By Andrew Kahn
The start of the college football season has produced several exciting matchups, last-minute victories, and impressive individual performances. That’s the good. The bad? There have also been a large number of serious injuries to high-profile players. Here is a look at some of them and how the affected teams are likely to cope.
Notre Dame: QB Malik Zaire, RB Tarean Folston
The injuries: Zaire is the latest Irish starter to go down for the season, breaking his ankle late in the third quarter of Saturday’s win at Virginia. Folston tore his ACL on just his third carry in the Irish’s season-opening blowout of Texas.
The impact: Zaire’s injury is the most important simply because of his position. Zaire made his first career start in last year’s bowl victory over LSU and played well against Texas. His replacement, redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer, was effective, completing 8-of-12 passes, including two for touchdowns. But the four-star recruit is inexperienced and not as fast as Zaire. C.J. Prosise, meanwhile, looks like a more than capable replacement for Folston — he may be better — but now there’s a depth issue in the backfield.
Arizona: LB Scooby Wright
The injury: Wright suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee in Arizona’s season opening win. He had surgery and hopes to return in a month.
The impact: The linebacker took home all the major defensive awards last season and was a fringe Heisman contender entering his junior year. He was the best player on a Wildcats defense that wasn’t exactly stellar last year. Wright’s injury obviously makes the unit worse, and his replacement, Haden Gregory, is now out for two to four weeks. Arizona faces Northern Arizona on Saturday and No. 10 UCLA the following week.
BYU: QB Taysom Hill
The injury: The injury-prone Hill— he’s suffered a season-ending injury in all three of his college seasons — sustained a lisfranc injury (broken foot, essentially) in BYU’s opener against Nebraska.
The impact: Enter the back-up with the equally cool name: Tanner Mangum. The 21-year-old freshman — he recently returned from his Mormon mission — announced himself to the college football world with a game-winning Hail Mary against Nebraska, and repeated the feat against No. 20 Boise State. It doesn’t get any easier for the Cougars, who travel to UCLA this Saturday and Michigan after that, but Mangum is 24-of-39 for 420 yards so far.
Pittsburgh: RB James Conner
The injury: The reigning ACC Player of the Year tore his MCL in the opener against Youngstown State and, in all likelihood, will miss the rest of the season.
The impact: Read the first part of the last sentence again. Conner was awesome as a sophomore last season. Freshman Qadree Ollison has done fine in his place, but it’s hard to gauge given the opponents (Pitt played Akron last week). The Panthers visit Iowa and Virginia Tech the next two weeks, and one would think they’ll miss Conner quite a bit in those games and beyond.
UCLA: DL Eddie Vanderdoes
The injury: The 6’5”, 305-pound junior tore his ACL in the season opener and will miss the rest of the season.
The impact: Because of his position, Vanderdoes isn’t a household name, but he was a key run-stuffer for the playoff-hopeful Bruins. UNLV could not move the ball against UCLA last week even without Vanderdoes, but the upcoming schedule gets much tougher. (Are you sensing a theme yet as far as scheduling?) This is a big blow.
TCU: LB Sammy Douglas, S Kenny Iloka
The injuries: Sammy Douglas suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener against Minnesota. Kenny Iloka hurt his knee last week
The impact: Those are just two of the injuries for the Horned Frogs’ defense. Starting linebacker Mike Freeze has taken a personal leave of absence, James McFarland is probably out for the year after breaking his toe this summer, defensive tackle Davion Pierson hasn’t played yet this season because of a head injury, and defensive end Mike Tuaua missed last week as well. And remember, TCU had already lost five all-conference defenders from last year’s squad (to graduation or early departure). Gary Patterson has been forced to make some position switches and play some walk-ons, but there’s only so much magic he can work before the attrition is overwhelming.
Clemson: WR Mike Williams
The injury: The wideout suffered a scary injury catching a touchdown in Clemson’s opener against Wofford and had to be carted off the field. He has a fracture in his neck that may keep him out for the rest of the season.
The impact: Williams was on the preseason watch list for the Biletnikoff Award after leading Clemson in receiving yards last year. The Tigers were fine in the first two wins — blowouts over overmatched opponents — but the schedule gets tougher. Clemson won at Louisville Thursday night, but Deshaun Watson threw two picks. He threw two 25-plus-yard touchdown passes, but those were more about coverage breakdowns. Williams was the team’s deep threat last year and there probably isn’t anyone on the roster that can match his speed. There are some newcomers who will try, such as Ray-Ray McCloud.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college football and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.