According to week one's injury report, the Northwestern Wildcats have lost redshirt freshman running back Alex Daniel to a season-ending ankle injury. Daniel was a highly touted recruit from Georgia who was expected to compete for the starting RB job this season and was in the top three vying for the spot going into the 2009 preseason camp.
In fact, Daniel was the starter in Northwestern's 2009 spring game (at least he was in at RB on the first drive of the scrimmage), and from those carries he seemed to be the best "between the tackles" runner that the Wildcats have on the roster.
Starter Stephen Simmons is listed at 5'8", current backup true freshman Arby Fields is 5'9", and another competing for the spot, converted WR Jeravin Matthews, is listed at only 175 pounds.
Therefore, the biggest impact this injury may have is reducing the options that Northwestern has when sending a runner between the tackles.
It also removes one potential option from the running back corps, and although plenty remain (Simmons, Fields, Matthews, along with Scott Concannon, and Jacob Schmidt), one can never have enough depth.
With the Wildcats facing a lower tier team in week one, expect to see a lot of the running game, especially if NU builds a lead. So, 'Cats fans will begin to see if the NU RB corps is up to this additional challenge.
Coach Fitz will likely field three or more running backs during the course of the game, which is a trend likely to continue into the season, especially with no one back likely to be able to shoulder a majority of the rushing load.
Best of luck to Daniel in his recovery; it's never good to see an injury, and once again NU finds itself on the wrong side of the injury eight-ball coming out of camp (see the injuries to Dunsmore in 2008 and Brewer in 2007, amongst others). Thankfully, there are other options, and there is time for the backs to get settled into the position.
Other injuries keeping players out for the first game of 2009 include CB Mike Bolden (leg), LB David Arnold (knee), and DT Adam Hahn (foot), which explains all of their absence from the depth chart.
Also, DT Jack DiNardo is questionable; DiNardo may not be necessary against Towson, but he'll be needed later in the year to bolster the defensive line rotation against tougher competition and more physical offensive fronts. Hopefully the schedule layout will allow these four to get healthy for when they're needed later in the year.