August 5, 2007

Injuries, suspensions take a toll


Injuries, suspensions and bad grades.

Coaches football coaches dread those three things, but dealing with them is part of the game. Those three problems cropped up at several programs this offseason.

Some stars such as West Virginia running backSteve Slaton (wrist) and Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge (knee) sat out of spring drills after surgeries, but appear to be ready for the fall. Others weren't quite so fortunate.

Conference contenders like Nebraska, Boston College, Oklahoma State and Rutgers will have to adjust to injuries - at least for the start of the season. Georgia, Maryland and Tennessee are missing players due to academics.

Here, we will take a look at major developments for players going under the knife, into the courtroom and those who need more work in the classroom.

Nebraska cornerback Zack Bowman
The Cornhuskers go into another season with their star cornerback spending more time in the doctor's office than on the field. At least this year, Nebraska is hopeful Bowman will play. He missed all of 2006 following an ACL tear in his left knee. He missed most of spring practice after having surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his left knee. The original prognosis was for Bowman to return to action in five or six months, but he has been making good progress. Coach Bill Callahan hasn't revealed a return date, but it's possible he could return in September.
Boston College linebacker Brian Toal
There will be no "forth and Toal" plays in Boston this year. Toal, who has had 180 tackles of over the last three seasons, is likely to miss the season following surgery on his right shoulder in March. The Eagles will miss Toal on offense as well he had 12 rushing touchdowns over the last two years. First-year Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski said Toal will not play until he is completely healthy, which will likely be in 2008. Toal has battled injuries throughout his BC career, and will likely take this redshirt year to recover.
Oklahoma State wide receiver Artrell Woods
Woods will be grateful to walk this season, much less play football this season. Woods is recovering from a serious back injury sustained during an accident in the weight room in July. Woods suffered a fractured vertebrae and a spinal cord injury. He will miss the season following back surgery, but was able to move with the help of a walker a few days after the accident. The Cowboys hoped Woods would become a complement to All-Big 12 receiver Adarius Bowman. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is hopeful Woods will play again, but it won't happen in 2007.
Rutgers linebacker Ryan D'Imperio
After spending his freshman season on special teams, D'Imperio was en route to becoming Rutgers' starting middle linebacker before he suffered a broken leg in the spring. How much time D'Imperio will miss is unclear at this point, but the start of his season is certainly in doubt. Rutgers will be hard-pressed to replace him because the Scarlet Knights have little depth at linebacker.
Virginia wide receiver Kevin Ogletree
For the second consecutive year, Virginia goes into its season with an injury to its top returning receiver. Ogletree will likely miss the entire season following a torn ACL. Ogletree had 582 yards and four touchdowns last year.
Syracuse running back Delone Carter
If Syracuse is to escape the Big East cellar in 2007, it will have to do so without its rising stars. Carter's 713 rushing yards last year led the Orange, and were the most for a Syracuse freshman since 1978. However, Carter dislocated his hip during spring practice and will miss the season. Junior Curtis Brinkley, who rushed for 571 yards last year, will get the bulk of the carries in 2007.
N.C. State tight end Anthony Hill
Tom O'Brien will try to right the ship in Raleigh without his leading receiver. Hill will miss the season following ACL surgery. Hill led the team with 478 receiving yards last year and leaves former backup quarterback Marcus Stone as potentially the starting tight end.
Miami safety Anthony Reddick
The Hurricanes will have a standout secondary even without Reddick, but a little depth never hurts. Injuries have derailed Reddick's promising career since he started six games as a true freshman in 2004. Reddick will miss the 2007 season following ACL surgery on his left knee. He missed all but 22 plays of the 2005 season because of ACL surgery on his right knee.
Other injuries:
Louisville's Marcel Benson, a projected starter at right guard, was not medically cleared for the season after he was diagnosed with a heart condition at the end of spring practice. Florida running back Mon Williams, expected to contend for the starting role, will miss the season with a torn ACL. Quarterback Cade Cooper, one of two candidates to replace John Beck at BYU, sustained a season-ending foot injury in the spring game and elected to transfer. USC wide receiver Damian Williams, sitting out this season because of NCAA transfer rules, will not practice this year following shoulder surgery.
Georgia cornerback Paul Oliver
Oliver was one of only three returning starters on the Georgia defense, and he was considered a potential all-conference performer. The Bulldogs were left scrambling at cornerback after Oliver was declared academically ineligible. He was selected in the fourth round of June's NFL supplemental draft.
Maryland offensive tackle Jared Gaither
The Terrapins offense took a major hit with the loss of the 6-foot-9, 250-pound tackle. Gaither started 17 games over the last two seasons. A potential All-ACC performer, Gatiher was declared academically ineligible for the 2007 season. Like Oliver, he entered the NFL's supplemental draft. Gaither was selected in the fifth round.
Tennessee safety Demetrice Morley
Tennessee's secondary was already hurting for experience, and Morley's departure won't help. Morley, who started 10 games last year, was not allowed to enroll after falling below the school's academic standards. Backup defensive back Roshaun Fellows was also dismissed due to an undisclosed violation of team rules.
More academic issues:
Wake Forest linebacker Eric Berry, the projected replacement for All-ACC linebacker Jon Abbate, was declared academically ineligible for 2007 but will remain at Wake Forest. Auburn's Patrick Trahan, a projected starter at strongside linebacker, will head to junior college after being declared academically ineligible.
Nebraska wide receiver Maurice Purify
The Cornhuskers' top receiver will miss the opener against Nevada and will face "continued additional discipline" after he faced several criminal charges during the offseason. Purify pleaded no contest to all charges in July and was placed on probation after he was charged with driving while intoxicated, assault, disturbing the peace and hindering arrest stemming from two incidents earlier in the summer.
Michigan wide receiver Adrian Arrington
Chad Henne's No. 2 target this year appears to be on his way back to rejoining the Wolverines. After a 544-yard, eight-touchdown season, Arrington was suspended during spring drills for an unspecified violation of team rules. Arrington was allowed to return to the team for summer conditioning, but he already had his share of conditioning running stadium steps for 60 days. The return of tight end Carson Butler is even less certain. Butler was dismissed in the spring after an altercation in a dorm. He was found not guilty and it is possible he will return.
Penn State safety Anthony Scirrotto and defensive tackle Chris Baker
The return of Scirrotto and Baker is still uncertain following charges stemming from an alleged fight at an off-campus apartment. Scirrotto, who had six interceptions last year, was charged with burglary, assault, harassment, criminal trespass and criminal solicitation. Baker, a backup, was charged with burglary, assault, harassment and criminal trespass. A trial could begin in October. Both were expelled for the summer, but are eligible to return in the fall. Coach Joe Paterno has not decided if they will open practice with the team or face further discipline.
Other suspensions
Florida offensive lineman Ronnie Wilson was suspended for the season while he faces a misdemeanor stemming from firing a rifle into the air during a disagreement with a Gainesville man. Pittsburgh backup defensive back Elijah Fields was suspended for the season for an unspecified violation of team rules. Oregon State backup cornerback Coye Francies was dismissed for a violation of team rules. Florida return man Brandon James was suspended for the opener against Western Kentucky following his arrest for possession of marijuana.

David Fox is a national writer for He can be reached at

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