

With the unheralded depth at USC, it is a testament to Williams' talent that he was able to crawl his way back up the depth chart (even if Cushing helped in that department by re-spraining his ankle, thereby taking himself out of this week's game). In the 10 games Williams played in 2005, during which he started eight times, Williams recorded 29 tackles, including 4 for a loss and a sack, 3 pass deflections, a forced fumble and an interception he returned for 10 yards. Williams is touted as a utility linebacker that can play any of the three spots, but prefers the strong-side role where he will start on Saturday.

Other good news on the Trokan injury front includes tailback Joe McKnight, who tweaked his knee during a 7-on-7 drill in practices this week, but will be ready for Saturday's game. Senior Chauncey Washington will start the game at tailback and senior center Matt Spanos' triceps is healthy enough to allow him to travel to Washington as a backup to freshman Kristofer O'Dowd.

Headlining the bad news department for USC is freshman linebacker Chris Galippo. After Galippo was bothered by lower back pain all week, he finally got an answer to the source of his troubles, but it wasn't the answer he was hoping to hear. Galippo has a herniated disc in his lower back and will have surgery on Oct. 9 to repair it, meaning he will redshirt the rest of this season. Rehab will be a long, arduous process, but Galippo is confident he will be back in time for spring practices.

Ulatoski Probable For Saturday
No. 7 Texas should have sophomore tackle Adam Ulatoski back for this week's conference game against Kansas State. The 6-foot-8, 300-pound right tackle injured his right elbow three weeks ago in a win over TCU and has missed the last two games while waiting for the elbow to heal.

Not so lucky in Austin are defensive end Eddie Jones, hampered by a left shoulder injury, linebacker Sergio Kindle (right knee) and defensive end Brian Orkapo (right knee), who will all miss Saturday's game.

Cashing In Without Paysinger
No. 11 Oregon is facing off against No. 6 Cal this week in a huge Pac-10 matchup, but inaddition to dealing with the Bears' offense, the Ducks will have to compensate for the loss of wide receiver Brian Paysinger, who is out for the season after injuring his knee last week. The 6-foot-2, 208-pound senior caught nine passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns this season, which led the team through his three games played, and was unquestionably one of the most explosive players on the Ducks' offense - he was responsible for the winning touchdown catch against Oklahoma last season. Since Paysinger redshirted in 2003, he cannot be granted a sixth year of eligibility, so his career at Oregon ends on an injured note.

Senior Cameron Colvin assuaged some of the fears of the newly depleted wide receiver corps when he caught eight passes for 136 yards and a touchdown in last week's win over Stanford, gaining more yards in one game than he earned in the entire 2006 season. Formerly inconsistent Oregon receivers will have to continue to find consistency this week as they face a tough test in No. 6 Cal.

Brennan Back In Action
Never fear, Heisman voters - Colt Brennan should be back in action this week. The leading-insert-statistical-category-here quarterback missed last week's game with a sprained ankle, but expects to lead the No. 19 Warriors when they take on Idaho on Saturday.

Brennan played through initial pain two weeks ago, with the help of a cortisone shot, leading the Warriors to a 49-14 win over UNLV. He sat out last week's contest as a precaution, allowing backup Tyler Graunke to take the stage to the tune of 285 yards and three touchdowns in a 66-10 blasting.

Brennan is understandably excited to take the field again this week as Idaho poses not only a conference opponent, but the Vandals' suspect defense gave up 68 points to Brennan's attack last year, and he's hoping to pad his numbers this week, perhaps with another five-TD performance.

Happy To Wear A Helmet
Miami wide receiver Jermaine McKenzie has never been so excited to put on a helmet. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound freshman broke vertebrae in his neck in a car crash on July 16, and more than two months later, doctors have finally cleared him to put a helmet on. He still does not have the green light to take part in contact drills, but being able to line up in a helmet is a huge step forward for the young player.

Of the three players involved in the crash, McKenzie's injuries were the most severe. Quarterback Robert Marve broke his wrist, which has kept him out of certain drills, while linebacker Colin McCarthy suffered only minor injuries.

September 27, 2007

Auburn: Back In Blackmon

Auburn has been missing starting linebacker Tray Blackmon for the last three weeks, but with their biggest game of the young season scheduled for Saturday, when the Tigers travel to Gainesville to face No. 4 Florida, Auburn will have Blackmon back in the mix. The timing could not be better for the 6-foot, 223-pound linebacker, who had his first career game a year ago against the Gators. In that contest, he recovered a fumble and had a 22-yard return on the play, an effective SEC welcome for the then-freshman. Although he may not start this week, having him available to play will be a big boost for the Tigers, especially with fellow linebacker Merrill Johnson staying home to nurse a hurt shoulder.

Kickoff specialist Tristan Davis will make the trip to Gainesville on Saturday, but head coach Tommy Tuberville is not sure he will play. Davis has missed the entirety of the season thus far with a broken toe. Tuberville said that as of mid-week, senior Pat Lee is running faster than Davis, so the junior may not get into the game.

"You don't want to put him out there just because he used to do it," Tuberville said. "You want to put the best one out there."

Especially when you're facing the nation's No. 4 team.

Motley Back Rolling WIth The Tide
Fans of the Alabama defense can breathe a sigh of relief this week as nose tackle Brian Motley has taken part in multiple full-contact practices for the first time since breaking his ankle in the first game week of the season. The redshirt freshman earned the starting job in preseason camp, but quickly gave it up to Lorenzo Washington when he broke his ankle.

Motley will not overtake Washington as the starter this week, as he was cleared for practice only days ago, but has the chance to get some game time in on Saturday against Florida State, if he successfully completes the rest of this week's practices without incident.

Joining him back at practice was starting inside linebacker Darren Mustin, who had been out with a shoulder injury.

Cincinnati: Mauk Debate

Cincinnati quaterback Ben Mauk has made it very clear to anyone who wants to know that surgically repaired right shoulder or no, he has no intention of sitting out any more games. The senior did plenty of sitting last season, when an injury in the season's first game kept him out for the rest of the season as a junior at Wake Forest. In his new digs at Cincinnati, Mauk earned himself the starting job, only to lose it again for the past two weeks due to soreness in that right shoulder. But given the option, sitting out this weekend's game against San Diego State is not on Mauk's list of things to do.

Through three games, Mauk has completed 39 of 57 passes for 520 yards with five touchdowns and an interception. For the past two weeks, however, junior Dustin Grutza has started for Mauk, and on very short notice. Grutza has gotten the call to start just before gametime in each of the past two weeks and has handled the offense with authority, completing 70.9 percent of his passes (39-of-55) with four touchdowns and no picks.

The senior said he felt fine after practices this week and is ready to start, but with the success the pair has had in the past few weeks, it may be wiser to keep the rotation going.

Together, the QB tandem has led the Bearcats to a 4-0 record and a No. 24 ranking in the AP poll, and it looks like they may stay a team in the coming weeks. Against Marshall, Grutza completed 14 of 20 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns before Mauk came in with a comfortable 19-2 lead. But when the senior could not find his offensive spark later in the game, Grutza came back in behind center.

The two quarterbacks feed off one another effectively, so head coach Brian Kelly is in no rush to put an end to the rhythm they've developed.

"I've got a pretty good situation with both of those guys, and I'll just keep managing it as such," Kelly said.

Back To Center
Moving up the ladder in the Big East, No. 18 USF will have its center back this week in time for the Bulls' matchup with No. 5 West Virginia. Nick Capogna injured his left knee early in the opening game of the season before missing the last two games, but will definitely play on Saturday, according to head coach Jim Leavitt, even if he does not start. WIth the 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior back in the lineup, USF will have far more flexibility in its substitutions, and Jake Griffin, who had been filling in at center, can now go back to his left guard position.

Oklahoma: Wrist Movement Is Just Fine

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy broke a bone in his right hand against Miami, but has found a way to keep playing. The 6-foot-4, 291-pound redshirt freshman missed the following game against Utah State before finding an on-field cast that allowed him to come back last week against Tulsa. McCoy only wears the cast while playing or practicingand although he cannot grab with his right hand while wearing it, he can move his wrist, which gave him enough movement to be able to record his first tackle of the season in last week's game.

When he is not wearing the cast, McCoy tapes his middle and ring finger together to support the broken bone, the fourth metacarpal in his right hand.

Fellow lineman John Williams has not been so lucky. For the third consecutive season, the defensive end has ended his season early due to an injury, this time tearing his Achilles tendon in the Tulsa game. The senior had successful surgery to repair the tendon on Tuesday, and will probably apply for a medical redshirt that will allow him to return for a sixth season of eligibility, but he will not discuss the option with the coaches until later in the season.

Boston College: Falling Eagles

As Saturday's game against the second-best team in the FCS inches closer, No. 12 Boston College is not pleased with the number of players that will be unavailable this weekend. UMass does not exactly rhyme with Appalachian State, but the comparison remains valid as the Minutemen attempt to upend the Eagles in Chestnut Hill on Saturday. Among those likely unable to help keep the FCS program from the upset will be running backs Jeff Smith and L.V. Whitworth, fullback James McCluskey, defensive end Nick Larkin, defensive tackle Brady Smith, linebacker Mike Morissey, safety Wes Davis, cornerback Roderick Rollins and kicker Billy Bennett.

Sophomore running back Jeff Smith has been out since August with a concussion, but made his way back to the field this week. He still has yet to be cleared for full participation in practice, but stepping foot on the field is certainly a positive for him. Head coach Jeff Jagodzinski is holding out hope that the 5-foot-9, 191-pound running back will be available by Saturday, but even if he does receive medical clearance, he has not practiced for three weeks. And if UMass comes to play like the big dogs of the FCS have in recent weeks, putting a rusty player in the game may not be a viable option for the Eagles.

Fellow running back L.V. Whitworth also missed practice time this week with an undisclosed injury. Through three games, the senior has 164 yards on 38 carries and three touchdowns.

McCluskey, a redshirt freshman linebacker-turned-fullback, injured his right knee in last week's win over Army. He has attended practices this week in a walking cast and is definitely out for Saturday. Depending on how quickly the knee heals, the 6-foot-2, 231-pound freshman may miss the following week's game against Bowling Green, as well.

Larkin, a senior, also spent this week's practices on the sidelines, as an arthroscopic knee surgery has kept him out of pads. The 6-foot-4, 241-pound defensive end is likely to miss two more games before attempting to come back to play in the season's back nine.

Smith is out with an ankle injury, and Morissey, Davis, Rollins and Bennett's injuries are all undisclosed.

Hokie Wants A Hardship
Elsewhere in the ACC, Virginia Tech tight end Chris Drager is applying for a medical hardship waiver that will enable him to redshirt his freshman season while retaining four years of eligibility. The true freshman had played in all four games this season before partially tearing the ACL in his right knee during last week's win over William and Mary.

A rule change by the NCAA should help Drager's case. Before this season, no athlete who had played in more than three games could receive a medical hardship waiver, but the NCAA changed the magic number of games played to four at the beginning of the season. As long as the freshman does not play in another game this year, he should be in the clear, and additional playing time is out of the questions as the ACL tear has definitively ended Drager's season.

USC: Are There Any Linebackers Left?

Whoever decided to put an injury hex on USC one position at a time has access to some seriously dark magic. Just as USC entered the season with a laundry list of high-powered running backs, only to see the pool quickly drain down to a puddle, the nation's best crop of linebackers has taken quite a weeding in the past few days. After the news of junior Brian Cushing's re-sprained ankle hit the team, true freshman Chris Galippo one-upped him on Wednesday.

Galippo earned a spot on the special teams squads as a true freshman, earning eight tackles in the 35-or-so plays he's participated in over three games this season. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker has been bothered by lower back pain since August, but the pain has elevated in the past few days. This week, Galippo was hurting so badly he could not sleep at night, and underwent an MRI and X-rays on Wednesday to figure out exactly what is wrong. Among the possibilities are an injury to his sciatic nerve and a herniated disc, but doctors will not know anything for sure utnil the test results come back.

Galippo will stay home on Saturday when the Trojans travel to Washington to take on the Huskies, and if the pain does not dull down, he may take a medical redshirt for the season. Surgery is also a possibility for the freshman, whose back troubles began in high school, but only flared up intensely this week.

Galippo joins a growing list of bruised and battered linebackers on the USC roster: Brian Cushing is fighting that sprained ankle, freshman Malcolm Smith has a hip injury that has kept him out of practice all week; Clay Matthews has a broken thumb and a hurt shoulder, but may have to play anyway.

Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is healthy and will be expected to direct the defense as personnel shifts continue in preparation for Washington quarterback Jake Locker, a known dual threat behind center.

"Basically, everyone is moving around," Maualuga said.

Just as the Trojans' healthy tailbacks delivered performances good enough to keep USC at No. 1, expect the remaining linebackers to step up until the battered can heal.

September 26, 2007

Florida: Harvin Not All There

Florida standout receiver Percy Harvin has been limited in practice for two days now, but that does not mean he will be limited on Saturday when Auburn comes to town. Harvin injured his hip in last week's 30-24 win at Ole Miss and has not fully recovered, but should play anyway, which is good news for Florida -- in addition to having the best game of his career last week (11 catches for 121 yards), the 5-foot-11, 187-pound sophomore leads the Gators in receiving (21 catches for 336 yards and 3 TDs) and ranks third on the team in rushing (20 carries for 155 yards and 1 TD).

Still, missing practice is missing practice (and yes, we all know that what we're talking about is practice), and that concerns head coach Urban Meyer. Harvin was apparently running during Tuesday's session, but left the field early to receive treatment. Harvin may be obscenely talented, but he is only a sophomore. Missing practice is never a good thing for a young player, no matter how much.

"He plays better when he practices," Meyer said. No big surprise there.

Still, Meyer said Harvin should not need more than three days to recover and he is certain that the team's wide receiver-running back-quarterback will be back to his normal versatile state by Saturday.

Wide receiver Andre Caldwell and cornerback Markihe Anderson will most likely remain on the bench this weekend as they rest their respective sprained MCLs. But in the good news department, offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey should be back from his ankle sprain along with defensive tackle Brandon Antwine, whose hyper-extended elbow should be mild enough to allow him some playing time.

USC: Linebacker Losses

Junior linebacker Brian Cushing is not happy. He knew he had a sprained ankle, but until this week, he didn't know how badly sprained it was. Turns out, the junior's sprain is serious enough to keep him out of the lineup for nearly a month. Officially, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound linebacker is listed as doubtful for Saturday's game against Washington, but in reality, Cushing is looking at three weeks of hard sideline time, where he may be joined by several of his linebacking friends.

