The Big Ten has been lucky – or good – this year when it comes to injuries.
While there are a number of injuries that have put players on redshirt or a surgeon’s table, the key injuries that throw off a team week-to-week have been down anecdotally. The idea is that teams decide games on the field, but the only way to win is to collect talent and keep it on the field. Argue systems and execution and coaching if you want, but teams like Ohio State and Alabama have been putting a bigger emphasis on sports science and sports medicine over the last few years. I can’t prove that winning follows, but if I were a team competing in one of the “Power Five” conferences, I’d look for any way to find an advantage, and those two areas are relatively cheap and one of few ways to differentiate a program. There are some injuries that will affect games around the conference this weekend, so let’s take a look:
Wes Lunt, QB, Illinois
A lot of places are calling Wes Lunt’s injury “undisclosed.” What, they didn’t read my report on Monday that explained it was a leg injury? (Alex Putterman also had this.) While Lunt is questionable to play with no real direction from Lovie Smith, there has to be some comfort level given how Chayce Crouch played. (I keep almost typing Eric Crouch!) If Lunt plays, I expect a split at some level, though indications right now are that Crouch will start. We won’t know for sure until warmups, or maybe even the first series.
Mitchell Leidner, QB, Minnesota
In the NFL, we all understand “in the protocol” by this point. While we might not understand what’s actually in the protocol, it’s also not standard in college football. However, the Big Ten has been on the cutting edge of this, adopting a conference policy in 2011 and then adjusting it in following years. The big changes came in 2014 after the Michigan incident, when a concussion was ignored. For Mitchell Leidner, he’s in the protocol, experiencing symptoms, and he won’t clear in time for this weekend. Conor Rhoda steps in, and with only one pass on the year, he’s pretty much an unknown for the Maryland game.
Jordan Westerkamp, WR, Nebraska
Even with a week off, Jordan Westerkamp couldn’t get ready for this week’s game against Indiana. His back made some progress, according to sources and reports, but not only is he out this week, there’s some question about whether he’ll be ready for Purdue next week. Westerkamp is dealing with a disc problem that is causing pain and weakness. Lower back problems are tough, and breaking that pain/spasm cycle is key. Things could clear up quickly, but they haven’t yet. That means Alonzo Moore and Brandon Reilly will have to step up to help Tommy Armstrong. All three should play.
Domonique Young, WR, Purdue
If you want to see a bright side, then Purdue’s deepest position is receiver. That said, losing speedster Domonique Young for the rest of the season is a blow to an already struggling team. The “lower leg” injury is a severe ankle sprain with some bone involvement. There have been some reports of fracture – possible, probably an avulsion – and of this being a high ankle sprain. I dug in to try and get a source to clarify but couldn’t get a solid answer. Fact is, it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, Young is out for the season and will force that deep (but young and raw) receiving corps to step up.