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How do last week's injuries impact this week's game against Kansas State?
In today's presser as reported by MetroNews, Holgorsen announced that corner Brodrick Jenkins would miss the K-State game with a cartilage tear, while wide receiver Stedman Bailey, offensive lineman Jeff Braun, and running back Shawne Alston would remain day-to-day. There was evidently no mention of defensive lineman Will Clarke, who missed the Texas Tech game with an undisclosed injury. Holgorsen also indicated that redshirt freshman Travares Copeland would start.
So, what to make of it all? The defensive injuries are unsettling at best. It's not like our D has stopped anyone so far this year, and that's with our (presumably) best players on the field. Now with our best pass-rushing lineman in Clarke out (maybe?) and our best starting corner sidelined for a few games, we're going to see a lot more freshmen on the field this Saturday, and probably for the next few weeks. Other than getting fresh faces on the field and allowing them to earn valuable experience, I don't see any good that comes of this. We're not the most talented team on defense as it is, and on top of that we're thin. It's like when I was a kid and when someone questioned my athletic ability due to my diminutive size, I'd quip, "Yeah, I'm small but slow." Not exactly the combination you're looking for to survive the Big XII meat grinder of a schedule.
And while I feel slightly less concern over missing Braun and Alston because they have experienced backups, it sure would be nice to have our best veterans at our disposal for probably the best defense we're going to face the rest of the year. Maybe Alston can break a few tackles and pick up some much-needed first downs. Maybe Braun can give Geno a couple more seconds in the pocket to find an open receiver. Either way, we need all the help we can get Saturday night.
Which brings me to the wide receiver situation. For a group that I thought was pretty deep coming into the year with Austin, Bailey, J.D. Woods, Ivan McCartney, and freshman Jordan Thompson ready to contribute, I'm actually starting to worry. If Bailey is out, that's a huge blow because it robs us of our best downfield threat and allows K-State defenders to focus solely on Austin. Maybe that's where Copeland comes in, to help give a spark to a group that, outside of Bailey and Austin, has largely underperformed. JD Woods had a couple big games, then disappeared against Texas and Texas Tech with more than a couple drops. Ivan McCartney? Despite all his talent, he hasn't been relevant since before the Syracuse game last year. Thompson hasn't been able to get anything going either, and obviously none of the sophomores or redshirt freshmen have stepped up. So I guess it's time to put the 2012 recruiting class's most heralded receiver into the fray to see what he can do.
Maybe I'm over-blowing some of this. Maybe these guys (other than Jenkins) will all play and thinks will be hunky dory in Morgantown. Maybe Copeland becomes a revelation, giving us a true third option in the passing game. Because if not, despite the urgency and the crowd and the national TV audience andand the primetime kickoff, this team could be in for a world of hurt Saturday. Literally.