Bret Bielema announcement of a slew of injuries Saturday night was disconcerting to say the least. Wide receiver Demetrius Wilson tore his ACL and is out for the year. Linebacker Otha Peters’ broken arm (out 6-8 weeks) and tight end Austin Tate’s shoulder injury (out 4-6 weeks) completed the bad news trifecta.
Wilson, who is eligible for a redshirt year, was listed as a starter along with fellow seniors Javontee Herndon and Julian Horton. His departure will mean more reps for Keon Hatcher, freshmen Drew Morgan and Melvinson Hartfield, who have had surprisingly stellar camps so far by all reports.
“A couple of our freshmen have come on like crazy,” Bielema said. “Drew Morgan was probably our leading receiver out there (Saturday). Did a tremendous job of catching the football. And then Melvinson Hartfield had a touchdown catch. Has tremendous speed. Has a lot of ability.”
With the previous departure of wide receiver Mekale McKay, and now Wilson’s injury, any depth that there was at wide receiver is gone. Third team quarterback Brian Buehner moved to wide receiver Saturday.
Peters’ broken arm was very unfortunate for the sophomore. Otha started three games last season, but had been running second team middle linebacker during fall camp. Many though had projected him to eventually overtake the starting spot from senior Austin Jones. Robert Atiga and Daunte Carr will vie now for that second team Mike spot.
Tate’s injury, the second to his shoulder in the last year, leave two sophomores (Alex Voelke and Mitchell Loewen) and two freshmen (Jeremy Sprinkle and Hunter Henry) to fill the void. All four are capable and should allow for little to no dropoff. With the Hogs running more and more two tight end sets, there are plenty of reps for all four.
The injury and subsequent surgery to Tate might have been the first ever injury announced by an opposing team’s coach. Former Arkansas assistant Tim Horton, currently an Auburn assistant coach tweeted his condolences Friday night to Tate and his family – a gaff Bielema and the UofA were not at all happy about.
Thoughts and prayers are with @atater87 and family who is on the road to recovery from shoulder surgery. 1st class young man!!
— Tim Horton (@CoachTimHorton) August 17, 2013
“We spoke about 11 (Friday) night or whenever it was,” Bielema said of his conversation with Horton. “I expressed that we would like to handle our injuries in house. I know he’s got a relationship and that’s all great, but I don’t think we’ll have that problem moving forward. We’ll take care of it and appreciate their support and we’ll see them later this year.”
Every team has injuries, but for teams like the Hogs trying to build depth at every position, even the smallest of losses can make a difference.