Fall camp has been in the air for most teams around the nation for the better part of a week now, and with it comes a surge in off-field transgressions, injuries, and losses that often have major implications for the teams of the players affected. This year in particular has seen a host of off-the-field incidents which have rendered numerous players around the country suspended or ineligible for the 2007 season, including a number of players Navy was expected to face in 2007. Because it’s not always easy to keep track of these changes and because the effects on their respective teams varies, I’ve decided to keep a running commentary of any personnel changes encountered up to this point and continuing through the remainder of preseason. To recap why these player’s seasons are cancelled or in jeopardy for the upcoming season, just click the players name for a news story on their current situation. I’ve also taken the liberty to classify the weight of each player’s presumed absence from their respective ballclub, ranging from minimal to major. If there are any personnel changes I’ve missed (I have been away in the mountains for a week) please let me know.
QB Pat Bostick, Pittsburgh (Moderate): If Bostick does not return to the University or the team by camp’s end (and maybe even if he does) I think this is a bigger loss than some people realize. Yes, Pitt has a seemingly capable quarterback in junior Bill Stull and true freshmen rarely come in and start as quarterbacks anyway, but the point is that Bostick was supposed to come in and compete for the job, and not having your most highly touted player in years compete in camp can’t be a good sign. Furthermore, there has been an increasing trend by teams around the country to insert highly touted freshmen quarterbacks as the season continues. Matt Stafford at Georgia was a prime example of this concept last season, and I don’t think it was/is unreasonably for the staff to flirt with a similar notion had Bostick not won the job outright in camp. The point here is a familiar one. With the loss of a four year starter in Tyler Palko, Pitt was already facing quarterback concerns coming into camp, but now with the loss of Bostick these concerns are magnified. Don’t get me wrong, Stull is more than capable of being a good player for the Panthers, but if struggles early there will be no cavalry to save the day.
WR Derek Kinder, Pittsburgh (Major): The good news here is that Pitt has two promising receivers in Oderick Turner and Marcel Pestano, but the obvious bad news is the Panthers lose a first team All Big-East performer who caught 57 balls for 847 yards and six touchdowns last season. With Pitt breaking in a new quarterback, it’s essential that Wannstedt has a full compliment of talented and experience wideouts to help either Bostick or Stull, and with the loss of Kinder it makes either of those guys’ jobs that much more difficult. With Pitt trying to get away from the “vanilla” offense they have run over the past few years, losing a big play guy like Kinder is a serious blow.
MLB Eric Berry, Wake Forest (Moderate): If you believed the hype about Berry I could see how you could classify this as a “major” hit for the Wake defense, but for the time being I’m only calling it moderate. Berry was supposed to step in and be a force on a underrated linebacking corps with the loss of John Abbate to the NFL, but his ineligibility will put coordinator Dean Hood in a bind as the Demon Deacons struggle to develop a replacement. On a defense which relays more on developing players than recruiting studs, it now seems likely that Wake will have to plug in an underclassman for a “trial by fire.” Wake’s defense should still be stout, but this is definitely a gaping hole which will have to be addressed.
MLB Mike Tauiliili, Duke (Major): Duke’s linebacker corps already took a loss after last year with the two outside backers graduating; now the Blue Devils lose their best defensive player and leading tackler from the past two seasons. While not on the level of QB Zack Asack being suspended before the start of last season, this is a significant loss to the team and a bad way to start the season for Ted Roof and his staff. Tauiliili is not only a big-time playmaker who has the ability to get into the backfield, but he was supposed to be one of the leaders on a Blue Devil team which some people believe is near to turning a corner. Neither of his backups have much experience (especially against the triple option), and with the overall problems with this particular unit one can only classify this a major hit to Duke’s defense.
SS Elijah Fields, Pittsburgh (Minor): Fields probably would not have beaten out senior Mike Phillips for the starting job anyway, although losing an up-and-coming backup is never welcomed on a team which is trying to revamp its secondary. I can only see this as a more serious loss to the team if Phillips struggles or the secondary encounters some injury problems early on in the season. Otherwise Pitt has more than enough talent and experience with Phillips.
DE Derrell Hand (Minor): This is more of a credibility shot to the program and to a lesser extent, the university, but Hand’s suspension isn’t too likely to affect the Irish on the field in 2007. While he is a junior and was expected to compete for playing time in 2007, he has had almost no meaningful experience in the past and was being pushed by a very talented group of underclassmen. A number of publications I’ve read didn’t even have him starting come opening day, and it seems like Corwin Brown has enough faith (as much as you can have for a brand new 3-4 scheme!) in guys like Paddy Mullen and Justin Brown to put a three able bodied guys up front come Georgia Tech.
Overall Thoughts: If things weren’t looking shaky enough for Pitt going into the year with the loss of QB Palko and LB H.B. Blades from a 6-6 team, the Panthers can’t seem to catch a break as they’ve faced a number of personnel losses and questions this off-season. Bostick will likely be back by the start of the year but his absence really makes you question if he can compete for the job. Losing WR Kinder is as big as a personnel loss as you could probably imagine. As far as the biggest single loss for a team, I think you have to look at Mike Tauiliili at Duke. Not only is this a huge on-the-field loss, but this is a program desperate for good news and this can’t be a good situation for the guys in the locker room.