Week 1 Injuries That Will Have Biggest Impact on 2015 College Football Season

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2015

Week 1 Injuries That Will Have Biggest Impact on 2015 College Football Season

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    Injuries were a common theme during the first week of college football season.

    Numerous teams lost star players in their first games of the year and will have to mine the depth chart for replacements.

    Other teams were slightly luckier, losing star players for a close-ended period, but they'll still have to cope for the next few weeks or months. In a sport such as college football, where there's only 12 games on the schedule and every loss is proportionately magnified, that still means a lot.

    The injuries that follow will have a major impact on the rest of the season. How these players' teams replace them will shape the narrative of power-conference title races and major national awards.

    Sound off below and let us know which Week 1 injury you think was the most important.

RB James Conner, Pittsburgh

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    Injury: Torn MCL

    Prognosis: Out for Season

    This one stings to write.

    Pittsburgh star running back James Conner, who last year rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns on 298 carries, will miss the rest of the season with an MCL injury. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com confirmed the news Monday morning.

    Conner was the ballast of a pro-style Pittsburgh offense that relies on keeping the ball from the opponent. His ability to run between the tackles, move the chains and keep possession were a perfect fit under new head coach Pat Narduzzi. Pro Football Focus graded Conner the No. 1 running back in college football last season, ahead of even Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon.

    Freshman Qadree Ollison looked great in relief of Conner, rushing for 207 yards in the win over Youngstown State. But that was against…well, Youngstown State. Losing Conner kills Pitt's chances of making a sleeper run through the ACC this season.

    Better luck next year, I guess.

RB Tarean Folston, Notre Dame

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    Injury: Torn ACL

    Prognosis: Out For Season

    Notre Dame lost starting running back Tarean Folston to a season-ending knee injury—the only thing that went wrong in a 38-3 win over Texas.

    Folston was the key to an Irish backfield that lost Greg Bryant—first to an academic suspension, and then to an apparent transfer—this offseason. Prior to Week 1, Keith Arnold of NBC Sports said Folston "has a chance to be Notre Dame's most productive back since [Darius] Walker."

    Converted wide receiver C.J. Prosise and breakout freshman Josh Adams will carry the load in Folston's absence. They will run behind a veteran offensive line and probably do just fine, but neither has Folston's polished skills or upside.

    Quarterback Malik Zaire has even more weight on his shoulders.

QB Taysom Hill, BYU

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    Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

    Injury: Broken Foot

    Prognosis: Out For Season

    BYU quarterback Taysom Hill broke his foot and will miss the rest of the season.

    That sentence is a punch in the gut.

    Hill was a Heisman candidate after the first month of 2014 but tore his ACL in a loss to Utah State. He rehabbed all summer and looked healthy and explosive in the first half against Nebraska—something I prematurely called my favorite part of Week 1—but then suffered another injury. Sometimes this game is just cruel.

    "This victory doesn't happen with him," head coach Bronco Mendenhall told his team after beating Nebraska on a Hail Mary. "There's no one I respect more that I've ever coached."

    Freshman Tanner Mangum is one of the best QB prospects in recent BYU history, and he looked good after taking over for Hill. But like any freshman, he will experience ups and downs throughout the season. He might be better eventually than Hill is, but he's worse right now.

    That puts a cap on BYU's ceiling.

QB Terrel Hunt, Syracuse

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    Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    Injury: Torn Achilles

    Prognosis: Out for Season

    Syracuse starting quarterback Terrel Hunt tore his Achilles tendon against Rhode Island and will miss the rest of the season.

    Hunt was an offensive captain and the best player on an otherwise bleak offense. He was replaced by true freshman Eric Dungey, a 3-star recruit who ranked outside the national top 1,000 on 247Sports' composite rankings. Dungey competed 10 of 17 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns in the 47-0 win over the Rams.

    But despite his strong start, Dungey is a significant downgrade from Hunt. Syracuse is not a national contender, but it's proved in the past that it can rise up and spring an upset. Losing Hunt makes that less likely in 2015, which is good news for schools such as LSU, Florida State and Clemson—national contenders with the Orange on the schedule.

    One fewer trap game to look out for.

DE Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA

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    Injury: Torn ACL

    Prognosis: Out for Season

    UCLA defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes tore his ACL against Virginia, which is crazy because he kept playing after it happened.

    The former 5-star recruit led UCLA with eight tackles in the Week 1 victory, including two tackles for loss. His size (6'3", 305 lbs), strength and motor, all of which earned him a spot on this year's B/R CFB 250, will be missed on the edge for a Bruins team with national title hopes.

    Redshirt freshman Najee Toran, a converted offensive lineman with limited defensive experience, will have to play an important role sooner than expected. Eli Ankou, Matt Dickerson and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner will also be asked to fill the void.

    UCLA does not have great depth at defensive end, so this will be a meaningful injury. Vanderdoes was one of the Bruins' five best players.

LB Nyeem Wartman-White, Penn State

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    Injury: Undisclosed

    Prognosis: Out for Season

    Penn State middle linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White, the Nittany Lions' leading returning tackler, will miss the rest of the season with an undisclosed injury.

    Wartman-White was a key piece of a defense that will need to carry the load in Happy Valley, especially if the offensive line doesn't rectify the problems that led to a 27-10 loss at Temple.

    Players such as Gary Wooten and Jason Cabinda will need to come of age quickly and replace Wartman-White's production. Penn State already lost Mike Hull, the heart and soul of last year's defense, from its linebacker corps, so its depth at the position will be tested.

WR Mike Williams, Clemson

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    Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

    Injury: Fractured Neck

    Prognosis: Out Indefinitely

    Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams suffered a scary-looking neck injury in the first quarter of Saturday's win over Wofford.

    He was carted off the field in a stretcher and transported to a local hospital, where he regained a full range of motion. That is more important than his football future. After crashing into the goal post in the end zone, he easily could have jeopardized his future.

    Head coach Dabo Swinney said Williams "is going to have a chance to play football again," but it's unclear whether that will be this season, and if so when he will return. Clemson has the weapons to survive without him—especially considering how well sophomore Artavis Scott played Saturday—but his loss is still one of the biggest of the weekend.

    Williams is one of the best deep threats in the country and ranked No. 8 among wide receivers on B/R's CFB 250.

LB Scooby Wright III, Arizona

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    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    Injury: Meniscus Tear

    Prognosis: Out for One Month (Hopefully)

    Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III missed most of the Wildcats' season opener, and boy did they struggle without him.

    A UTSA team that lost most of last year's starters gained 525 yards of offense and nearly upset Arizona in Tucson, losing by only 10 points, 42-32. Arizona held a better UTSA offense to 349 yards and 23 points last season.

    Fortunately, it sounds like Wright will be back soon. Sources told Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com that Arizona expects him to miss roughly a month. Getting back last year's Nagurski Award winner will keep the Wildcats in the middle of the Pac-12 title discussion.

    Regardless, even if he only misses a month, that means Wright will not play against UCLA on September 26. That could cost the Wildcats the game, and losing that game could cost them the division.

    This is not the worst-case scenario, but it is still a big deal.