Cushing, who was a standout defensive end in 2006 before moving back to the strongside linebacker spot for his junior season, re-sprained an already hurting ankle last Saturday. Medical personnel thought he had cracked a bone in the ankle, but an MRI showed only a sprain. Through three games this season, Cushing has recorded just one tackle, as the ankle has been a bother since USC's season opener.

USC's seemingly endless depth would soften the blow of losing Cushing if the Trojans were not also in danger of losing his backup. Junior linebacker Clay Matthews sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder in the game against Washington State, and adding that pain to the cast he's wearing around a broken thumb on his left hand, he has become one bruised backup. His status for Saturday has not yet been revealed.

Freshman linebacker Malcolm Smith is also hurting, bothered by a strained hip that may keep him off the field this weekend as well. All together, the nation's No. 1 team has had some fancy footwork to do in the compensation department.

With a mobile quarterback stepping in on the other side of the ball this week (Washington's Jake Locker), USC put together some smooth moves to fill the growing number of holes on defense. Senior Keith Rivers will move from weakside to stringside linebacker and junior Kaluka Maiava will step into the weakside spot, and everyone is going to have to play tougher (and safer) than normal.

Junior cornerback Cary Harris is doubtful for this weekend's game due to a dislocated shoulder, but senior center Matt Spanos and sophomore cornerback Vincent Joseph both returned to practice this week. Spanos has been fighting a triceps injury while Joseph is recovering from that freak bruised larynx he suffered two weeks ago. Vincent will back up C.J. Gable in the kick return spot on Saturday.

Arizona State: Devils Back In Action

Arizona State got plenty of good news this week. Aside from a 4-0 record after a 44-32 come-from-behind win over Oregon State last Saturday, a No. 23 ranking in the AP poll and plenty of national respect, the Sun Devils should have a bunch of players back up to speed in the coming weeks, just in time to tackle the meat of the Pac-10 schedule. Safety Josh Barrett, tight end Brent Miller and defensive tackle Saia Falahola are all on the express road to recovery.

Safety Josh Barrett, a graduate student and one of ASU's best athletes, is still feeling the effects of a pectoral injury, but was in good enough shape to play in last week's win over Oregon State. Head coach Dennis Erickson said Barrett had his best game of the season last week after recording four solo tackles and an interception. He should be back in action again this Saturday when the Sun Devils take on Stanford on the road.

Tight end Brent Miller is "fine," according to Erickson, after tweaking his knee on Saturday. The injury occured on the same knee the senior had sprained earlier in the season. Erickson said it appears Miller just broke up some lingering scar tissue, which apparently sounds much worse than it is. He should also play this week.

ASU's defensive line should get a boost next week, although it doesn't seem to need it, as the Sun Devils have limited opponents to a per-game average of 103 yards rushing this season. Still, having extra bodies up front never hurt anyone, so the Sun Devils are pleased to be getting redshirt freshman Saia Falahola back from a triceps injury he suffered during training camp. The 6-foot-2, 301-pound defensive tackle practiced Tuesday for the first time since August and appears to be a week away from playing time.

Seven weeks on the sideline will surely make any player rusty, but Falahola is confident he will work the kinks out of his game before taking the field in two weeks against Washington State. There are sure to be plenty of kinks, however, as Falahola is playing defensive tackle for the first time this year -- he was an offensive lineman prior to this season.

And The Bad News
Defensive tackle Michael Marquardt is still listed as questionable for Saturday's game at Stanford. His ankle injury kept him out of last week's game as well, but Erickson said he is walking better. Cornerback Travis Smith is also questionable after injuring his foot in last week's game.

Michigan: Henne Can Play, But Will He?

Michigan quarterback and (former) Heisman trophy candidate Chad Henne has received medical clearance to return to the field as the 2-2 Wolverines' signal-caller. According to medical personnel, the senior has recovered enough from the right knee sprain he suffered in a Week 2 loss to Oregon to play this week at Michigan. But just because he can play does not mean that he will play.

On Monday, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr would not commit to starting his one-time star quarterback in Saturday's game at Northwestern. And why should he? With Henne under center, Michigan lost the most embarrassing game in the history of college football, followed by an almost equally-humiliating performance against Oregon. With freshman Ryan Mallett calling the shots, the Wolverines have crawled their way back to 2-2, and kept their Big Ten pride alive after beating Penn State last week.

Carr said "we will have to see" whether or not Henne will start this week's game. Through a game and a half this season, Henne completed 31 of his 60 pass attempts for 405 yards with two picks and two TDs. Efficiency-wise, Mallett is playing worse than that, completeing 29 of 61 passes for 309 yards, two picks and three TDs. Carr said he is encouraged by where Henne is, but he will wait until later in the week to make a decision based on the quarterback's mobility (or lack thereof).

Based on his practice record, Henne seems to be moving quite well -- according to Carr, Henne took snaps in every practice leading up to the Penn State game, but the coach said that he was not in good enough shape to play at all in that game.

But instead of retreating to the press box, where he spent all of the Notre Dame game, Henne spent last Saturday stalking the sidelines with a headset, coaching Mallett after every offensive series, helping to mentor the man that may have already relieved him of his job.

As for the rumored quarterback controversy brewing in Ann Arbor, Carr does not think it's an issue. He's obviously pleased to have two men under center who can run the offense, but his unwillingness to intimate that Henne, if healthy, will play, much less name a starter for the game, brings into question just how much confidence Carr has in his falling-star quaterback. Mallett may think that this is "Chad's team," as he repeatedly said during interviews on Tuesday, but it may end up Mallett's team if Carr does not put Henne back in this weekend.

The latest depth chart still lists Mallett as the starting quarterback, with sophomore David Cone as his backup.

With the meat of the Big Ten schedule now upon them, the Wolverines should probably revert to experience in the pocket. As a four-year starter, Henne's experience dwarfs Mallett's, and given the team's 2-2 record and the freshman's propensity to rush plays, keeping Mallett in at this point may not be the smartest of ideas. Henne's record should speak for itself. If the senior can play, he should play.

September 25, 2007

UCLA: Quarterback Carousel Goes Around Again

In the carousel ride that is the quarterback situation at UCLA, junior Ben Olson just got a turn in his favor. Patrick Cowan may have helped the Bruins beat Washington last Saturday, but with a parcial tear in the MCL in his right knee, Cowan will be out for three weeks and Olson will return to his former post as captain of the UCLA ship.

The back-and-forth game that UCLA has been forced to play with its top quarterbacks the past two seasons is a complex tale of hurt and healing. Cowan got his first start of the season last weekend while Olson was sidelined with recurring headaches he sustained after taking far too many hits in a loss to Utah the previous week. Cowan lost his starting job to Olson in the spring, but could not have played in the first three games of the season even if he had won the job, as a hamstring injury kept him off the field.

In 2006, the two quarterbacks played the same exchange game: Olson sustained a knee injury in the fifth game of the season that sidelined him for the rest of the year, allowing Cowan to step in under center. That was the short-term plan for this season, until Cowan hurt himself as well.

Cowan played three healthy quarters on Saturday before sustaining the injury early in the fourth, making room for redshirt freshman McLeod Bethel-Thompson to get in the game, as both seasoned quarterbacks were hurting. Bethel-Thompson led the Bruins to three scoring drives, but still has yet to throw a pass in a collegiate game.

Olson is 49-of-97 for 702 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions in three games this season. All five touchdowns came in the season opener, a 45-17 victory over Stanford.

If UCLA is going to compete for a Pac-10 title this season, which looked highly likely before that ugly loss to Utah, Olson is going to have to play more like he did against Stanford, and much, much less like he did in his other two games. With Cowan unavailable for at least the next few weeks, the pressure will be on the redshirt junior to minimize mistakes and capitalize on the potential of this team. And show that that Utah performance was a fluke, not a premonition.

September 24, 2007

Oklahoma: Major Victory, Major Injury

Oklahoma defensive end John Williams put a damper on the Sooners' 62-21 victory over Tulsa when he tore his Achilles tendon in the third quarter of Friday's game, sidelining him for the rest of the year. This is not the first time Williams has felt the pain of a season-ending injury. The 6-foot-5, 256-pound defensive end was primed for a big season in 2005 before tearing his ACL in the season opener -- but not before he could record four tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery, just enough to make Oklahoma coaches drool about the power he would bring to the Sooner defense once healthy. Now, the coaches may never find out; since Williams redshirted in 2003, this should be his final year of eligibility, unless an application for a sixth season is approved by the NCAA.

In four games at defensive end this season, where he was splitting time with sophomore Auston English and senior Alonzo Dotson, Williams had seven tackles, including four for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Without Williams in the lineup, junior Alan Davis and redshirt freshman Jeremy Beal should see more playing time, and English and Dotson may take additional snaps, as well.

Running back Chris Brown is also dealing with injury this week after taking a huge hit from Tulsa DB John Destin in the fourth quarter. Brown took his time getting up off the field, and although head coach Bob Stoops does not think Brown went unconscious on the play, he admits that the sophomore certainly was dazed. No decision has been made as of yet regarding his status for Saturday's game at Colorado, but expect him to play.

Across the Red River Rivalry
At the other end of the Texas-Oklahoma divide, the Longhorns are dealing with some aches and pains of their own. Senior cornerback Brandon Foster aggrivated a quadricep injury in warmups on Saturday and missed the entirety of Texas' 58-14 thrashing of Rice. Sophomore Deon Beasley came in for the injured Foster, marking just the second start in his career.

South Carolina: Another Big Change

Steve Spurrier was eager to announce on Monday that the Gamecocks would switch quarterbacks before next Saturday's game. He did not anticipate having to switch linebackers, as well. Senior Jasper Brinkley will miss the rest of the season after spraining his right knee against No. 2 LSU on Saturday. The 6-foot-2, 262-pound middle linebacker has not yet chosen a date for his surgery.

Switching quarterbacks because it will help the team is one thing, but scrambling to fill Brinkley's shoes on defense is quite another. Brinkley was an All-SEC first-team selection as a junior and entering his senior season, found himself on a plethora of preseason watch lists for postseason awards. He led the team (and returning SEC players) in tackles last season, with 107, including 85 solo stops - more than twice the total of the team's second-leading tackler. The senior was on track for another record-breaking year this season.

In four games, Brinkley has 21 tackles, including 15 solo. He leads the team in interceptions with two picks, including one in the final seconds to seal a 16-12 win over Georgia. He has started all 17 games since arriving on campus, leaving the Gamecocks without their most seasoned linebacker as they prepare to take on Mississippi State.

Brinkley can apply for a medical redshirt that would give him another year of eligibility, but team spokesmen have not confirmed whether or not Brinkley will choose to do so.

South Carolina got burned last week at No. 2 LSU, dropping a 28-16 decision that featured precious little Gamecock defense. Losing Brinkley will not help South Carolina climb their way back up the rankings (they fell to No. 16 after the loss dropped them to 3-1), and Spurrier is going to have to find someone (or several players) who are able to step up on defense and shore up a shaky unit. They may be able to stop Mississippi State, but Florida will not be so forgiving.

South Carolina appears to be losing defensive starters, as Brinkely's injury makes the Gamecocks two-for-two in season-ending injuries in the past two weeks. Lineman Nathan Pepper injured his left knee on an interception return for a touchdown against South Carolina State and is also out for the season.

September 23, 2007

Ohio State: Beanie Says No Problem

Chris "Beanie" Wells has a simple message for anyone who might be worried about the state of his ankle after the tailback limped out of Saturday's win over Northwestern: "I'm fine." The sophomore said after the game that had the Buckeyes needed him (which they happily did not in a 58-7 steamrolling of the Wildcats), he could have returned to the game. Wells did plenty of damage before rolling his left ankle at the end of a six-yard gain on his first carry of the third quarter, as he tallied 100 yards rushing for the third-straight week in just one half of football.

Wells was more than willing to jump back in any time the Buckeyes called upon him to do so, but the coaching staff was understandably wary of overworking their workhorse, especially since freshman running back Brandon Saine had arthroscopic knee surgery on Friday to repair cartilage torn in his knee. If no unforseen side effects hamper his recovery, Ohio Sate should have Saine up and running again in another two weeks, in time for the Oct. 6 trip to Purdue. But in the meantime, with Saine still sidelined and Wells nursing that turned ankle, the Ohio State coaches are in no mood to put their RBs under any undue stress.

Junior running back Maurice Wells (no relation) filled in against Northwestern when Chris Wells went down, as did walk-on redshirt freshman Marcus Williams. Maurice gained 44 yards on 15 carries and scored two touchdowns on Saturday. He will definitely see more carries in practice this week while the starters work on getting back up to speed.

In case unforseen circumstances do come to fruition in the case of Saine's recuperation, Ohio State may begin using true freshman Daniel Herron in its backfield roataion.

Spartans' Sparse Offensive Line
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Michigan State has lost another offensive lineman. Starting left guard Kenny Shane injured his right knee during Saturday's 31-14 win over Notre Dame. The senior limped off the field after sustaining the injury on the second play of the game, returned for a few plays, but missed the entire second half.

Junior Mike Bacon came in to replace Shane, but his movement required some complex shifting. Bacon was originally to start at right guard, where the Spartans are missing starter Roland Martin due to injury, but Mike Gyetvai was able to start at that position on Saturday, seeing his first action of 2007 after returning from shoulder surgery.

Strong safety Nehemiah Warrick and cornerback Kendell Davis-Clark both played in backup roles after sustaining injuries in earlier games, but cornerback Ross Weaver's foot injury kept him from traveling to South Bend.

USC: Banged Up, But Unbeaten

USC rolled to victory, again, on Saturday, topping Washington State 47-14, but for all the glory of the victory, there was an awful lot of agony being felt in the locker room. Cornerback Cary Harris and linebacker Brian Cushing headline the latest list of casualties for the No. 1 Trojans, but the secondary can only sustain so many hits before the nation's best coaching staff will have to change up some personnel pairings and get some healthy bodies back defending passes.

Harris, a junior second-year starter at cornerback, dislocated his right shoulder in the first quarter of Saturday's game. Trainers popped the shoulder back into place, but he was unable to return to the field and will need an MRI to determine the extent of the damage. As of Sunday he is doubtful for next week's game at Washington.

If Harris cannot go, sophomore Shareece Wright will most likely take over the starting job at corner and nickelback Mozique McCurtis will move to corner to provide more help at that thinning position. Wright came in for Harris at the end of the game on Saturday, as well.

With Harris out and the number of available defensive backs dwindling, true freshman Marshall Jones was stripped of his redshirt when USC coaches called him onto the field late in the game. Jones played the final series and broke up a pass, but USC lost a redshirt player for the year by putting him in.

On the growing list of battered-up secondary players, Harris joins cornerback/safety Josh Pinkard, who is out for the season with a torn knee ligament and backup corner Vincent Joseph, who is still recovering from the bruised larynx he suffered against Nebraska.

