Some cruddy news out of fall practice today as offensive lineman Mike Smith broke his leg and is gone for the season. Steve Sipple had a tweet about it earlier in the day, but I'd hoped that it was just a rumor. The injury especially sucks for Smith, senior season and all. Given the constant improvement in depth that Barney Cotton has brought to the position, it'll be harder than ever for Smith to get back into the starting rotation if he opts for a medical redshirt and comes back in 2011. I suppose the only good news for him is that he'll get the chance to play Big Ten football. (That is good news, isn't it?)
Smith is a senior, and started 25 games over the past two seasons at left tackle. He'd moved to guard and center during the spring, as Jemarcus Hardrick should be taking over his position at left tackle. Smith's experience would assure that he'd have been part of the starting rotation, whether backing up Keith Williams or Ricky Henry at guard, or behind Mike Caputo at center.
Question is - does it hurt? Yeah, it hurts any time you lose an experienced lineman.
If you had to project a starting line up on the line, it'd look something like this:
Left Tackle - Jermarcus Hardrick
Left Guard - Keith Williams
Center - Mike Caputo
Right Guard - Ricky Henry
Right Tackle - Marcel Jones, D.J. Jones
With Smith out, Nebraska no longer has an experienced backup at guard (or center, should he be needed there). Lose Williams or Henry, or if they get beat up (more like "when" since they're smashing themselves into other 300-pound men for your entertainment) and the interior of the line gets pretty questionable unless one of the younger guys like Brent Qvale gets into gear early in the season.
Lose Mike Caputo, and it gets even worse, as Caputo's backups are redshirt freshmen Cole Pensick and Nick Ash. It's not that they don't have potential, but they don't have the experience you'd like to see at the position.
That's how fall practice usually starts, isn't it? Someone is missing off the roster, someone else is held out, and then someone suffers an injury. My paranoia meter goes off the scale. Things happen in threes, you know. So far on the offensive line, we've had Jermarcus Hardrick held out due to heat-related issues (it's not like it cools down that much in September, and then there's that global warming crap to worry about), and then Mike Smith just happens to break his leg.
What's next? Ricky Henry's stomach explodes after eating 45 Val's pizzas in one setting? Mike Caputo (the one guy we really can't afford to lose on the line) steps into oncoming traffic to stop a Ford F-150 from hitting a small child and breaks his snapping hand? Marcel Jones' hair gets caught in an Exit sign and because of shoddy construction, he accidentally pulls a roof down upon hisself?
You know who's causing this great evil, right? Texas. That's right. Investigation will discover the Val's pizza will have Bevo for a topping. The F-150? Texas plates. Shoddy construction? Texas contractors. Am I going to blame every evil thing that happens to Nebraska on Texas? Damned right I am, because they're aligned with the devil. (That's the thing about paranoia and conspiracy theories - you have to have someone to blame. I feel better already.)
At least until another injury occurs. Oh, man, getting through August is going to be hell.