You’re going to notice a trend in today’s column. Injuries lead to disappointment and losses.
Think of injuries and team health as the opposite of recruiting. I know a lot of you read Land of 10 in order to find out what hot new prep 5-star prospect is coming to be the next star at your school. Recruiting can bring in the talent, but if that talent can’t stay healthy, the losses pile up, and it becomes harder to get those 5-stars on campus.
But guess what schools spend a lot more money on? Sure, airfare alone is a big cost, but is there any reason a university with a profitable football program doesn’t spend a similar amount on player health as it does recruiting?
Tell me in the Facebook comments after you read what happened around the conference:
Brian Lewerke, QB Michigan State
Tyler O’Connor, QB Michigan State
Michigan State took a big loss this weekend, and it’s only going to get harder from here.
Losing to Michigan hurts, but quarterback Brian Lewerke saw his season end with a broken tibia. Jabrill Peppers hit him on a scramble, and while it was a clean hit, it was also a hard one. It shouldn’t be a long-term issue for Lewerke, a redshirt freshman, and he should heal up in time for spring practice. But it will cost him some experience and puts the struggling Spartans back to Tyler O’Connor in the short term.
O’Connor is coming off an injury of his own, but was available and played Saturday. Mark Dantonio is going to re-evaluate the position, including possibly taking the redshirt off top recruit Messiah deWeaver, which is just too perfect a name given the situation.
Lovie Smith brought a pro mindset to Champaign, Ill. But there’s been some discussion that modern NFL coaches who join the college ranks also bring a more physical style and expect as much from the college kids as they did in the pros. There’s no good study on this, but given the sheer number of injuries that the Illini are seeing this season, Smith’s team might be a good place to start.
The quarterback position is down to Jeff George Jr. by default, with Wes Lunt hurt and Chayce Crouch out for the season. George showed some progress but didn’t look like he was the future of the program, either. At least not a good future. Admittedly, the gusty winds didn’t help George or Minnesota’s Mitchell Leidner.
The scariest injury happened to top receiver Malik Turner, who took a huge blow going over the middle and was taken off the field in a stretcher because of concerns about his spine. Turner was taken to the hospital for images but back with the team before the game was over. That’s a very good sign, but there’s no word on whether there was any damage. We’ll have to watch practice to see how he is eased back into action.
The Illini also lost Ke’Shawn Vaughn to an apparent foot injury. He hobbled off in the fourth quarter and didn’t return. While Smith doesn’t comment on injuries, sources tell me there was significant pain and swelling, and that Vaughn was due to go for more images on Monday. If Vaughn is lost for any period of time, Reggie Corbin will have to take the carries.
Jordan Westerkamp, WR Nebraska
I always say that the best games should be decided on the field. Seeing talent in street clothes on the sideline means a missed opportunity. The Huskers got their best receiver back on the field for their showdown Saturday night with Wisconsin, and it clearly made a difference. One controversial non-call could have changed the game on a pass to Jordan Westerkamp (and I’d say he has a case).
There were a couple times he was off the field, and I’m relatively sure the medical staff was working hard to keep his back loose, especially at halftime. It worked, not only getting Westerkamp back, but getting his function nearly all the way back as well. The Huskers didn’t get the win, but if they can keep Westerkamp healthy, those should come down the stretch.