After Washington, USC will face Stanford and Arizona, which should give the bruised Trojans sufficient time to get healthy before the real tests of the season come at Cal, Arizona State and UCLA.

Cushing, also a junior, reaggravated his sprained ankle on Saturday, an injury he suffered in the season opener, saying that "it popped." He was more optimistic than Cushing about the state of his injury, but is not certain to play in next week's game.

Six Years and Counting
Sixth-year senior running back Hershel Dennis got into a game on Saturday for the first time since 2004, as knee injuries had kept him off of the field for the last two seasons. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound tailback gained 14 yards on four carries.

UCLA: Quarterbacks Thinning Rapidly

Junior quarterback Patrick Cowan had the opportunity of the year on Saturday afternoon. With starting QB Ben Olson sidelined with lingering headaches, Cowan stepped in under center, hoping to lead UCLA to a win against conference foe Washington. The Bruins did get the win, and Cowan led them to it, but he left the field on crutches, not his teammates' shoulders. Not exactly how Cowan hoped his 2007 comeback would begin.

Cowan sprained his right knee in the fourth quarter of the 44-31 win after taking a hit on an interception play. Cowan left the game after completing 17 of 30 passes for 147 yards with a touchdown and a pick, not terrible numbers for a guy who is just coming back from injury. UCLA is running through its quarterbacks quickly, and all they were left with to finish out the game was a walk-on redshirt freshman. McLeod Bethel-Thompson stepped in under center for the remainder of the win, but didn't attempt a pass, allowing the run game to spin its wheels to seal the win.

If Cowan's injury is serious enough to keep him off of the practice field this week, and if Olson's headaches continue to bother him, Bethel-Thompson could be called upon to lead the Bruins' offense for the forseeable future. And with a trip to Oregon State on tap for next week, UCLA is holding its breath on Olson being ready to go by next Saturday.

As of Sunday, UCLA officials were unable to comment on Olson's status. The junior underwent exertion tests on Friday, but is expected to be re-evaluated before the team goes back to practice this week. His concussion-like symptoms have continued following the team's Sept. 15 loss to Utah, but UCLA is neither willing to let Olson return to practice nor call his symptoms an actual concussion. They're keeping him on the sideline until he gets better or they can diagnose exactly what's prolonging the symptoms.

Other Aches and Pains
Receiver Gavin Ketchum left the game in the second quarter after injuring his right ankle on a 23-yard reception for a first down. The 6-foot-5, 202-pound junior was on crutches after the game and does not know how long he'll be out.

A sprained ankle has also sidelined senior receiver Marcus Everett, as he missed Saturday's game, but he expects to be ready for Saturday's game at Oregon State. Everett had 10 receptions for 134 yards in the Bruins' first three games.

September 21, 2007

Ohio State: "He Got Whacked"

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel certainly has a way with words. Although the coach would not explain what exactly the injury is that is keeping Dane Sanzenbacher, the Buckeyes' No. 3 receiver, on the sidelines for Saturday's game against Northwestern, he succinctly told the media that during last week's game against Washington, the freshman "got whacked."

The 5-foot-11, 178-pound freshman has four receptions for 20 yards and a touchdown this season, good enough for fourth on the team. Sophomore Ray Small will take over the No. 3 spot after missing the first two games with a sprained ankle. He returned to the gridiron last week, when he caught one pass for four yards and returned one punt for 10. The Buckeyes could really use an extra spark on offense, and hopefully Small is it.

Tressel also isn't showing his cards regarding freshman tailback Brendon Saine, who has an undisclosed injury that makes his questionable for Saturday's game. (If it were at all possible to disclose any less information, Tressel would. Unfortunately, he felt the need to give the player's name.) Saine ran for a 37-yard touchdown on the final play of last week's contest, but Tressel contends that Saine suffered the injury during that game. If Saine cannot go, he will leave starter Crhis "Beanie" Wells as the lone productive rusher in the backfield, and Wells is suffering from some tighness in his back. But Tressel thinks Wells' tightness will be gone by game time.

Saine has rushed for 153 yards in three games with two touchdowns, averaging more than 50 yards per game and making him the team's second-leading rusher, after Wells' 108 yard-per-game mark. If Saine has to sit this one out, junior Maurice Wells will step in as the primary backup. Freshmen walk-on Marcus Williams or Daniel Herron could also see some time in the backfield, which should get plenty of action against a soft Northwestern team. Herron had been redshirting, but if either Wells is hurt in the game, he may be forced to shed the shirt and take the field.

Sophomore kicker Aaron Pettrey, who missed the first three games of the season with a groin injury, will play.

UCLA: Battered Bruins

If UCLA was looking to quarterback Ben Olson to help them bounce back from last week's 44-6 embarrasment of a loss to Utah, they would do well to look elsewhere. The junior has been officially ruled out of Saturday's game against Washington, even in a backup role. Olson is still suffering from lingering headaches and nausea caused by the five sacks and innumerable hits he took last Saturday, but doctors have yet to call it a concussion. UCLA school policy says that players must have a symptom-free 24 hours prior to kickoff in order to take the field after a head injury, and Olson will not make it, which leaves the offense in the hands of junior Patrick Cowan.

Although Cowan himself missed the last month with injury, in the form of a partially torn hamstring, head coach Karl Dorrell is confident that Cowan is healthy enough to run and play to his full potential.

One curveball the switch will throw Washington is that Cowan is right-handed, while Olson is left-handed.

But the real challenge lies with UCLA. The Bruins' offense ranks 54th in the nation and is tied for 67th in scoring offense, notching 26 points per game. With Olson and wide receiver Marcus Everett on the bench, Everett because of a sprained ankle, the Bruins will have to find some new playmakers to step up if they are going to regain their position among the Pac-10 elite.

LSU Minus 2 For South Carolina

LSU will be at a two-man disadvantage when the Tigers take on South Carolina this weekend. After injuring a knee in Wednesday's practice, starting defensive tackle Charles Alexander is gone for the season, leaving the No. 2 Tigers in a somber mood before they take on the 12th-ranked Gamecocks. LSU will have quarterback Matt Flynn back in action, but wide receiver Early Doucet is unlikely to play. Head coach Les Miles has been intentionally vague about the severity of Doucet's injury, but Alexander is definitely gone, while South Carolina will have cornerback Brandon Isaac back in action come Saturday.

Losing Alexander, a member of the nation's best defensive line, is a blow to the Tigers, especially coming in the week of a conference game, but one that they should be able to overcome. The 6-foot-3, 292-pound junior had tallied six tackles and two quarterback hurries in three games for the Gamecocks before suffering the season-ending injury. The team is looking into medical redshirt options that will give Alexander an additional year of eligibility, but in the meantime, LSU has a plan.

Alexander is certainly an experienced player, having seen time in 16 games as a Tiger with eight starts, but with senior All-American Glenn Dorsey available to step up his play in Alexander's absence (as if the best can get any better), the Tigers are not too worried. Especially considering the fact that Alexander made only one tackle in each of his last two games and has yet to record a sack or tackle for a loss on the season. Dorsey, by his side, has two sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss so far. And don't expect him to stop there.

Junior Marlon Favorite is the most likely candidate to take Alexander's spot. The 6-foot-1, 302-pound defensive tackle started four games last season and recorded 18 tackles. He has already seen time this season, with three tackles to his record, as has sophomore Al Woods, Dorsey's backup. He could also see some action in Alexander's old post, especially if his four tackles, one sack and fumble recovery are any indication of what he is capable of producing.

Losing Alexander is certainly going to be mentally tough on the team, but physically, they should be able to keep on rolling without missing too many steps.

Miles has said that Flynn will play on Saturday after taking most of the snaps in mid-week practices, but has not indicated whether or not the senior will get the start. Flynn is still recovering from a high ankle sprain he suffered against Virginia Tech two weeks ago, and should he not be ready, sophomore Ryan Perrilloux will lead the offense.

Miles is still not going into the specifics of Doucet's injury, which is most likely a pulled groin, and has declined to speculate on a timetable for the receiver's return. Although he has only played in two games this season, the senior leads the team in receiving with 15 receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns.

Not Getting Gamecocky
After a scare injury earlier in the week, senior Brandon Isaac has gotten the okay to play in Saturday's game. The
cornerback (who began the year at safety) redshirted the entire 2006 season after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery last August. The news got worse for Isaac when he bruised his left shoulder, the same one on which he had the surgery, in last weekend's game against South Carolina State. The latest injury was painful, but not damaging enough to keep him out of this weekend's SEC showdown. Isaac will not start, but defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said he will play.

True freshman Cliff Matthews should be starting this week after practicing Thursday with a rubberized cast on his hand. He should get the start at weakside linebacker after playing defensive end for the first two games of the season.

Freshman receiver Chris Culliver will travel to LSU despite his banged up ankle, and may play, according to head coach Steve Spurrier. Safety Darian Stewart also hurt an ankle this week, but should start anyway.

Definitely not playing this week for the Gamecocks are offensive lineman Gurminder Thind, who was wearing a walking boot on Thursday, guard Kevin Young and linebackers Dustin Lindsey and Yvan Banag.

September 20, 2007

Rutgers: Kitchen Back In

Backup safety Zaire Kitchen tore his ACL 10 months ago, and has been fighting every day to get back onto the field with his Scarlet Knight teammates. Last saturday, the sophomore finally got to play again, and Rutgers is just as happy as he is to have Kitchen running smoothly.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound DB played in 11 games as a freshman before tearing his ACL against Syracuse on Nov. 25. He excelled on special teams, finishing with eight tackles on those units, good enoguh for third on the team. He also recorded two solo tackles in the win over No. 3 Louisville and quickly built a reputation as one of the team's biggest hitters. It took him longer than expected to get back to get back on his feet because the surgery on his knee was not his first -- Kitchen had surgery on the same knee for a similar injury he sustained during high school.

He missed all of spring ball and the first two games of the season before taking the field last saturday as Rutgers rolled to a 59-0 shutout of Norfolk State.

Back On Their Horses
Starting defensive tackle Pete Tverdov came back to practice this week after missing the first three games for an undisclosed reason. He might be ready for Sept. 29's matchup with Maryland. Backup wide receivers Keith Taylor and James Townsend also came back to practice this week, Taylor nursing a shoulder injury and Townsend with a hamstring injury.

Washington: Hamstring One, Hamstring Two

If there's one thing to be said for Washington cornerback Byron Davenport, it's that he's got an impeccable sense of balance. The junior pulled his left hamstring on the second day of fall camp, sidelining him for the season opener against Syracuse. He finally got back into his groove in time for the Boise State game, but only lasted four snaps before his right hamstring tightened on him, keeping him out of last Saturday's matchup with Ohio State. After two solid days of practice this week, however, Davenport is finally ready to get back into the game. And hopes to stay there.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound DB has been waiting a long time to play football at Washington. In 2004 and 2005, Davenport played for conference rival UCLA. He redshirted the 2004 season before seeing time in all 12 games in '05, finishing his time there with 25 tackles. Last year Davenport enrolled at El Camino Community College in Torrance, Calif., where he took classes but did not play football. He transfered to Washington this past summer, in time for the 2007 season.

In the few snaps he has taken for the Huskies, Davenport has revealed his potential as a playmaker -- on back-to-back plays against Boise State he had an open-field tackle for a loss on third down and nearly blocked the ensuing punt, but that's all the time his spasming hamstring would allow him.

Davenport should split time with freshman Vonzell McDowell and sophomore Matt Mosley at the cornerback position this week against USC, pending any further pain in his hamstring(s).

Howell Back In Action
Senior linebacker Dan Howell missed last week's game with a sprained knee, making room for fifth-year senior Kyle Trew to get his first career start. Howell was running well in practice this week and should be back in his starting position come Saturday.

Your Guess Is As Good As Mine
Backup linebacker Matt Houston suffered an undisclosed injury on a special teams play during last week's game, according to head coach Tyrone Willingham. The sophomore was limited in practices this week, and Willingham has not indicated whether or not he will take the field on Saturday.

Defensive end Darrion Jones returned to full activity this week after recovering from an unspecified ailment. Whatever it was had kept him out of action since preseason camp.

Cal: Foot Injuries Fading

Starting defensive linemen Matt Malele and Rulon Davis suffered foot injuries last week in the process of mauling Louisiana Tech 42-12, but the Bears won't be scrambling to fill their spots for long - MRIs on both players revealed that neither injury is as severe as originally thought: Malele has a strained muscle on the bottom of his foot and Davis has a sprained foot. Both players are listed as day-to-day but head coach Jeff Tedford is not sure if either will be ready to play in Saturday's game at Arizona.

Both players spent Sunday's conditioning workout on crutches as Malele was thought to have torn a tendon in his foot and Davis was thought to have a stress fracture. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory was already searching for long-term replacements for the players, especially Malele, who is the Bears' most experienced lineman with 21 starts to his name. The MRI results mean that both will be back on the gridiron much sooner than expected, which is good news for the Bears.

Although, truth be told, the team was not all that worried to begin with. Even without Malele and Davis, several players have emerged at defensive line that have the Bears feeling pretty comfortable. Junior Mika Kane missed his last two starts because of a concussion, but is now healthy again and should be back in this week's lineup. Senior John Allen, sophomore Tad Smith and true freshman Cameron Jordan are all available, and capable, to take Davis' defensive end spot, and should share time there.

Smith fought for a starting role during training camp but lost the competition to Davis. Still, he has seen consistent playing time this season after redshirting in 2005 and missing all of last season with a knee injury. He hopes to replace Malele in the field general role on the defensive line come Saturday, although his experience cannot stack up to that of the fifth-year senior.

At the other defensive end position, sophomore Tyson Alualu continues to produce for the Bears.

This D line depth is no accident - Cal lost three starters from last year's line and spent a good chunk of training camp evaluating players at those positions. They've now created a team of players with the versatility to play inside and outside, which comes in handy in times of injury.

Elsewwhere on the defense, strong-side linebacker Zach Follett remains day-to-day with a neck stinger.

No Touches For Jackson
Wide receiver and return specialist DeSean Jackson is not getting many, if any, touches during practice this week, as he is still bothered by a thumb injury he sustained in the season opener against Tennessee. He is wearing a cast for the week.

UCLA: Cowan To Start

After last week's horrifyingly bad 44-6 loss to broken Utah, UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell is understandably in the hot seat this week, when his Bruins take on Washington in their second conference game of the season. Unfortunately for Dorrell, his headaches look like they're continuing along with quarterback Ben Olson's, as the redshirt junior has missed practices all week with headaches that will most likely keep him out of the game. Junior Patrick Cowan will probably take his place under center, but he's not exactly at full strength, either.

