The 10 Most Devastating Player Losses of College Football Fall Practice
As refreshing as it's been after a long offseason, college football fall practice has a dark side.
Players are hitting again...and getting hurt. They're finding out football isn't easy, or easy to balance, against academics, extracurriculars or hitting a golf ball repeatedly in the air. (Well, for some players that's easy.)
The following are 10 players that were casualties of fall ball either because of injury, academics or that dreary "violation of team rules" we're seeing more and more. Just hope you don't see your team's name on this list.
No. 10: Caleb TerBush, QB (Purdue)
If it wasn't already, Purdue's whole season is riding on Miami transfer Robert Marve now that his backup, Caleb TerBush, was declared academically ineligible yesterday.
Marve was the clear frontrunner for the starting QB spot all through summer, but Purdue coach Danny Hope said that true freshman Sean Robinson would now be taking reps at the No. 2 spot.
Purdue's expectations may not be Big Ten championship high. But a season removed from beating Ohio State and Michigan and nearly knocking off Notre Dame...yeah, a bowl game would be nice. As one headline put it, stay healthy, Mr. Marve.
No. 9: Giovanni Bernard, RB (UNC)
Fort Lauderdale, FL running back Giovanni Bernard was the No. 14 running back in the 2010 class, a shifty all-purpose player holding offers from Florida, Alabama, and a committment to Notre Dame.
Instead, Bernard, originally a Notre Dame commitment, tore his ACL within the first few days of the Tar Heels camp.
His contributions weren't expected to be major—the depth chart is stacked with three seniors at RB. But there was a chance his versatile talents could have provided a spark to UNC's...iffy...offense, which returns just one reliable playmaker (WR Greg Little) to bail out embattled starter TJ Yates.
No. 8: Kavario Middleton, TE (Washington)
Huskies tight end Kavario Middleton was expected to have a breakout season as one of Jake Locker's favorite targets.
Middleton caught 26 receptions for 257 yards and three scores as a true sophomore, good for fourth-most passes of the team last year.
His size (6'6", upwards of 250 lbs) and recruiting hype (a five-star tight end in the 2008 class) suggested he'd be one of Locker's leading red-zone targets, a place the Huskies figured to see a lot of this year.
"Repeated violations of team rules" cost him a spot on UW, but it was academics that prevented him from completing a clean transfer to Nebraska, which suggests he may also not have been eligible to play anyhow.
Nos. 7 & 6: Braylon Heard, RB and Mike Smith, OL (Nebraska)
The Cornhuskers have lost two potential contributors for two different reasons.
Offensive lineman Mike Smith broke his leg a week in to practice. Smith started 13 games last year at tackle and was expected to play either center or guard—though not guaranteed to start—this year.
Though he's not a household name (yet), 2010 Nebraska commit Braylon Heard was a four-star running back ranked the fifth-best in the class. He was mentioned among the most likely impact freshmen by Rivals, and brings a versatility to the game that the Huskers could have used out of the backfield and on passing downs.
Yet academics will force him out for the year. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini says he's hopeful Heard will try and get in this January, but that won't help NU's offense get over the hump this fall.
No. 5: Chris Martin, DE (Cal)
Cal's stellar 2010 recruiting class has already lost most of its luster.
The Bears lost four-star linebacker Cecil Whiteside to academics, and witnessed the transfer of five-star defensive end Chris Martin.
Martin was a guaranteed early contributor either at rush linebacker or defensive end for Cal, which posted the 111th-ranked passing defense in 2009. Yet Martin couldn't fit into the scene at Berkeley.
Or, more accurately, he fit in a little too well. Martin cited the distractions of the Bay Area as a reason to transfer, saying he'd be unable to concentrate on the game.
Smart of him to choose sunny, quiet Gainesville, Florida as his final destination. Nothing ever goes on there.
No. 4: Moses McCray, DT (Florida State)
The eulogy on Florida State's 2009 defense contained many mentions of how the Noles' defensive line lacked the bulk to play decently against the run.
That's as good an explanation for why Florida State finished 108th (!) nationally in run defense in 2009.
Losing defensive tackle Moses McCray to an ACL tear early in camp was a blow towards improving those numbers. McCray, a junior, has 14 starts in two seasons and, more importantly, was up to 302 pounds, around ideal weight for a nose.
Redshirt freshman Demonte McAllister has stepped in and had a good camp, but he gives up at least 20 pounds and has no starting experience.
FSU has no place to go but up—with the recruiting class they signed, they better. But consider McCray's loss a gain for Georgia Tech, Miami and every other team who will try their luck at FSU's soft middle.
Nos. 3 & 2: Kai Maiava, C And Datone Jones, DE (UCLA)
Always a bad sign when two of the biggest losses of fall camp happen to your team.
But that's been UCLA's lot in life this fall, as junior center Kai Maiava and junior defensive end Datone Jones both went down with injuries considered to be season-ending.
Jones was the only returning starter on UCLA's defensive line, which also saw the departure of all Pac-10 defensive tackle Brian Price to early NFL draft entry. Jones broke his foot and will use his redshirt year, according to Neuheisel.
The ankle fracture to Kai Maiava, the oft-laid-up center for UCLA, capped a wave of other forced vacancies for the Bruins, who also lost lineman Jeff Baca (to academics), Stanley Hasiak (academics) and Mike Harris (suspension for team rules).
Maiava is only expected to be out for half the season. But add in Kevin Prince's lingering back injury and the loss of other starters, and that could spell another slow start. With their schedule, that's more than possible. Just hope all the optimism for Neuheisel's third year doesn't evaporate with it.
No. 1: Troy Woolfolk, DB (Michigan)
There's almost no way one can overstate the magnitude of Michigan cornerback Troy Woolfolk's dislocated ankle, or the fact that he will miss the entire season due to the injury.
Woolfolk was the senior leader of a Michigan secondary that was repeatedly victimized on the way to a 5-7 season, 1-7 Big Ten finish last year. He was penciled in as Michigan's lockdown cornerback across from sophomore JT Floyd, and his speed was expected to bail Michigan out of any big plays...should the defense actually force a third down once or twice.
Yet Woolfolk injured his ankle on a routine tackling drill, pressing true freshmen Cullen Christian and Courtney Avery and converted receiver James Rogers into full-time duty.
Woolfolk should have been in a dang hamster ball, to be honest.
If Rodriguez survives the season, it will be because of the heroic efforts of defensive backs coach Tony Gibson, Avery, Christian, Floyd and a little thing called luck...which is a commodity many find sorely lacking in Ann Arbor these days.