One of the strengths of the Purdue Boilermakers football team in 2008 was thought to be the depth at running back.
Although Purdue has been known for anything but rushing offense throughout the tenure of Coach Joe Tiller (and his "basketball on grass" pass-happy scheme), the Boilermakers headed into the upcoming year with not one but two proven running backs.
Seniors and "co-starters" Jaycen Taylor and Kory Sheets combined for over 1,400 yards on the ground each of the past two seasons, and more great things were expected this fall in Tiller's final year at the helm.
Those plans and dreams were shattered this week when Taylor suffered a serious knee injury in Sunday's practice. A trip to the doctor in Indianapolis today confirmed what most around the Purdue program had suspected and feared: Taylor's 2008 season is over before it began, thanks to a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Despite breaking his arm and missing four games a year ago, Taylor averaged 5.2 yards a carry for the Boilers in 2007. His career-best game came against Northwestern, where he posted career-highs of 20 carries, 157 rushing yards, and two touchdowns.
Splitting time in the backfield with Sheets, the two running backs helped Purdue finish with the Big Ten's No. 1 offense, and even more was expected of the prolific tandem in 2008.
Instead, Kory Sheets (pictured above) is left to carry the load at running back alone. Although he is a threat to break a huge run every time he touches the ball and has a great chance at becoming Purdue's all-time touchdown leader before graduation, Sheets' penchant for fumbling has been a constant issue.
If Sheets holds on to the ball in 2008, Taylor's injury could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Sheets can get the lion's share of the carries this year, and Taylor (thanks to a medical redshirt) can have the ball all to himself in 2009.
However, if Sheets continues to struggle with ball security, Taylor's injury may have cost the Boilermakers (and exiting Coach Tiller) a possible winning season and bowl berth before September even arrived on the calendar.