Cowan, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound redshirt junior, played in all 13 games last season. He is used to the be-ready-in-case-of-injury role, as Cowan took over starting duties last season when Olson went down with injury, and started the final eight games of the year. His claim to fame thus far is leading the Bruins to victory against USC at the end of last season. Cowan completed 52.5 percent of his passes for 1,782 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions, but lost his starting job to Olson during spring practices. He is clearly experienced, except that he's not quite healthy.

Cowan just returned from a partially torn hamstring that he suffered a month ago, so although he's been cleared to play, he may not be raring to go. Reports say although his leadership skills are up to snuff, he looked rusty in early-week practices.

Olson's mysterious headaches are not being called a concussion, but he was certainly hit hard, repeatedly, by Utah last week (he took five sacks in the blowout). His "lingering headaches" have been painful enough to keep him out of several days of practice, but the trainers are still not calling it a concussion. They are understanably wary of the label, since two other players are dealing with concussions - defensive end Nikola Dragovic and linebacker Aaron Whittington, neither of whom were fully concious after taking their respective hits. Olson, on the other hand, was coherent after the game.

During Thursday's practice, Olson will undergo an exertion test that UCLA requires of all athletes with concussions and concussion-like symptoms. If he passes the test and is symptom-free for the 24 hours prior to kickoff, he will be made available for Saturday's game, although Dorrell still may not play him to avoid risking further injury to the head.

Filling More Voids
Guard Shannon Tevaga is still out with an injured right knee, and while P.J. Irvin was supposed to start in his place, Micah Reed and Nate Skaggs will also get some time in the rotation.

Wide receiver Marcus Everett sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter of last week's game and spent early-week practices on crutches. Dorrell said it is unlikely Everett will play Saturday due to tenderness to the ankle, even though X-rays came back negative and there is not much swelling. In his place, sophomore Osaar Rasshan should see some time at backup.

Fullback Michael Pitre is continuing rehab work to heal the bone bruise on his knee, but he is still at least a week away from seeing any game time. He has yet to play this season.

All in all, the Bruins could take the field Saturday without seven of the 20 returning starters on the roster.

September 18, 2007

Nebraska: Down And Out

Nebraska lost a lot to USC last Saturday - a high ranking, momentum and offensive lineman Andy Christensen. The junior will miss the remainder of the season with a left knee injury sustained in the game, but coach Bill Callahan has not given any more details or specifics on the diagnosis. Christensen was one of the most experienced linemen on the Huskers' roster, having started six of last season's final eight games. Callahan said that Christensen is the only player that has been ruled out of this Saturday's matchup with Ball State, but did not discuss who might replace the 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman.

Utah: Injury Roll Call

Utah's injury report is reading more like a novel every week, but after thrashing then-No. 11 UCLA 44-6 last week without the team's starting quarterback or running back, among other producers, the growing list of injuries is now something head coach Kyle Whittingham can grin and bear, rather than grimace and bemoan.

The Utah coach is in no hurry to pick a signal caller for Saturday's matchup with UNLV, since his backups put together head-turning performances against UCLA. Starting quarterback Brian Johnson has been out since separating his shoulder in the season opener three weeks ago, but started throwing again during Monday's practice. Johnson is about 80 percent healthy, according to WIttingham, and the coach will not put him in until he reaches 90. Trying to balance caution with undue paranoia, Wittingham is listening to doctors and trainers while trying to figure out who is man under center will be, but has no problem leaving UNLV with three names to prepare for.

Johnson believes he can be ready by Saturday, but senior Tommy Grady and freshman Corbin Louks are both ready to step up at quarterback as they did last week. Louks plays a similar style to Johnson and Wittingham plans to include him in every week's game plans, but the coach also said he has more confidence in Grady than ever after Saturday's win -- the senior completed 17 of 30 pass attempts for 246 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He completed seven passes in the entire 2006 season.

As Johnson starts making his comeback, other players are still working on theirs. Junior offensive tackle Corey Seiuli sprained his ankle on Saturday and was held out of practice on Monday, but hopes to return by the end of the week.

Backup tight end Colt Sampson has spent the last few weeks recovering from a sprained MCL and remains questionable for Saturday's game. The junior was expected to return this week, but his recuperation has been slower than expected, as soreness and stiffness in his knees have replaced the pain of the MCL injury. His status may change as the week progresses.

Still, if Utah could dismantle the nation's No. 11 team using a fleet of backups, maybe they ought to keep doing what they're doing and use the backup guys. Here's to the no-names making mincemeat of big names out in Utah.

Michigan: Henne Healing, Slowly

Michigan may have brought itself about a half-crawl closer to the door of the doghouse by pummeling Notre Dame on Saturday, but the Wolverines should be prepared to get right back inside after Penn State comes to town this weekend, especially since Chad Henne may not be ready to play by the time Saturday rolls around. Henne watched last week's game from the comfort of the press box with a brace protecting the right knee he sprained two weeks ago against Oregon, and head coach Lloyd Carr is in no hurry to rush a still-healing Henne back to the field.

The most recent version of the Wolverines' depth chart lists Ryan Mallett as the starting quarterback, and the freshman earned the spot last week, leading Michigan to a 38-0 win, their first victory of the season. Henne remains "day-to-day," but Carr told reporters in his weekly press conference that Henne will know when he's ready to return.

"It's really how effective you can be and how much discomfort you can endure," Carr said. "That's the nature of the game."

Carr is willing to suspend his no-practice-no-play policy in the case of Henne, as the four-year starter has more than enough experience to play without having practiced the day (or week) before. And Henne is certainly antsy to get back on the field for Penn State, as he is a native Pennsylvanian and chose to attend Michigan over PSU.

Senior tailback Mike Hart has stressed that Henne is more improtant to his team than many outsiders realize, and there are plenty of plays in the book that Henne is capable of running far more smoothly than Mallett can. Henne allows the offense to expand, according to Hart, something it must do against a stout Nittany Lion defense.

That, and find some defense.

Unsupporting Cast
Backup tailback Carlos Brown is wearing a cast to protect the right hand he broke during preseason camp, and has had trouble holding onto the ball. He blames the cast for the fumble he committed late in last week's game. He is frustrated with his performance, but obviously wants to keep playing, despite the problems the cast has caused him. Carr expects him to remain in the lineup this week.

Freshman receiver Junior Hemingway is scheduled to return to practice this week after missing last week's game with an undisclosed injury.

USC: Big Scare For Joseph

USC cornerback Vincent Joseph had the scare of his life on Saturday. After being tackled while returning a kickoff against Nebraska, the sophomore left the field on a stretcher, unable to breathe. He sustained a bruised larynx and neck sprain on the hit and spent some time in a local hospital before donning a neck brace for the team's flight home. Joseph is on a liquid diet this week and will definitely miss Saturday's game againt Washington State, but he's just happy to be breathing.

The sophomore said he was not injured when he was initially tackled, but when he spun upon impact, his chin strap came undone when he hit the turf, snapping his neck back. He felt a defender elbow him in the throat, which caused the bruising. He was scheduled to have an MRI exam Monday night.

In Joseph's absence, running back C.J. Gable will return kickoffs, which he did last season.

The special teams woes do not end there for USC. Redshirt freshman Alfred Rowe said he lost consciousness after a collision on a special teams play against Nebraska. He suffered a concussion that will take him out of practice for at least a few days.

Green-Eyed Tailback Monster
Tailback Allen Bradford and his father met with head coach Pete Carroll in the coach's office after practice to discuss Bradford's limited role so far this season. With the never-ending list of talented backs on USC's roster, the sophomore did not play in the first half against Nebraska and has had just 14 carries this season.

"It's kind of made my game better because I'm playing angry," Bradford said. "Coach Carroll just said to hold on and be strong about the whole situation. When I get my shot be ready."

Unlike some other players, however, Bradford intends to stay at USC and stick it out rather than transfer.

Linebackers Back
Linebacker Brian Cushing practiced this week on a healing ankle and will likely start against Washington State, provided he gets through the rest of this week's workouts. Clay Matthews will join him at linebacker despite practicing with a cast on his hand to protect the thumb he broke while playing against Nebraska.

LSU: Flynn Is In

LSU quarterback Matt Flynn may still be recovering from a high ankle sprain, but the pain of watching his team play from the sideline is decidedly worse. The sprain, which Flynn suffered Sept. 8 against Virginia Tech, kept him out of all of last week's game against Middle Tennessee, but the senior expects to be back in his starting role on Saturday when No. 2 LSU welcomes No. 12 South Carolina to Tiger Stadium. And that's a good thing, even if Flynn is not 100%.

South Carolina is not a team to take lightly, and as LSU's first true SEC test, now is a good time for the senior QB to push himself.

“I feel a lot better right now,” Flynn said before practice Monday. “We need to go out and try to push it a little bit in practice, see how it feels.”

Sophomore Ryan Perrilloux started for Flynn on Saturday and did just fine, completing 20 of 25 pass attempts for 298 yards and three touchdowns, but Flynn is ready to retake his rightful spot directing the nation's second-best team. With the swelling reduced, the senior does not think he will be hampered in his ability to scramble or run the option, and since he arrived on the sideline last week with both ankles taped, South Carolina has no way of knowing which leg to attack. The Gamecocks may simply go for both, but Flynn should be healthy enough on Saturday to scamper out of trouble. And if he's not, he's got a rather capable backup in Perrilloux waiting in the wings.

Adams: Put Me In, Coach
Ole Miss quarterback Seth Adams is nursing a right shoulder injury, but he can't imagine why his coach would keep him out of Saturday's matchup with Florida. The defending national champions are coming to Oxford and Adams sees his sprained shoulder as just another obstacle to overcome on the hard path to upseting the Gators.

Adams suffered a separation in his AC joint in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 31-17 loss at Vanderbilt. He was sacked and landed on his throwing shoulder, aggrivating an injury that happened earlier in the game when Adams was scrambling out of the pocket. Despite the quarterback's confidence in his ability to play, head coach Ed Orgeron has deemed his status a game-time decision, and the 6-foot-4, 225-pound senior is spending the week off the practice field and in the training room, going through rehab exercises to get himself ready for Saturday.

And according to Adams, he will be ready for Saturday.

If Adams can't go, Brent Schaeffer, last season's starter, will most likely step in under center, although redshirt freshman Michael Herrick will also get a look in practice this week. Schaeffer lost his starting job after last season's inconsistent performances, but started on the right foot when he came in on Saturday, completing a 54-yard touchdown pass on his first play from scrimmage. That was all he would complete, though, as the senior finished 1-for-5 with two sacks.

Rutgers: Youth Lost, Literally

Rutgers has a proven star running back in Heisman Trophy candidate Ray Rice. That is for sure. Where there is less certainty is in who will fill the backup role behind him, and after Saturday, youth is certainly a problem for the Scarlet Knights. Backup running back Kordell Young injured his knee during Rutgers' 59-0 rout of Norfolk State on Saturday and will undergo surgery that will keep him out for the rest of the season, seriously narrowing the Knights' backfield and special teams options.

As a true freshman, Young built a reputation as a speedster, earning 138 rush yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. Through three games as a sophomore, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound running back tallied 58 yards on 18 carries and earned 96 more on three kickoff returns, with a long run of 56 yards. Saturday's injury came while returning a punt early on in the contest, but Young returned to the ballgame several times before trainers realized that the injury was more severe than they originally thought. No one is saying whether keeping him in the game after the injury worsened it, but what's done is done. Young will most likely redshirt this season, giving him three more years of eligibility.

The backup running back rotation will inevitably have to be overhauled without Young in the mix. The biggest benefactor will most likely be true freshman Mason Robinson, who logged his first game time on Saturday, rushing for 58 yards on nine carries. Should the injury situation worsen, fullback Jack Corcoran may also get some more time at running back while backup Andres Morales steps in at fullback.

On special teams, Robinson has big shoes to fill in replacing Young's production, but he'll hvae some time to learn the ropes, as Rutgers does not play again until Sept. 29.

Bring in the Bruised Backups
With a comfortable lead established on Saturday, coach Greg Schiano allowed some players coming back from injury to test the waters on their ailing limbs. Linebacker Ryan D'Imperio broke his leg during spring practices and finally got some reps late in the game on Saturday. Safety Zaire Kitchen also saw some time after injuring his knee last year against syracuse.

Georgia Tech: No Choice

Georgia Tech is already down in the dumps after taking a beating at the hands of Boston College in their ACC opener last weekend, but the Yellow Jackets got stung even worse with the news that defending conference rush leader Tashard Choice is questionable for Saturday's game at Virginia. The senior running back strained a hamstring in the third quarter of Saturday's 24-10 loss after recording only 31 yards rushing, his lowest total as a starter.

The loss dropped Georgia Tech to 0-1 in the conference and booted them out of the Top 25 this week. Tech could not get the run game together, recording only 63 yards on 28 carries, a far cry from the 327 yards per game they averaged in their first two outings (against Notre Dame and Samford, but still). Facing Virginia will be no cakewalk, especially without Choice, and the game is a must-win for Tech as it is the Jackets' first Coastal Division contest. And a 7-1 conference record has been a prerequisite for the Coastal Division champion since divisional play was adopted in the ACC. So from here on out, it's win or go home for the Yellow Jackets.

Other than Choice's ailment, Tech looks relatively healthy for Saturday as the team will get strong safety Joe Gaston back from a hamstring injury and special teams player Osahon Tongo from an unspecified injury.

September 17, 2007

SEC: Sore Winners

Playing in the nation's toughest conference means taking some big hits, even when you win, and after this week, no one knows that better than Florida, South Carolina and Mississippi State. Each team put up a big win over the weekend, but took a big hit in personnel in the process - florida lost linebacker Jeremy Finch, South Carolina is missing tight end Weslye Saunders and Mississippi State is down quarterback Michael Henig.

Finch snagged the first interception of his career in Florida's win over Tennessee on Saturday, but the elation of his milestone grab was immediately deflated when the freshman took a hit to his right leg on the return. The hit broke a bone in his leg and Finch underwent surgery Sunday morning, which will keep him on the sideline for the rest of the season. The best the 6-foot-1, 203-pound freshman can hope for is a medical redshirt.

Finch was also a rising star on special teams, where he started all three games this season with the kickoff coverage unit. With coverage crossing head coach Urban Meyer's radar as one of the few weaknesses on his No. 3 team, Finch's injury is a double blow for the Gators.

The news for receiver Andre Caldwell has not gotten any better, as the senior will miss Saturday's game at Mississippi while his sprained knee continues to heal.

