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May 21, 2007

Spring injuries create holes to fill for some

Spring practice is usually a time for optimism. Every coach is undefeated after the final scrimmage.

However, several programs will have to deal with some major losses for the upcoming season. Injuries to top players will force many teams to adjust between now and August.

In addition to potential season-ending injuries, several star players were held out of all or part of spring practice for precautionary measures.

Michigan running back Mike Hart (shoulder, missed all of spring practice) and wide receiver Mario Manningham (ankle, missed all of spring practice), Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge (knee, missed most of spring), West Virginia running back Steve Slaton (wrist, missed all of spring practice), Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill (shoulder, missed all of spring practice) and Rutgers running back Ray Rice (ankle, missed spring game) are all expected to return before the fall.

Here, we'll take a look at some of the more serious injuries during the spring and what options coaches have heading into the 2007 season:

Zack Bowman, CB, Nebraska
Bowman was a projected starter before a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee knocked him out of spring practice. He has hopes to return for the fall, but it will be a difficult trip back. Bowman could have been an NFL draft pick had he left Nebraska after the 2005 season, but has had two serious knee injuries since returning to Lincoln. He missed all of last year with a torn ACL in his left knee. Cortney Grixby and Andre Jones return to start at cornerback, and Armando Murillo becomes the top backup.

Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse
Syracuse's hopes of escaping the Big East cellar were dealt a serious blow with the season-ending injury to Carter, who led the Orange in rushing with 713 yards as a freshman. Carter dislocated his hip during a 7-on-7 passing drill during spring practice. In 2006, Carter split time with Curtis Brinkley, who had knee surgery during the spring but is expected to be healthy in the fall.

Cade Cooper, QB, BYU
The junior college transfer was competing with Arizona State transfer Max Hall through the spring to replace second-round draft pick John Beck. Hall was close to sealing the starting job during the spring before Cooper went down with an ankle injury in the spring game. Cooper will be out for six to nine months following ankle surgery. Behind Hall, walk-on Brendan Gaskins will be the backup.

Ryan D'Imperio, LB, Rutgers
D'Imperio, a sophomore, was on pace to take the starting middle linebacker spot before suffering a broken right leg near the end of spring practice. D'Imperio's status for the fall is in question. He could miss the whole season or he could be available by August. The linebackers were already a question mark before D'Imperio's injury because of the departures of Devraun Thompson and Quintero Frierson. Chris Quaye entered the spring as the starter before D'Imperio moved up the depth chart.

Kevin Grady, RB, Michigan
A backup to Mike Hart could miss the 2007 season after sustaining a torn ACL on April 7. The Wolverines still have last year's second-leading rusher Brandon Minor (42 carries, 238 yards, two TDs). Three-star running backs Vince Helmuth and Avery Horn are in the incoming freshman class, while sophomore Carlos Brown has split time at running back and cornerback in his career.

Chad Green, CB, Arizona State
Green, a senior, remains under medical supervision after a car accident left him in critical condition April 15. After spending two weeks hospitalized in Arizona, he was moved closer to his home in Southern California.

Matt Huners, OG, South Florida
Huners' season is in question after sustaining a torn ACL in South Florida's spring game. Huners was set to begin his second season as the starting left guard. Even without the junior, the Bulls have plenty of experience on the offensive line. The other four remaining starters all have experience from last year.

Tyler Lorenzen, QB, Connecticut
UConn's quarterback position has been unsettled since the departure of Dan Orlovsky. In Lorenzen, a junior college transfer, the Huskies hoped to have some stability. Lorenzen was hobbled during the spring with a sprained knee. With D.J. Hernandez moved to wide receiver, Lorenzen and sophomore Dennis Brown will vie for the starting quarterback job.

Kevin Ogletree, WR, Virginia
After leading Virginia with 582 receiving yards last season, Ogletree is likely out for the season after sustaining a torn ACL. Ogletree's injury puts more focus on tight end Tom Santi, who will be the Cavs' leading retuning receiver (253 yards) if Ogletree is out all year. Walk-on receivers Staton Jobe and Cary Koch saw more playing time during the spring because of Ogletree's absence.

Anthony Reddick, S, Miami
Reddick's once-promising career has hit another speed bump. The junior safety will miss the 2007 season after having surgery on his left knee in April after sustaining a torn ACL while playing basketball. A Rivals.com Freshman All-American in 2004, Reddick missed the 2005 season after tearing the ACL in his right knee. He was also suspended for four games last year because of his role in the on-field brawl with Florida International. Rivals.com third-team All-American Kenny Phillips will start at one safety spot, while veterans Lovon Ponder and Willie Cooper will replace Reddick.

Ryan Reynolds, LB, Oklahoma
Reynolds already missed the 2006 season with a torn ACL, but he was expected to compete for a starting linebacker job this spring. He sustained a slight tear in a different ligament, but is expected to be healthy in August.

Marc Tyler, RB, USC
Sure, the Trojans backfield will have plenty of options even if Tyler is injured. However, the true freshman is recovering from a broken leg. He had some encouraging signs during the offseason. Tyler ran at full speed in May for the first time since sustaining the injury in November. The Trojans already have second-year backs C.J. Gable, Emmanuel Moody, Allen Bradford and Stafon Johnson and senior Chauncey Washington. Tyler is part of an incoming freshman class that includes Joe McKnight and Broderick Green.

Mon Williams, RB, Florida
Florida won a national championship last year with limited contribution from the running game. The Gators might have to do so again if they want to repeat. DeShawn Wynn was drafted, Markus Manson moved to defensive back and Williams is likely out for the season with a torn ACL. The Williams injury left Kestahn Moore and Chevon Walker as the top two running backs in spring practice. Four-star signees Chris Rainey and Bo Williams will be available in the fall.

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David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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