Injuries, Suspensions Striking Top College Football Teams—Except WVU

Frank AhrensSenior Writer IAugust 12, 2008

I don’t believe in jinxes (except for this one), because if I did, I wouldn’t write this piece.  Further, I take no joy in players’ injuries.

But via a combination of injuries and bad behavior, the teams ranked ahead of No. 8 WVU in the preseason coaches' poll are losing key players left and right.

Take a look at the top seven teams in the coaches' poll and what horrors have befallen them.

1) Georgia

The bad news: Eight Bulldogs were suspended in the offseason (among them, six arrests).  The good news: Almost all were backups.

Today, however, Georgia lost “probably their third-most important player on offense,” according to ESPN College GameDay (after running back Knowshon Moreno and quarterback Matthew Stafford, presumably), when it was announced that starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant was gone for the season with a knee injury.

If you’ve got a great running back, like the Bulldogs do, left tackle is important.  If you’ve got a right-handed quarterback, like the Bulldogs do, left tackle is critical to stopping blindside rushes.  The mood in Athens, ESPN reports, is grave.

2) USC

The Trojans thought they lost starting quarterback Mark Sanchez for at least the first four games with a dislocated kneecap.  Today, ESPN reports that he’s hopeful of returning for USC’s opener against UVa, though they probably wouldn’t kneed him—er, “need” him.

Still, we’ll see how stable he is.  If that kneecap wobbles out again during the season, he’s got Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain behind him.

3) Ohio State

Sen. Sweater Vest suspended a starting cornerback and a backup safety for two games for knucklehead reasons, apparently.

4) Oklahoma

Preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year Auston “It’s ironic that my parents misspelled my first name considering my last name is” English had an appendectomy in late July, but he is expected to be ready by the opener.  I hope he—and the rest of the Sooners—had some guts installed while the doctors were in there messing around.

Even better, Bob Stoops dismissed highly prized recruit wide receiver Josh Jarboe before he even got to the team, thanks to his appearance in a profanity-laced Internet music video in which he threatened gun-related violence.

Now typically, this would lead to promotion rather than disqualification in the Sooners football program.  I’m guessing Stoops found out the kid actually couldn’t play, and he was looking for a reason to pull his scholarship.

5) Florida

The Gators no longer play in the SEC.  They now play in the ACL.  No fewer than five (!) Gators have torn ACLs so far this summer, including the starting tight end, the projected starting safety, and three others.  All will be out for the season.

Five?  This is almost a scientifically testable trend.  Is it the turf they practice on?  The genetics?  The training staff?  Georgia coach Mark Richt sneaking into camp at night and silently injecting players’ legs with necrotic agents?

6) LSU

Thanks to quarterback Ryan Perrilloux’s buttheadedness in the offseason, the national champions will begin their title defense with...a quarterback who last played junior varsity at Harvard.  No kidding.

I saw the guy on ESPN today—his arms are the size of pipe cleaners.  Out-of-his-mind coach Les Miles will probably have him running the single-wing.

7) Mizzou

The Tigers have remained relatively injury-free so far in practice, save for the tight end, who broke his finger and had three screws set in it.  He will be back for the opener, which is not surprising in that he played last season with bone spurs in his ankle and a knife protruding from his left shoulder blade.  (Okay, that last part’s not true.  It was only a thumbtack.)

8) WVU

Not only have the Mountaineers avoided major injuries so far, they got a bonus healthy body today: Defensive tackle Pat Liebig’s appeal for another year of eligibility was approved by the NCAA, giving coach Bill Stewart another veteran lineman in a unit that lost Keilen Dykes and Johnny Dingle to the NFL.

The Mountaineers also did a little impulse shopping, picking up a JuCo cornerback this week, who they think will be ready to play by the second or third week of the season.

As for injuries, backup quarterback Jarrett Brown has a hamstring “tweak,” a likely starter at receiver, Alric Arnett, had an upset tummy last week (as did All-American candidate offensive lineman Ryan Stanchek), defensive back Guesly Dervil dislocated a finger, starting H-back Will Johnson is nursing an ankle sprain—and well, that’s pretty much it.

It is worth noting that Stewart kicked four players off the team in the springtime, including one who was likely could have been a backup linebacker and a possible starting defensive back.

Overall, though, WVU has been very, very lucky so far, when it seems other teams’ players are blowing out knees even during purposeful cross-campus striding (credit to the great Robert Klein for that phrase).