Redshirts Galore for Gamecocks
After playing in the season's first two games, South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders did not play against South Carolina State with a hurt knee, according to head coach Steve Spurrier. Spurrier said that the injury will keep the freshman from being the blocker this season that he has the ability to be, so playing him in a few games would be wasting a year of eligibility. The coach says that he's seriously considering redshirting Saunders, but has not made a final decision yet.

Joining him in that red getup may be reshman receiver Joseph Hills, who has yet to see game time after injuring his knee on the first day of preseason practice. Spurrier has called Hills a "Sidney Rice guy, because he can go get it and he's got great speed." But at depleted strength caused by the injury, Hills will most likely wait a year to deliver on his potential.

The good news for South Carolina is redshirt freshman Chris Smelley should return to practice this week in the backup quarterback after sitting out the last few weeks with a shoulder injury. Tommy Beecher struggled in the backup role on Saturday, leaving room for Smelley earn his way back in.

Broken Bulldog
Mississippi State quarterback Michael Henig fractured a bone in his throwing hand during Saturday's 19-14 win at Auburn. Trainers expect the junior to be sidelined for two to four weeks, keeping him out of SEC contests against South Carolina and Tennessee, at least. The junior completed just one of his three pass attempts for 16 yards when he left he game.

Henig is used to coming back from injury, as his sophomore season was interrupted by a broken collarbone - twice. He broke the bone following the season opener, coming back in Week 6 of the season only to hurt it again in Week 11. Expect this kid to be back on the field on the sooner side of sooner or later.

In the meantime, true freshman Wesley Carroll will compete with junior college transfer Josh Riddell for the starting job. Both saw time last week after Henig left the game, Carroll completing 3-of-10 passes for 10 yards and Riddell 1-of-5 for 15 yards.

Hawai'i: Colt Healing

The nation's most-ridiculous-numbers-ever quarterback is taking a tender step back this week. Hawai'i QB Colt Brennan sprained his right ankle last Friday, the night before leading the Warriors to a 49-14 dismantling of UNLV. Brennan plans to miss a few days of practice while the ankle heals and the swelling goes down, but he is confident that he will be able to take the field on Saturday against Charleston Southern. But just in case, he's having an MRI on the ankle and spending the week on crutches.

Brennan hurt the ankle while playing catch with wideout C.J. Hawthorne during Friday's walk-through pracitce. He heard a "pop" and saw his right ankle swelling soon thereafter. He received a cortisone shot before the UNLV game so that he could play with minimal pain and still managed to throw for 298 yards and two touchdowns and run for three more. Maybe it's a good thing he hasn't had that many healthy games - the scoreboards might break.

The ankle was "very swollen and very sore" on Sunday, according to the senior quarterback, who hopes he will be ready to play this week. If he can't go, he's not worried, as Brennan told press on Monday that it will give backup Tyler Graunke a great opportunity to get some extra experience.

Head coach June Jones was not exactly of the same mind: "I don't want this to linger. I figure by Thursday he'll practice. But he'll play."

Brennan is used to playing, and producing, through pain, as he finished last season with the greatest statistics by a quarterback in NCAA history, despite fighting a lumbar strain for most of the year. Brennan currently ranks second in the nation in passing yardage, averaging more than 420 yards per game. He leads the nation in points responsible for with 32 per game.

LSU: Later Doucet

LSU wide receiver Early Doucet missed Saturday's 44-0 thrashing of Middle Tennessee, and head coach Les Miles said Monday that he expects Doucet to miss a bunch more. The "pretty significant injury," about which Miles did not elaborate, could keep the senior out for multiple games, which sounds off groans among the LSU faithful -- Doucet finished last season second on the team with 59 catches for 772 yards and eight scores. Miles would not comment on radio reports that the injury hampering the team's most experienced receiver is a groin pull -- all we know is that it's "pretty significant."

After Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis departed for the NFL, Doucet became the Tigers' primary receiver and a return specialist. The unspecified injury occured in last Friday's practice, a walk-through when players go over substitutions and other non-contact drills to prepare mentally for the game. The players were not even wearing pads as the walk-through does not require any contact. Doucet apparently made a quick movement that pulled something the wrong way, but did not involve hitting another player.

"It just popped on him," Miles said. "It would certianly operate in the unusual category."

Unusual indeed.

Saturday was a fine time to be without Doucet, as No. 2 LSU did not need (or have) many of their top players to shut out Middle Tennessee. But with No. 12 South Carolina coming to town next week for an SEC showdown, this week is not a good one to be without Doucet. Or fifth-year senior quarterback Matt Flynn. Or fifth-year senior offensive guard Will Arnold, all of whom missed last week's game.

Flynn sprained his ankle in the win over Virginia Tech on Sept. 8 and is still listed as day-to-day, but Miles said that he wants to make sure Flynn is fully back to form before putting him in harm's way on the field. And with sophomore backup Ryan Perrilloux completing 20 of 25 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns last week, Miles may be in no particular hurry. But let's just remember that South Carolina's defense should be a cut above Middle Tennessee's, and Perrilloux does not have Flynn's experience or poise. The Tigers would do well to get Flynn back in the pocket before the real games begin.

Arnold is still fighting a viral infection that has affected his knees and Miles is not optimistic that he'll be back this week. Arnold has also suffered two knee injuries and missed most of last season with an ankle injury.

September 16, 2007

Texas: Half Truths

Texas released a statement after its oh-so-close win over UCF saying that senior wide receiver Limas Sweed could have returned from a left ankle injury in the second quarter. Obviously, Sweed did not come back onto the field, which begs the question, why?

The All-American receiver left the game after catching just one pass for nine yards and did not return, even though, apparently, he "could have" at any point after the second quarter. So what gives? Why would Texas keep perhaps its best offensive weapon -- and certainly the receiver with whom quarterback Colt McCoy claims to have the most chemistry -- on the bench as Texas struggled mightily to gain control of the game?

That statement makes no sense, unless head coach Mack Brown is trying to play head games with his next opponents. If Sweed was healthy, he should have played. Texas needed him to play. And if he had anything to say about it, he certainly would have played.

Whenever Texas decides to give us some information we can use, I'll be sure to post it here.

USC: Joseph Recovering

USC cornerback Vincent Joseph scared everyone in Lincoln on Saturday when he spent ten breathless minutes motionless on the field before leaving on a stretcher, moving only his right arm to signal that he still had range of motion in his limbs. The sophomore left the field in the second quarter after taking a hit on a kickoff return and was later reported to have suffered a bruised larynx. He was hit by Ricky Thenarse after fumbling the kickoff and spent the rest of the game recovering at a local hospital. Reports have said that he is in pain but will recover.

Several other Trojans also took big hits in the win over Nebraska. Fullback Alfred Rowe, who was a high school teammate of Joseph's, suffered a concussion and also left the game in the second quarter.

Linebacker Clay Matthews broke his left thumb in the first half and did not return to the game. He later wore a cast that made it too difficult for him to effectively execute his coverage assignments, so he spent the rest of the evening watching from the bench.

September 15, 2007

USC: Trojan Down

Sophomore cornerback Vincent Joseph was carted off of the field in the second quarter of USC's game against Nebraska after running back a kickoff on special teams. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound sophomore bruised his larynx on a hit by Ricky Thenarse. Joseph was handling the return after a Nebraska field goal when he took the hit, fumbled the ball on the play and stayed down for the count as teammate Malcolm Smith picked up the ball and ran it 31 yards to the Nebraska 45. Staff tended to Joseph for 10 minutes before carting him off the field on a stretcher. Joseph raised his right hand as he left the field, but not much else, evoking some frightening memories of last Sunday's NFL Buffalo Bills game.

Texas: Sweating Sweed

Wide receiver Limas Sweed is watching his Longhorns try to make a fourth-quarter comeback from the sidelines. The senior is having his ankle retaped after catching just one pass for nine yards and with Texas trailing UCF by one point in the fourth quater, they could really use the 6-foot-5, 219-pound senior's height advantage off of that cart and back on the field.

Florida: Gators Update

Florida is rolling over Tennessee, but offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey and cornerback Markihe Anderson are missing out on the fun after leaving the game in the first quarter. Pouncey, a true freshman, strained his achilles tendon and is out for the remainder of the game. Anderson, who was playing with a sprained MCL, will have an MRI on his right knee after reaggrivating the injury in the first quarter. He is still in the locker room as the third quarter ticks away. The Gators do not seem to be struggling without the two injured players as they continue to put together superior play on both sides of the ball, mostly led by the fearless offense of quaterback Tim Tebow.

Florida: Alligators Ailing

The Gators are still in the first quarter of their battle with Tennessee, but the roster has already been depleted. Freshman offensive lineman Marukice Pouncey left the field with help in the first quarter to receive an X-ray on his ankle. Cornerback Markihe Anderson, playing with a sprained MCL, was also hurt in the first quarter. He reaggrivated the existing MCL injury and also left the field in the first quarter. Urban Meyer said before the game that Anderson would not take the first rep, but would certainly see extensive playing time. Obviously that time will be cut short, as Anderson is stuck in the locker room.

September 14, 2007

Florida State: Smith's New Look

One week after sustaining a concussion in Florida State's 34-24 win over UAB, Seminole starting tailback Antone Smith will take the field on Saturday against Colorado, but he will sport a new protective look when he does so. The junior sat out of contact drills all week as a precautionary measure, and will be sporting a concussion-detecting helmet, Riddell's Revolution.

Smith has practiced with the new helmet all week, cwhich he likes, saying it feels lighter than standard helmets, and says he is not worried about taking any hits against Colorado. Warning: acknowledging worry and subconsciously hesitating are two very different things. And a tailback cannot afford hesitation, no matter who he is up against.

Smith leads the team in rushing through two games, gaining 172 yards on 33 carries for an average of 4.6 yards per carry. He said that he has not experienced headaches or other symptoms since last Saturday and is ready to get back in the game.

Senior DT Andre Fluellen will also sport a new look this week when he dons a brace to protect his hyperextended elbow. Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews may miss the game, as he is still recovering from pneumonia.

Strange Switch
Senior John Frady started 20 games as a center at FSU, including every game in 2006, which should have cemented his role as the starter in his senior year. But that was then. Now listed at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, a full 45 pounds lighter than he was last year at this time, Frady may get another start on Saturday, this time at tight end. Frady is no stranger to change, as he had never played center before enrolling at FSU, but moving from center to tight end is quite a jump. And with senior tight end Charlie Graham questionable for Saturday with a pulled hamstring, Saturday may be Frady's first chance for tight end glory.

The Virtue Of Silence

Kentucky and Louisville's rivalry extends so far outside the lines, it has infiltrated the injury report. When the Wildcats take on the Cardinals on Saturday, Steve Kragthorpe and Co. should be as familiar with the injuries plaguing Kentucky's lineup as the players themselves, but Rich Brooks' staff won't know what to expect until certain Cardinals remain on the bench at Commonwealth Stadium. And both coaches are well aware of the consequences of their choice to fill in or force out.

Brooks is accustomed to giving constant updates on the status of his players to anyone who cares enough to ask. He begins every press meeting by rattling off the team's injuries from top to bottom, going into as much detail as reporters request to hear.

"I just don't see any merit to covering up injuries," the fifth-year head coach said. "They are what they are."

Kragthorpe, on the other hand, sees quite a bit of merit in keeping his ailments a secret. He believes that keeping the word mum creates competitive advantage for his team going into every game, as opponents are never sure what personnel to expect on (or off) the field. Kragthorpe makes it a policy to discuss only season-ending injuries and nothing less, refusing to comment on whether a player will miss time at a certain position or why.

Many coaches choose not to trust injury reports that they do receive, but rather than gamble on the merit an opposing team will assign to injury news, Kragthorpe prefers to keep coaches in the dark alltogether. During his senior year at West Texas State, Kragthorpe played with a broken hand and did not want his opponents to know, so he has imbued the entire team with that personal philosophy in his first year as head coach.

"I have sons that play football," Kragthorpe said. "Say my son sprains his left ankle and I disclose he has a sprained left ankle. What do you think happens on the first series of the game? They're going to go after his sprained left ankle. So I have a hard time facing a parent when I walk out of the locker room if I've given out that information about their son. I wouldn't want that info given out about my son."

Since there is no commisisoner of college football to require weekly injury updates, as the NFL does, each coach is permitted his own injury policy and Louisville and Kentucky present perhaps the two furthest ends of the spectrum - silence and full disclosure, respectively. Connecticut's Randy Edsall resides in the silence camp with Kragthorpe, declining all injury talk. Louisiana State's Les Miles falls somewhere in the middle, as he offers updates but describes himself as deliberately "evasive" about injuries. Florida's Urban Meyer is notorious for the conflicting reports he gave about quaterback Chris Leak in 2005, leading to the nickname "Urban Liar." Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas are usually as tight-lipped as Louisville has been, and every other head coach in the nation falls somewhere between the Louisville - Kentucky continuum.

Whether or not coaches know in advance who will be playing on Saturday, the best coaches are the ones who can make in-game adjustments to compensate not just for injured players, but also for individuals having exceptional days or team strengths that develop as a game progresses. While knowing an individual's physical condition beforehand may be an advantage, having a savvy, quick-thinking coach who can make the changes necessary to win is undeniably a greater one.

All those competitive advantages, and more, should be on full display this Saturday in Lexington.

Auburn: Break Out The Tiger Balm

Auburn suffered a blow last week when the Tigers dropped a home contest to South Florida, and now it looks like more was bruised than just the team's ego. Five different players are hampered by injuries that may keep them from starting on Saturday when the Tigers take on conference foe Mississippi State, and now is not a time Auburn can afford to have another letdown.

Starting linebacker Tray Blackmon and starting defensive back Aairon Savage are nursing injured ankles that may keep them off the field on Saturday. Both players tested their ankles in practices this week, but head coach Tommy Tuberville has said that participation for both sophomores will be a game-time decision, and that they are well aware of the plan to throw them into action as soon as they feel ready to go. Blackmon had a 49-yard interception return against Kansas State, one of the Tigers' two on the season.

Starting linebacker Merrill Johnson has a bruised shoulder and is doubtful to play, and punter Ryan Shoemaker is definitely out with a disloacted elbow. Johnson, a junior, has logged five tackles in two games this season. Shoemaker has eight punts on the year, averaging 45.1 yards per punt with two dropped inside the 20. Thankfully, freshman Patrick Tatum has already handled three punts, averaging 38.3 yards apiece, and will most likely handle the punting responsibilities this week.

Starting defensive back Jonathan Wilhite has been kept out of practices with a hamstring injury, but is expected to play on Saturday. Coaches are hoping that keeping the senior out of drills this week will have given him the chance to recover fully before taking the field against Mississippi State.

