According to a source close to the team, UB Bulls tailback James Starks will miss the opening of the 2009-10 season due to an undisclosed shoulder injury. If surgery is needed, he may need to sit out his entire senior season.
The source said Starks had an MRI Friday, which revealed the injury.
Starks' backup Brandon Thermilus was named starter at today's practice. Thermilus, a junior, saw an expanded role last season, carrying the ball 100 times for 454 yards and seven scores. It is expected that he and senior tailback Mario Henry will anchor the team's rushing attack during Starks' absence.
Starks has been an intricate part of the Bulls offense since joining the squad as a freshman in 2006. He was a standout last season, rushing for over 1,300 yards for the MAC Champion Bulls.
The Niagara Falls native's 16 touchdowns were the most ever for the UB football program since joining the Division I ranks.
This season, the Bulls offense was to be led by Starks and fellow Western New Yorker, wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt. Both were predicted to be mid to late round selections in the upcoming 2010 NFL Draft.
The Bulls open their season Sept. 5 at UTEP.
Updated: Aug. 25, 11:00 am
Despite earlier reports from The Buffalo News, UB Bulls running back James Starks will in fact miss the entire 2009-10 season after an MRI on Friday discovered a labral tear in his shoulder.
Starks, a fifth year senior, will not have eligibility remaining after this season.
"The doctors did an MRI that revealed James had a labral tear that required surgery," head coach Turner Gill said in a press release sent out Tuesday morning. "He tried rehab and practices but it was too painful for him to play. Therefore he will have the surgery now and miss the season. It will be a 4-6 month recovery period. Doctors have told me that they anticipate he will make a complete recovery and I believe he will have an opportunity to play at the next level.
"On behalf of the staff and his teammates we want to thank James for all of his outstanding contributions to the University at Buffalo football program, the University and the Western New York community," he said. "He is scheduled to graduate in December, and of course, will remain a part of this program."
Starks is the school's all-time leading rusher with 3,140 yards, 34 rushing touchdowns, and 222 points, and he ranks fifth in all-purpose yardage with 3,830 yards. He had been named to the preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Memorial trophy, given to the nation's top running back.
"Injuries are, and will always be, a huge part of football," said Gill in the release, "but this one is particularly painful because of what James has meant to this program and community. However, this is an incredible opportunity for a group of very talented running backs that we have to step up and help us achieve our goals this season."