Injuries are, without a doubt, the biggest thing that rationalizing fans love to point to when their team doesn’t quite live up to expectations.
However, it’s a problem that every team has to deal with, and barring a true epidemic of player losses, nobody who complains about their team’s injury problem is likely to receive much sympathy.
The truth is, while prognosticators naturally point to stars like Dion Lewis or Noel Devine as the reason why certain programs are considered the favorites to win their conference, football is a true battle of attrition and the teams that can replace fallen stars without missing a beat tend to be the most consistent winners.
With the season still a few weeks away, the injury bug has already hit a few Big East teams hard. None of their opponents will be shedding any tears for them though, and how they move on in the wake of these losses will become a major storyline as camp continues and the season begins.
Marcus Cambell: Defensive End, UConn
The Huskies have already lost one projected starter for the season, with this week’s news that defensive end Marcus Cambell suffered a torn ACL.
To make matters worse, it’s actually the second blow that UConn has received at the defensive end position.
Linebacker Greg Lloyd was supposed to be moving up to the line this season, but that plan was put on hold because he hasn’t fully healed from his own knee injury and will be redshirting this season.
Cambell also missed the 2009 season due to academic issues, which has to make the torn ACL all the more excruciating with which to deal.
With him out, the Huskies are left with little depth and experience at the defensive end spot, but head coach Randy Edsall seems ready to make the best of it.
"When you lose a guy who has contributed and played in games, that's experience," Edsall said. "Any time you lose experience, that's tough. But now other guys will get opportunities."
Sophomores Trevardo Williams and Jesse Joseph are slated to take over at the two end spots now.
Bryan Murphy: Defensive End, Pittsburgh
The injury bug has been nagging at the Pitt Panthers so far this training camp, with key players like running back Ray Graham and defensive end Greg Romeus missing time with minor injuries.
However, the first significant injury seems to have befallen a promising freshman, defensive end Bryan Murphy.
Murphy had been impressing coaches during training camp and was taking snaps with the second-team defense. However, he suffered a broken foot during a scrimmage and will be out of the picture for at least six weeks.
Obviously, this injury alone may not significantly alter Pittsburgh’s chances for success this year, but if Greg Romeus or Jabaal Sheard were to go down with an injury at some point, it could make the loss even more significant.
Mark Popek: Offensive Tackle, South Florida
The South Florida Bulls received some bad news and then some (comparatively) good news on the status of sophomore tackle Mark Popek last week.
Popek, who was competing for a starting job on the Bulls’ line, went down with a knee injury during practice and had to be helped off the field. Tests came back showing a second-degree sprain of his MCL—an injury significantly less severe than a damaged ACL would have been.
"Well, it's better than worst-case scenario," Bulls coach Skip Holtz said. "When you look at it, when you saw it on film and you saw what happened to him, I think it's best case. He's a great young man. We need him on this team. We're just hoping for a speedy and healthy recovery."
Obviously, this will cost him the opportunity to earn a starting job for at least the early part of the season. With a projected recovery time of only three to six weeks, though, he’ll be back in plenty of time to bolster the Bulls’ offensive line for the Big East portion of the schedule.
Jarrod West: Wide Receiver, Syracuse
With a rebuilding project as monumental as the one Doug Marrone was commissioned to oversee last year, he’ll be looking for help anywhere he can get it.
As he showed last year, Marrone has no problems with playing freshmen significantly. That should be the case again this year and one guy in particular being eyed as a potential contributor was freshman receiver Jarrod West.
West, a highly touted prospect who boasted offers from Stanford, Pitt, Missouri, Cincinnati, and several others, might have been the gem of Marrone’s 2010 recruiting class.
With a young and relatively thin corp of wide receivers, it could almost be assumed, even before training camp, that West would make his presence felt for the Orange this season.
Marrone’s comments after finding out that West suffered a broken foot seemed to validate that projection.
“It’s disappointing, because in my evaluation of him, I was assuming he was going to be someone that was going to be a part of this offense and really contributing in the first year. He has that type of talent.”
There’s no specific time frame for when he might return, but being that he’s a true freshman who will miss most of training camp, and then a major portion of the year, it could be unlikely that he’ll see the field at all this year. Unless Syracuse finds itself with an opportunity for bowl eligibility and in need of help late in the season, West may end up redshirting.
Tim Wright: Wide Receiver, Rutgers
Rutgers came into training camp with plenty of question marks on offense and last week, they abruptly found themselves with another major one.
Sophomore receiver Tim Wright, who was named a starter and the team’s most improved player in the spring, will miss the 2010 season with a right knee injury.
"Tim has really improved from the end of last season to now,” coach Greg Schiano said. “He's probably the guy who has made the biggest improvement. We were really counting on him but those things happen in sports and now it's an opportunity for other guys to step up.''
Stepping into the starting role opposite Mohammad Sanu will be sophomore Mark Harrison.