Florida: Playing Through Pain

Florida wide receiver Andre Caldwell's sprained ligament is serious enough to keep him out of Saturday's SEC opener against Tennessee, but plenty of other Gators will take on the Vols, despite a variety of lingering ailments.

Return specialist Brandon James' sprained ankle will not keep him off the field on Saturday and wide receivers Jarred Fayson and Percy Harvin will play through a knee injury and tendinitis, respectively. James hurt the ankle against Troy, altough he still managed to come up with 159 total return yards against the Trojans. He is back up to full speed, just where the Gators want him as they open up conference play.

Cornerback Markihe Anderson will also play Saturday as he battles through a sprained MCL. Head coach Urban Meyer said the sophomore will not take the first rep, but he should see significant playing time.

If the Gators' coaching staff could choose a game to push their banged-up players to participate in, this might be it. Welcoming No. 22 Tennessee to the Swamp is a big deal for the fifth-ranked Gators, and putting the Vols away early will be an even bigger deal. Florida has the edge coming into this matchup for reasons beyond the game's location, but having as many key contributors on the field as possible is key to a convincing Gator victory. The nation will certainly be watching as these two powerhouses square off and Florida would obviously like to make a statement early, which is a lot easier with James, a member of the 2006 Florida track team, on his feet returning kicks.

The Unlucky Ones
Caldwell will remain out for the game after spraining his MCL in the third quater of the Gators' 59-31 win over Troy last week. Although head coach Urban Meyer said that the injury is not painful, there is the possibility that the fifth-year senior will miss more than just the first game on Florida's SEC slate. The Gators certainly want Caldwell back ASAP - a co-captain and rpeseason All-SEC selection, Meyer calls him one of the team's most polished receivers. Through two games, he has four receptions for 111 yards.

Sophomore Riley Cooper and junior Cornelius Ingram will have the opportunity to take Caldwell's place alongside Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy as the third receiver in the Gators' primary three-receiver set. Cooper caught four passes for 122 yards and two TDs against Western Kentucky in the first game of the season, while Ingram pulled in seven passes for 105 yards and a score against Troy.

Safety Bryan Thomas will also miss Saturday's game, joining Caldwell on the MCL sprain wagon.

Offensive tackle Phil Trautwein is still out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right foot. Meyer said the senior will miss at least the next two games, but is in danger of missing the entire season.

Michigan: Henne To Miss 2-3 Weeks

It became official this week: Heisman Trophy candidate Chad Henne is no longer a Heisman Trophy candidate. The Michigan quaterback's injured left knee will keep him out for 2-3 weeks, giving him far less time to improve his 31-for-60 completion rate and 2:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The senior should should return to the gridiron at some point this season, but for the time being, the Wolverines will look to freshman Ryan Mallett to lead them past Notre Dame and away from the dreaded 0-3 start.

Henne hurt his knee after taking a hit from defensive end Jeremy Gibbs in the second quarter of last week's loss to Oregon. Mallett finished out the game, completing 6-of-17 pass attempts with an interception, numbers that are mediocre but perhaps understandable for a freshman. Head coach Lloyd Carr has confidence in the 6-foot-6, 247-pound signal-caller, saying that he is not intimidated by anything. If that is the case, then taking on this depleted Irish team should not faze him in the least, and Michigan fans everywhere are shifting their focus onto the freshman to fulfill Mike Hart's guarantee of a win this weekend.

With Henne out, redshirt freshman David Cone moves into the No. 2 quarterback spot.

Oklahoma: Missing McCoy

Oklahoma is enjoying the view from the nation's No. 3 spot after disposing of Miami last weekend, but the win was not so sweet for starting defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. The redshirt freshman broke his right hand against Miami and will not get the start against Utah State on Saturday. McCoy was back in practices by Tuesday with his right hand in a cast that he says is not at all painful, but does slow him down. If McCoy does get in the game this Saturday, his playing time will certainly be limited.

Shipley Back
On the other side of the heavyweight fight for supremacy in the Big 12 South, No. 6 Texas should have receiver Jordan Shipley back in action this weekend. The junior has been fighting a hamstring problem since July, but should make his offensive debut on Saturday when the Longhorns travel to UCF. He will continue his holding duties on PAT and field goals, which he had been handling for the first two games of the season, but hopes to catch some passes this week as well. The 6-foot, 188-pound receiver caught 16 balls for 229 yards and four touchdowns in 2006, but injuries kept him out of the offensive game plan for the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

September 13, 2007

LSU: Quarterback Questions

Fifth-year senior Matt Flynn has clearly earned his spot under center at No. 2 LSU, having led the tigers to two convincing wins that have some pollsters rethinking their USC = Unbeatable mentality. Unfortunately, Flynn has missed several days of practice this week, which means he may not find himself under center for Saturday's game. The Tigers are taking on Middle Tennessee State, which is a far cry from Virginia Tech, but they'd like to have their go-to guy healthy either way. And as of now, healthy is one thing Flynn is not.

Flynn hurt his right ankle in the first half of last week's win over then-No. 9 Virginia Tech. Although he played through some of the second half, he was certainly not at full strength and sat out of all of practice on Monday before taking part in only portions of Tuesday's and Wednesday's practices, sans pads. Head coach Les Miles said that the injury did not require x-rays, but the senior doubts his being able to start Saturday against MTSU. And starting him in a game after missing significant practice time may not be the best of decisions.

Sophomore Ryan Perrilloux took over for the injured Flynn in the fourth quarter and did not disappoint, connecting for two touchdowns and gaining the confidence of the team. Still, Perrilloux's off-the-field miscues, including an arrest for attempting to enter a Baton Rouge riverboat casino with a fake ID, have made for a distant, at best, relationship between quarterback and coach. The sophomore was suspended throughout the summer months because coaches found his judgment to be lacking - which had nothing to do with his production on the football field.

Flynn has had a nearly flawless run in his first two games, throwing for two touchdown passes and no interceptions, and averaging 172.5 yards per game. He is completing a whopping 63% of his passes. LSU clearly is pushing Flynn to lead the Tigers to glory, and they do not want to be without him for any period of time, no matter who the opponent may be. Flynn will most likely start on Saturday, but watch for limping around that tender ankle - if he does have to miss a game, Saturday's may not be the worst one to watch from outside the lines.

Safety Craig Steltz also missed Tuesday's practice, but no announcement has been made about any injury to the starter. Steltz's four interceptions are the best in major college football, and he would sure like to pad those numbers against MTSU on Saturday.

September 12, 2007

USC: The Best Is Out, Again

Josh Pinkard has been through all of this before. Pete Carroll once described him as "maybe the best football player on our team," but that was before the USC defensive back sat out almost the entire 2006 season after tearing his right ACL in the season opener aganinst Arkansas. The fourth-year junior went through a tough rehab process and had regained his spot as the top cornerback on the nation's best team heading into this season. But then it happened again. Pinkard injured his left knee in practice and learned this week that he will need another season-ending surgery for another torn ACL, this time in the left knee.

Pinkard said he first suffered a bone bruise in the week before the season opener, and practiced through the pain, but his knee gave out during Monday's practice and he knew the feeling all too well. Although the 6-foot-1, 215-pound DB thinks that the whole process will be easier the second time around, it's certainly not a fun one to go through, no matter how familiar you are with the rehab exercises and waiting time. PInkard has the option to apply for a sixth year after his eligibility is complete in 2008, but he said he has not thought that far ahead yet.

Good choice, since now is not the time for USC to be looking much further than Saturday, when the Trojans will find themselves without one of their best and most versatile players when they travel to Lincoln to take on Nebraska.

Taking over for Pinkard will be junior Cary Harris and sophomore Shareece Wright. Wright had back-to-back tackles in the backfield in the season opener against Iowa (for losses of 13 and 4 yards, respectively) and Carroll likes what he's seen from the 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback, but needs more consistency from a player who has yet to make his first start.

This may not be the game for the Trojans to be experimenting defensively, as Nebraska's Sam Keller has the ability to get hot at any moment. But Wright looks like an explosive second choice.

Back In Action
Tailback Chauncey Washington and wide receiver Patrick Turner have been practicing at full speed this week, and should be ready to play on Saturday. They saw their first contact work of the season in mid-week practices, and Carroll is optimistic about their progress. Tailback Joe McKnight is also fully recovered from a mild knee sprain and wide receiver Travon Patterson should be back in the rotation, too.

Still Ailing
Tailback Allen Bradford missed practice time this week with a bruised right knee that he sustained against Idaho but kept to himself until this week. (A poor choice by the sophomore. For future notice, when you're hurt, tell someone about it!) Linebacker Brian Cushing has seen only minimal practice time as the left ankle he sprained against Idaho continues to bother him, and offensive lineman Matt Spanos is awaiting a special brace that will allow him to play with his torn triceps. Right tackle Drew Radovich is close to getting his starting job back after missing most of fall camp with back spasms, but sophomore Charles Brown looks to be at the top of the depth chart for one more week, at least.

UCLA: Injuries Bruin

UCLA scored a win last saturday, jumping out to a 2-0 start after topping BYU 27-17. But the team is feeling pretty lost after scores of players turned up with injuries of every kind this week, ailing with everything from broken teeth to the flu. And with a trip to injury-ridden Utah just days away, Saturday's game against Utah could be the Broken Bowl.

UCLA was hoping for the best after defensive tackle Brigham Harwell hurt his knee in the first half of last week's win over BYU, but the news turned out to be pretty bad - an MRI exam showed a torn ligament in his left knee that will take the senior off the field. There is some good news, though - since he will not need surgery, as the tear is on the minor side, as tears go, the injury will only keep Harwell out for four weeks, pending a successful healing process. And since Harwell played as a true freshman, he can choose to redshirt this season and come back for a final season in 2008. But that's no help to the Bruins, who are suddenly scrambing to fill the shoes of a solid lineman who has started 25 of the Bruins' last 27 games - and just happens to be the team's best interior run stopper.

Harwell is hoping to miss no more than the minimal four games, which would allow him to return Oct. 20 against California. And rest assured, UCLA will need him against California. That would mean having him back on the field for the three most important games of the season - Cal, Oregon and USC.

In the meantime, Jess Ward is the likely starter for Saturday's game. The sophomore got a healthy dose of playing time last week after Harwell came out, and is known for being strong at the point of attack. He appeared in seven games last season and will be joined by sophomore Jerzy Siewiersky and junior Chase Moline in that defensive tackle spot.

By The Skin of His Teeth
That's not all the pain the Bruins are dealing with this week. Wide receiver Brandon Breazell has undergone two days of dental surgery after two of his teeth were knocked out in last Saturday's game. He collided with teammate Logan Paulsen while trying to chase down a BYU player following an interception, knocking out two of his teeth and damaging a third. (Ouch.) The senior had two emergency root canals immediately after the game and two more surgeries on Tuesday before practice, and may need additional surgery. (Again, ouch.)

The 162-pound receiver tops the team in receptions for 2007, pulling in 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. He's having trouble eating and wore a no-hit red jersey in practice on Tuesday, although he is emphatic that he will play on Saturday, regardless of the pain. As long as there's some fuel in that body to run on, this kid will find his way onto the field.

Cowan Crawlin Back
Quarterback Patrick Cowan, who started the final eight games of the 2006 season, participated in individual drills this week, but is still far from regaining his starting spot ahead of Ben Olson. The junior pulled his left hamstring on Aug. 20 and has been out ever since, although he took some drop back drills and rollouts earlier this week. He has yet to practice at full speed, although he says he feels no pain in the leg. He'll need to practice at least a full week before head coach Karl Dorrell will consider giving him any game time.

But Wait, There's More
Defensive end Nikola Dragovic was expected to return to practice late in the week after sitting out due to a sustained concussion, but unable to shake persistent headaches, Dragovic will sit out of Saturday's game after missing all of this week's practices. He must have 24 symptom-free hours before UCLA's medical staff will clear him to play.

Linebacker Aaron Whittington's flu-like symptons kept him out of early-week practices, but cornerback Rodney Van went through much of the workouts as he recovers from a sprained ankle.

September 10, 2007

Tennessee: Gaines Loses

According to Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer, cornerback Antonio Gaines has sustained a "significant injury" that will keep him out of Saturday's game against No. 5 Florida. Fulmer has not released specifics about the injury, which Gaines sustained during the Vols' 39-19 win over Southern Mississippi on Saturday. With Gaines hurting, freshman safety Eric Berry moved to corner and Jarod Parrish came into the safety spot. The Gators are also missing some personnel, as receiver Andre Caldwell is definitely out with a sprained MCL and running back Brandon James is questionable with a sprained ankle.

Florida State: Smith Knocked Cold

Florida State tailback Antone Smith gave Seminole fans another reason to groan on Saturday when he left the game early in the third quarter with a concussion. The junior, who is supposed to be the lynchpin of the new-and-improved FSU offense, will practice this week but has not been cleared for contact. Head coach Bobby Bowden said that the 5-foot-9, 188-pound back was knocked out cold in the 34-24 victory over UAB, and his status is unclear for the coming week, when the team travels to Colorado.

Torn-Up Texans

Texas and Texas A&M both notched big wins last weekend - Texas topping TCU and A&M knocking of Fresno State in triple overtime - but neither team came away fully healthy. A&M fullback Chris Alexander injured his left leg in the first half, taking him out for the remainder of the game, and Texas offensive tackle Adam Ulatoski banged up his right elbow, bringing his status into question for Saturday's game with Central Florida.

Alexander, a 5-foot-11, 248-pund senior, has one rush for four yards on the season. Head coach Dennis Franchione makes it a point not to discuss injuries that are not season-ending, and at this point, Alexander's leg injury is not serious enough to merit commentary from the coach. Junior Nick LaMantia came in to replace Alexander, but did not have any carries in the contest.

Ulatoski will be evaluated later in the week after leaving Saturday's game with an elbow injury. The 6-foot-8, 300-pound sophomore started the final seven games of 2006 to earn himself the starting job this season. If he is a no-go for Saturday, sophomore Chris Hall will move over from his guard slot, but he's no stranger to change - Hall played left guard, right guard, center and right tackle against TCU.

Mustakas Done For The Year
Over in the Big East, things at Pittsburgh have turned sour. In a season already hampered by injury, the team's top defensive lineman, DT Gus Mustakas, is out for the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. The junior was injured in the third quarter of Pitt's 34-10 win over Grambling State (a FCS-level team) on Saturday. He can apply for a medical redshirt if he so chooses, but Pitt is sad to see him go after recording 11 tackles in the Panthers' first two games, including two for a loss. As a sophomore, he scored the first touchdown for a Pitt defensive lineman since 1999, but the Panthers will have to wait another year to see if he can add to that production.

September 09, 2007

Florida: Down Two For 22

When No. 5 Florida takes on No. 22 Tennessee next week, the Gators may be down two game-breakers - receiver Andre Caldwell and running back Brandon James were both casualties of Florida's 59-31 win over Troy in Week 2. But they're not the only ones hurting in Gainesville.

Caldwell, a redshirt senior, sprained the MCL in his right knee on Saturday and will definitely be out for this week's game. He had four receptions for 111 yards in his first two games, averaging 27.8 yards per catch. He is a speedster on offense, having competed for the track team at the SEC Outdoor Championships. Against Troy, he caught one pass for eight yards and had an 18-yard touchdown run in the first half. Caldwell is no stranger to injury, having received an extra year of eligibility after breaking his leg in the 2005 season.

James sprained his ankle in the second half of the contest. The sophomore has just two rushes for 10 yards on the season, but is providing great services to the special teams unit - he returned one punt for 32 yards and three kickoffs for 127 yards against the Trojans, including a 59-yard run that set up a touchdown in the first quarter.

Caldwell and James sit atop a long list of banged up Gators. Receiver Jarred Fayson injured his left knee against Troy, but returned to the game. Backup safety Bryan Thomas joins Caldwell's sprained MCL party and Percy Harvin's tendinitis has travelled from his Achilles to his knee, limiting his practice time. The Gators may soon regret their decision to play Harvin in Saturday's gimme contest - they really didn't need to bring him in for 56 yards rushing and 42 yards receiving, and he may have aggrivated his injuries to the point of keeping him out against Tennessee, a game for which they will actually need him.

Cornelius Ingram and Louis Murphy will be expected to pick up the slack for the ailing receiving corps. Ingram caught seven passes for 105 yards and a touchdown against Troy, marking his best career outing. Murphy had six receptions of his own for 78 yards.

Florida will face their first real test next week when they welcome the Vols to Gainesville for their conference opener, and the defending national champions are going to want all their guns firing. More news should be released on the status of these injuries as the week progresses, but an SEC test against a top-25 opponent is no time for offensive difference-makers to be stuck on the bench.

Wisconsin: Hubbard Hobbling

Wisconsin eeked out the win on Saturday night in the Vegas heat against UNLV, but senior wide receiver Paul Hubbard did not leave Sin City in a winning mood. The fifth-year senior limped off the field after injuring his right knee in the first play of the second half, blocking on a run by P.J. Hill. He spent the second half on crutches on the sideline, while freshman Kyle Jefferson took the field in his place.

Hubbard started all 13 games last season and finished second on the team with 38 receptions for 627 yards, averaging 16.5 yards per catch. He led he Badgers with five touchdown catches and although the team finished out the win without him on Saturday, they will certainly want him back in the lineup ASAP.

The 6-foot-4, 213-pound receiver should have some time to heal, as Wisconsin takes on FCS-level The Citadel next week before getting into Big Ten action against Iowa on Sept. 22. With Michigan football in a sad, sad state at an 0-2 mark, the time is ripe for the Badgers to step up and take home the conference crown. Hubbard is a big factor in that equation, so hopefully that knee injury is of the short-lived variety.

September 08, 2007

N.C. State: Not Their Year

It certainly has not been the year of the Wolfpack. Spirits were down for the North Carolina State team long before Boston College handed them a 37-17 loss on Saturday night - their string of bad luck continues as the team announced a third starter would be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a knee injuiry. Defensive tackle Demario Pressley will join tight end Anthony Hill and running back Toney Baker on the disabled list, as a knee injury will take the senior off of the field for the rest of the season.

The 6-foot-4, 290-pound senior tallied four tackles, including one for a loss, in last week's opener against Central Florida, but did not play in this week's contest due to the impending surgery he will undergo on his knee. The preseason All-ACC selection was expected to anchor the Wolfpack defense, but will now be forced to join the growing number of his teammates that has been relegated to the sidelines. Pressley does have a redshirt year remaining, which he will most likely choose to use, but with so many injuries robbing N.C. State of its best players, the Wolfpack's 2007 season may be beyond salvation.

Michigan: Henne Out, Hart Hurting

What a day for Michigan. The Wolverines lose two straight at home to start the season 0-2, lose by their worst margin in decades and their top two players, both Heisman hopefuls, get banged up in the process. The worse casualty of the two was starting quarterback Chad Henne, who did not play in the second half of the 39-7 loss to Oregon because of an injury to his lower leg. Running back Mike Hart reaggrivated the hamstring injury that hampered him last week, so he spent his sideline time pedalling backwards on an exercise bike, but remained in the game.

In the first half, Henne completed 12 of 23 passes for 172 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The QB was hit as he ran out of bounds late in the first half by Willie Gasper but finished out the half, completing his next pass before an attempt from the Oregon 8 fell incomplete, forcing the Wolverines to turn it over on downs. Head coach Lloyd Carr said Henne is "very doubtful" for next week's matchup with Notre Dame, which is just fine with the contingent of fans that was shouting for freshman Ryan Mallett to enter the game when Henne was still healthy - just playing poorly.

Mallett played the entire second half but did not get off to an auspicious start, throwing an interception midway through the third quarter. He finished the outing six-of-17 for 49 yards.

With Hart nursing his leg and Henne stuck on the sideline, Michigan is going to have to look away from its highly touted Heisman frontrunners to try to make some sense of the remainder of this season. WIth such a talented offense, no one in Wolverine land saw this one coming, but hopefully someone can figure out a way to turn this sinking ship around before the calls for Carr's head get any louder.

South Carolina: Pre-game Injury Report

South Carolina is is going to need all the help they can get when they head to Athens to take on No. 11 Georgia this afternoon, but the Gamecocks have quite a few players who will not be offering their services when 5:45 rolls around. Among the list of those who are out: Offensive guard Kevin Young (ankle), linebacker Yvan Banang (knee) running back Bobby Wallace (collarbone) and quarterback Chris Smelley (shoulder). Linebacker Melvin Ingram is probable, but strong safety Emanuel Cook and linebacker Cody Wells are both questionable. On the Georgia side, only running back Kregg Lumpkin is out, still nursing that broken thumb.

September 07, 2007

Florida: Anderson Downgraded

After waxing optimistic on Wednesday, Florida head coach Urban Meyer had some backpedaling to do on Thursday. He watched cornerback Markihe Anderson practice earlier in the week and saw enough healing in the sophomore's sprained knee to announce that he would start Saturday's game against Troy, but has since changed his mind. Anderson will not start Saturday's game and may not play at all.

In his place, sophomore Dorian Munroe will get the start in the nickel corner spot after recording a solo tackle and an assist in last week's opener against Western Kentucky. Anderson did not get into the game last week, and will only see time this week "if he's feeling up to it," according to Meyer. It may not be imperative to have Anderson on the field for Troy, but the Gators would certainly like to have him back for Sept. 15's matchup with Tennessee.

Texas: Bye Bye Brian

Texas is in a must-win situation when No. 19 TCU comes to town on Saturday, and the Longhorns will have to snuff the Horned Frogs without the help of defensive end Brian Okrapo. The junior suffered a knee injury in last weekend's 21-13 sneak-by win over Arkansas State and will miss the oh-so-important statement matchup with TCU.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound end played in all 13 games last season, recording 26 tackles, six for a loss, and 4.5 sacks as a sophomore. He had two tackles, one for a loss and half a sack against Arkansas State before injuring the knee.

Texas will most likely be more worried about scoring on TCU's stingy defense than stopping the Horned Frogs' offense, but after last weekend's performance, they will certainly need everything they can get out of their team, and that includes a healthy defensive unit. With Okrapo out, sophomore Lamarr Houston and junior Aaron Lewis are listed as the starting defensive ends. Lewis has three starts to his name after seeing time in all 13 games last season, while Houston will be making his first start on Saturday.

On the offensive side, redshirt freshman quarterback Sherrod Harris is still out with a knee injury, while receiver Jordan Shipley is questionable with a nagging hamstring, although he will handle holds on field goals and extra points.

For TCU, the status of defensive end Tommy Blake is still a mystery, although he has been practicing with that undisclosed illness.

September 06, 2007

USC: Crossing Washington

Chauncey Washington has a Grade 3 sprain in his right shoulder, but he wants his starting job back by the Trojans' next game. When USC takes on Nebraska on Sept. 15, last season's leading rusher should be ready to lead the charge once again, but are the Trojans prepared to give over that top spot? C. J. Gable had a pretty good night in the team's opener against Idaho, recording eight carries for 68 yards. Stafon Johnson also looked solid, carrying 12 times for 64 yards, so Washington's job may no longer be his for the taking.

Head coach Pete Carroll has yet to decide if he will use a three-tailback rotation for the next game, let alone the season as a whole. Suffice it to say that Nebraska's run defense far outweighs Idaho's, so a three-back attack might not be such a bad idea. But Carroll is taking his time making his decision, waiting to see how Washington does in contact drills this week and next.

Cushing Back on Track
While Washington's status is still up in the air, linebacker Brian Cushing is back on the turf. The junior, who had sprained his left ankle against Idaho, did not need an air cast in practices this week and expects to be back to full strength next week to prepare for Nebraska.

Backup quarterback Mark Sanchez is also progressing nicely, after having a split removed from his fractured right thumb. He has been practicing his throwing with a foam ball, and plans to test the test the thumb with a real ball in time to see some action against Nebraska.

Illinois: Juice Is Flowing

Illinois starting quarterback Juice Williams was certainly roughed up last weekend, but in practice this week he has looked as good as ever, according to head coach Ron Zook. Perhaps the head-to-head collision with a Missouri defender that knocked him out of the second half of last Saturday's game improved his vision - the hit did come near his eye - but either way, Zook is sticking with his starter.

Williams completed six of nine passes for 59 yards before his helmet smacked into a bone near his head on a hard hit by a Missouri defender. His backup, Eddie McGee, completed 17 of 31 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown. Zook maintains that he will put his team in the best position to win, which right now means starting Williams and going from there. He did not rule out the possibility that McGee will see some time against Western Illinois, but how much time will depend on the flow of the game.

Virginia: It Wasn't The Wrist

Virginia head coach Al Groh isn't blaming quarterback Jameel Sewell's surgically repaired left wrist for the poor performance he put together in the team's 23-3 loss at the hands of Wyoming last Saturday. (He may be blaming other parts of the second-year starter for completing just 11 of 23 passes and throwing two picks, like his decision-making skills, but the wrist is not the culprit.) Just the same, Groh is taking no chances, and keeping freshman quarterback Peter Lalich right where he can see him, out of a redshirt.

Sewell played last season with a broken bone in his wrist before having surgery on it in December. Since pain in that wrist can rear its ugly head at any time, according to team doctors, Lalich will spend the season in wait, preparing for the possibility that Sewell will need a replacement at some point. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound freshman completed three of his five pass attempts in the final series of last week's loss, gaining 16 yards and his first taste of collegiate action.

Sewell will get the start this weekend against Duke, but Groh has not ruled out the possibility of using both QBs, since Lalich is more of a pocket-passer while Sewell is a run threat as well.

Dias Goes Down, Again
Linebacker Jermaine Dias will have to watch the QB battle unfold from the sidelines, as he injured his ankle in the second quarter of last week's game, and will be out this week while it heals. Dias recorded three tackles in the first quarter before rolling over the ankle on the first play of the second period, taking him out of the game early, again. This marks the third time in four years that Dias has missed early-season time because of ankle injuries.

Sophomore Denzel Burrell will start Saturday after filling in for Dias in the final three quarters last week. Burrell has also been hampered by injury, playing in just two games last season before missing the rest of the year with a knee injury.

Even without Dias, The Cavaliers should have no problem containing Duke's offense. If they do, it's safe to say that their season is over.

Kentucky: The Injury Derby

Kentucky is in the midst of an injury derby. Three players are coming back while four players are ducking out as this weekend's matchup with Kent State inches closer, and the race is on to see whether the Wildcats can find some healthy bodies to fill the secondary. Linebacker Braxton Kelley and defensive tackles Ventrell Jenkins and Myron Pryor are coming back from injuries that limited their participation in preseason camp, while another defensive tackle and three key members of the Wildcats' secondary are really hurting.

First, the minor pain - freshman Ricky Lumpkin suffered a minor back injury in last weekend's opener. The redshirt freshman is critical to the DT rotation, the Wildcats Thunder says, especially with Jenkins and Pryor, both juniors, not yet up to full strength.

The major pain is in the secondary, where three injuries are threatening to decimate the Wildcats' protections. Corner David Jones, a former SEC All-Freshman, had an emergency apendectomy this fall and will need a few weeks before he can take the field again. The junior played in the corner spot his freshman year before moving to wide receiver in 2006, where he played in the first 12 games before spraining a knee in practice that kept him out of the Music City Bowl.

After dislocating his wrist in last week's opener, sophomore corner EJ Adams could be out for a few weeks. Depending on how the wrist heals, he might redshirt this fall, which would put a lot of pressure on Jones to get better fast. Adams recorded 13 tackles last season and one pass breakup, and pulled in a goal-line interception in the fourth quarter against Vanderbilt, setting up the win that clinched bowl eligibility for the Wildcats. He is a clutch player that this secondary will miss for two games at a bare minimum.

Safety Marcus McClinton is doubtful for this weekend after re-injuring the ankle he sprained during camp. The junior led last year's defense with four interceptions to go along with six pass breakups, five forced fumbles (tying the national record) and 65 tackles. Especially with two corners down for the forseeable future, Kentucky would like to get McClinton back on his feet as soon as humanly possible.

The secondary may have been the most improved area of the team heading into this season, but not any more. No time is a good time for injury, but now looks especially bad, with throwing teams like Louisville, South Carolina and LSU looming large on the schedule. Kentucky now has very little room to maneuver in terms of injuries, especially in the secondary, where they really cannot afford to have anyone else go down. Younger players are going to have to step up to cover for the seasoned players who are spending time warming the bench, and those senior guys will have to get back on the field and contribute sooner rather than later if Kentucky is going to compete for a conference title.

Busted BCS Busters

No. 19 TCU and No. 20 Hawai'i are two of the trendy picks to break into the BCS this season, and with TCU taking on No. 7 Texas this week and Hawai'i embarking on a 12-day road trip, they will need all their guns firing in order to lift themselves in the polls and take another step toward a BCS berth. As of Thursday, both teams are struggling with injuries - Hawai'i has lost a starting linebacker for two weeks and TCU has two guys dealing with aches that just won't go away.

Hawai'i starting linebacker Blaze Soares aggrivated his previously strained left hamstring in practice this week, taking him out of the Warriors' next two games against Louisiana Tech and UNLV. That pulled hamstring and a stinger in his left shoulder kept the 6-foot-1, 239-pound sophomore out of Hawai'i's season-opening thrashing of Northern Colorado, but he was on the travel roster before re-aggrivating the hamstring during defensive drills. Senior Brad Kalilimoku will step in at left linebacker after tallying a team-best nine tackles in the season opener.

As long as Soares is back for the final two games of the season, which will be Hawai'i's real tests against Boise State and Washington, the Warriors should have no probelm out-scoring their opponents while they wait for their starter to heal. Defense has never exactly been Hawai'i's calling card, so this one shouldn't hurt too badly.

Two Problems Linger for TCU
The status of defensive end Tommy Blake is still unknown as of Thursday. The 6-foot-3, 252-pound senior is practicing with an undiclosed illness, but the coaches have yet to decide whether or not he'll take the field Saturday against Texas. A returning first-team All-Conference selection, Blake won MVP honors in the 2006 Poinsettia Bowl after recording two sacks for a loss of 20 yards among his three tackles for a loss. He led the conference in sacks last season with seven, and was an all-around integral part of TCU's dominating defense. The Horned Frogs cannot be without him if they are going to topple the Longhorns in Austin.

Junior tail back Aaron Brown's knee injury has kept him out of practice, but he remains questionable for Saturday. Brown was the Horned Frogs' top rusher last season, logging 801 yards on the ground and averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The offense badly needs him on the field.

This wekeend's game is a huge opportunity for the Horned Frogs - they take on a Texas squad that looked extremely ordinary in last week's opener, and if TCU can manage an upset here, they might beable to buy their way into a great season culminating in a BCS bowl.

September 05, 2007

Mid-Week SEC Woes

The SEC may be the nation's toughest conference, but it's running the risk of becoming the nation's most depleted conference, as well. The injury reports keep mounting from the Southeast and this week was no exception, as Ole Miss and Florida both had bad news to report: Rebels receiver Dexter McCluster should keep his close relationship with the sidelines and Florida's secondary couldn't really afford another hit, but cornerback Markus Manson certainly didn't intend to be carted off the field after Tuesday's practice.

McCluster missed the second half of last season with a shoulder injury and a concussion after taking a huge hit on the opening play of the Vanderbilt game, so he's no stranger to the bench. Unfortunately for the sophomore wide out, he should make himself comfortable there, as head coach Ed Orgeron announced that the unspecified injury that kept him out of last week's opener could keep him off the gridiron for another six weeks.

The 5-foot-9, 165-pound receiver was Ole Miss' most productive receiver last season and finished with the third-most all-purpose yards on the team, even though he played in only six games. He compiled 274 kick return yards on 13 returns, 232 receiving yards on 15 catches and 68 rushing yards on eight carries. The Rebels are hoping this mysterious injury lasts on the three side of the three-to-six-week window doctors have given McCluster.

Things aren't looking much better in Florida, where cornerback Markus Manson left Tuesday's practice on a cart. The junior sprained his ankle and coach Urban Meyer is unsure how long he'll be out. Manson was listed as a starter in spring ball, but he was later beaten out for the job. He saw time in the Gators' 49-3 win over Western Kentucky last weekend, but did not register a tackle. Markihe Anderson, also formerly listed as a starter at corner, is still hurting as well - he sprained the MCL in his right knee before last weekend's game, sidelining him for the romp. Anderson is unlikely to start this weekend, thinning out that Gator secondary even further.

Clemson: Win One, Lose Some

Clemson came away with the win on Monday night when Son beat Dad to take the Bowden Bowl 2007 title, but the Tigers' celebration was cut short by injury. Two starters, right guard Thomas Austin and defensive tackle Rashaad Jackson, were injured in the first half of the game and did not return - and Clemson hasn't said anything about the likelihood of their playing in this week's contest.

Austin, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore at the top of the depth chart, injured his left ankle in the second quarter and left the field with help. His backup, senior Brandon Pilgrim, must have been having sympathy pains - he hurt his elbow two plays later and had to leave the game as well. Tough break for the right guard contingent. Junior Bobby Hutchinson played the remainder of the game, and managed to stay injury-free - Hutchinson had previously seen action in 59 plays over two years, so he wasn't exactly a stranger to the live action.

Jackson, who held the top spot at a very deep position, left the game in the second quarter with a head injury of some sort - Clemson officials were not any more specific than that. Six-foot-7, 300-pound junior Jock McKissic certainly has the name and the size to step in while Jackson sorts out his head problems, but all of the team's backups should see at least a few snaps on Saturday when the Tigers host Louisiana-Monroe.

Just a Concussion
Tennessee defensive end Xavier Mitchell has recovered from the frightening injury that left him paralyzed for a few moments on the turf last Saturday. The senior suffered a concussion and lost consciousness, but has said that the injury "looked worse than it really was." Tests revealed that Mitchell had sustained no structural damage and he made the flight back with the team, although he has not yet been cleared to play this weekend. The starter performed running drills in early-week practices, but was not in pads.

Trainers are taking their time putting him back on the field, as this is the second concussion Mitchell has sustained in the last month.

September 04, 2007

False Alarms

There was plenty of bad news released on the injury front following week one's games, but coaches at Auburn, Arizona State and Kansas State are all breathing sighs of relief as they find out that their players will be ready to go this Saturday. Each team had a player get roughed up in their season opener, but Auburn linebacker Tray Blackmon, Arizona State running back Keegan Herring and Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman should all take the field with little damage for week two.

Blackmon hurt his ankle returning an interception for 50 yards on the final play of Saturday's 23-13 win over Kansas State, and sat out the entire second half. Talk about going out with a bang - the 6-foot, 223-pound sophomore said after the game he was hoping to make ESPN highlights with his return. Not the smartest of plans, considering he spent early-week practices with his ankle in a protective boot. Still, Blackmon should be ready to go against South Florida on Saturday, and the Tigers will surely need him - he tied for the team lead with three fumble recoveries a year ago and had his first career interception last weekend. Auburn is going to have to play better defense against a USF team that cannot be overlooked, and Blackmon is an important piece of that puzzle.

From the other sideline in that 23-13 Auburn win, the entire Kansas State team held its breath as franchise quarterback Josh Freeman got his left cleat stuck in the turf while awkwardly attempting to slide, feet-first, in the third quarter of the game. It was not pretty. Freeman played the rest of the game, finishing 32-of-57 for 268 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, but he stretched his leg out continually and was walking with a limp. The sophomore is wearing a precautionary knee brace to practices, but fully expects to play on Saturday when the Wildcats take on San Jose State. Given that the bum knee is not to blame for those interceptions, Freeman has plenty to work on this week in practice.

Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson had some good news for the Sun Devils on Tuesday - running back Keegan Herring has a chance to play on Saturday Against Colorado. The junior sprained is neck in the team's 45-3 win over San Jose State after rushing for 76 yards on 16 carries. He will remain questionable until the end of the week, as some stiffness in the neck is keeping him out of contact drills in practice, but the 5-foot-10, 186-pound back is optimistic that he'll return, and the Sun Devils are optimistic that they'll have him back sooner rather than later, as he led the team in yards-per-carry last year, picking up 5.8 on each of his touches.

September 03, 2007

Georgia: Back Down to Two

Georgia's coaching staff had some backfield decisions to make going into their season opener against Oklahoma State, but after the 35-14 win, some of those decisions have been made for them. The three tailbacks were vying for time and the starting spot have been reduced to two, as senior Kregg Lumpkin is out indefinitely with a broken thumb on his right hand.

The 6-foot-1, 222-pound tailback appeared in every game last season, leading the Bulldogs in rushing with 798 yards and six touchdowns. The injury will keep him out for a few weeks, at least, but he will be back as soon as the thumb is strong enough to carry the ball.

Lumpkin started nine games in 2006 and was in competition with senior Thomas Brown and redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno for the starting spot. Brown got the start on Saturday, earning 48 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.

Moreno saw time as well, running the ball 20 times for 70 yards inand catching two passes for another 51. He also turned some heads, as head coach Mark Richt said after the game that he was impressed with Moreno's performance and his ability to hit the crease.

Without Lumpkin in the rotation, true freshman Caleb King might see some time at tailback after recovering from a preseason hamstring injury, but he is behind in his knowledge of the schemes. Senior Jason Johnson and redshirt freshman Shaun Chapas might also get into the mix - Chapas ran the ball four times for nine yards at the end of Saturday's opener.

Ohio State: Wilson Has Surgery

Ohio State defensive end Lawrence Wilson underwent surgery Sunday morning on his right leg after breaking it on Saturday in a 38-6 win over Youngstown state. Doctors estimated that the 6-foot-6, 276-pound junior would be sidelined for six to eight weeks, confirming head coach Jim Tressel's unofficial estimate.

The break was clean and only one bone (the tibia) was involved, so in the best-case scenario, Wilson would be back on the field Oct. 13 for the Kent State matchup, but a more likely return deadline is the Nov. 3 contest against Wisconsin, nine weeks from the date of the injury.

Before leaving the game in the second quarter, Wilson recorded the first sack of season for the Buckeyes.

September 02, 2007

NC State: Another Star Falls

NC State's offense has been absolutely decimated by injury, and things took another turn for the worse on Sunday. Top running back Toney Baker injured a knee in the Wolfpack's 25-23 season opening loss to Central Florida on Saturday, and the injury is severe enough that Baker will not return to the field in 2007.

During arthroscopic surgery on Sunday, doctors found cartilage damage in the junior's knee, sidelining him indefinitely. Baker was the team's leading rusher in 2006, averaging more than 57 yards per game on the ground. He will most likely be eligible for a medical redshirt, but the injury is bad news for an already ailing NC State team.

The news comes at a particularly sore time for the Wolfpack, as head coach Tom O'Brien's debut was spoiled by the same UCF upset that took Baker off the roster. NC State is also without its leading pass catcher this season, as tight end Anthony Hill tore his ACL during fall camp.

Tennessee: Bigger Scares To Attend To

Watching Eric Ainge's super-accurate passing on Saturday afternoon, you might have forgotten that the quarterback broke the pinkie finger on his throwing hand earlier in the week. It might have appeared that Ainge had forgotten about it too, as the senior completed a career-high 32 of his 47 pass attempts for 271 yards, three TDs and no interceptions, but Tennessee has bigger worries on its hands - starting defensive end Xavier Mitchell silenced Memorial Stadium near the end of the game. The senior laid completely immobile on the turf for nearly mive minutes before slowly waving one hand as he was carried off the field on a stretcher.

Luckily, the left end was alert and talking after he left the field, but as of yet, no diagnosis has been released on the severity of the frightening injury. Head coach Phil Fulmer said that a CT and X-ray were taken Saturday night and no spinal damage was found, but more details would be released as they come to light.

With Mitchell able to move his limbs, talk could return to Ainge's pinkie, which suddenly seemed all but inconsequential. The senior had his pinkie taped to his ring finger throughout the game, and complained of poor releases on several of his tosses.

"There were a couple of throws where [the ball] came out pretty terrible," Ainge said. "That one to Lucas Taylor down there in the end zone didn't come out right at all."

If that was Ainge when the ball came out poorly, you'll definitely want to be watching this guy when the ball comes out well.

Pittsburgh: Thumb Surgery for Stull

Pittsburgh starting quarterback Bill Stull left Saturday's game in the third quarter due to an injuy sustained on the thumb of his throwing hand, and the University has released that the junior will undergo surgery to repair that injury, keeping him off the field indefinitely.

Stull completed 14 of his 20 pass attempts for 177 yards in a touchdown before leaving the game against Eastern Michigan, putting together enough offense for the Panthers to pull out a 27-3 victory. Stull was the only quarterback on the roster that had playing experience coming into the 2007 season, as he saw time in four games in a backup role in 2006, so Pitt now has some scrambling to do before Grambling State comes to town next Saturday.

Redshirt freshman Kevan Smith took over for Stull after he left the game, completing two of his four pass attempts for 18 yards, putting the first snaps of his career under his belt. True freshman Pat Bostick will challenge Smith for playing time, although he did not get into the game yesterday.

Utah: As Bad As It Looks

Utah's army of injured players underwent further examination after the initial injuries were reported during Thursday's game against Oregon State and things are, unfortunately, just as bad as they seemed - quarterback Brian Johnson, running back Matt Asiata, special teams standout Matt Martinez and backup tight end Colt Sampson are all down for the count.

Johnson really did separate that right shoulder, leaving him on the three-to-five week list. The junior quarterback completed 8 of 13 pass attempts for 119 yards and a touchdown in less than two quarters of play on Thursday, the first game action he had seen since 2005.

Asiata had surgery on Friday to repair fractures in his right tibia and fibula after his junior season officially ended with four carries for 16 yards. Asiata was the heart and soul of Utah's less-than-fabulous running attack, and without him, the outlook looks bleak. Coach Kyle WIttingham told the media on Friday, "With Asiata we are losing our running attack, we weren't good enough there last year, and with Brian running the option, that went away too. We have some problems to solve." You can say that again.

Martinez will be out for the season after tearing his ACL, joining offensive lineman Jason Boone and receiver A.J. Reilly, who tore their ligaments during camp and will miss the year as well.

Sampson's left knee sprain should keep him out for four weeks.

If this continues, Utah may have to hold another set of open tryouts in order to keep their roster full for the rest of the season.

September 01, 2007

Illinois: No More Juice

Illinois quarterback Juice Williams probably didn't see this one coming. The sophomore ran to the right side of the field early in the second quarter of the Illini's season opener against Missouri, only to collide head-on with Tiger defensive back Hardy Ricks. The helmet-to-helmet hit left Williams on the turf for several minutes before leaving the game after, walking off the field only with help from his trainers. The hit looked clean, since Ricks was not penalized on the play. It also looked hard.

The sophomore quarterback, who was 1-8 in nine games last season, gained 15 yards on six carries and completed six of his nine pass attempts for 59 yards in the 20 minutes of game time he played against Missouri. He sat out the rest of the game for "precautionary reasons," according to a team spokesperson, but any injury details will most likely be revealed in the coming days.

Redshirt freshman Eddie McGee took over under center for the injured Williams.

Ohio State: Woe For Wilson

Ohio State's season got off to a painful start, as starting defensive end Lawrence Wilson broke his right leg to dampen the Buckeyes' 38-6 win over Youngstown State. The 6-foot-6, 276-pound Wilson was expected to be a force up front, following up a 17-tackle, three sack sophomore season, but all of that changed in the second quarter, when the junior lay writhing in pain following a Youngstown State completion.

He was was taken off the field on a motorized cart and will likely be out 6-8 weeks, though for now, the word is the Buckeyes will be without him indefinitely. Surgery should take place Sunday or Monday to insert a rod into his leg to stabilize the break.

Freshman Cameron Heyward was put into the lineup in WIlson's place.


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