When UNLV opens the 2011 season in Madison against Wisconsin, they may not have the services of one of their leading receivers from a year ago. Or they might. Maybe.
Such is the state of wide receiver Phillip Payne‘s right foot, which he suffered an undisclosed injury to last week. The Las Vegas Review-Journal writes that head coach Bobby Hauck said Payne could return next week, or he could miss at least the opener due to the injury.
“Any time you’ve got a bone injury in a foot, even doctors have a hard time telling you how long it will be,” Hauck said. “I’ve seen guys come back from those fast, and I’ve seen guys take a long time. So the honest answer is we don’t know.”
Payne led the Rebels in receiving yards (689) and tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (5), while his 40 receptions were good for second on the squad. Fitted with a walking boot, Payne is understandably frustrated over being sidelined for the start of the final summer camp of his collegiate career. That’s offset, though, by being able to help the younger players ate the position.
“It’s frustrating because I want to play,” Payne said. “But I get a good feeling being able to help out the young bucks, so somehow I’m going to get into it.”
In the midst of reports that he had a physical altercation with one of his Tennessee players during summer camp this year, Butch Jones labeled the speculation “absolutely ridiculous.”
Apparently, his bosses agree with the head coach.
At a board meeting Thursday, UT-Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek stated that he and athletic director Dave Hart had done their “due diligence” in investigating the accusations that Jones and senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder were involved in some type of physical skirmish during practice this past August. The end result of interviews with Jones, coaches and players was the conclusion that there was nothing to the reports and message-board rumors.
“There’s been a lot of rumor and misinformation on social media and message boards about an alleged incident during football practice,” Cheek said according to GoVols247.com‘s Wes Rucker. “It’s not our practice to respond to rumors, but I thought it was important to let you know that we’ve done our due diligence and Dave Hart and I are very confident there was no inappropriate conduct with any players or coaches.”
Shortly after Cheek spoke at the board meeting, Crowder took to Twitter with a series of missives that speaks around the issue.
Michigan played without its leading rusher in Week 5. The Wolverines are hoping there won’t be a repeat in Week 6.
De'Veon Smith sustained a lower-leg injury in the Week 4 win over BYU and didn’t travel with the team for last Saturday’s win over Maryland. Smith has been practicing with his teammates throughout the first few days of this week, and head coach Jim Harbaugh is guardedly optimistic that the running back will be available for what’s turned into a huge Big Ten matchup with Northwestern Saturday in the Big House.
“He’s practicing and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’s going to stay good and be ready to play,” Harbaugh said during a radio appearance Thursday morning. “But we’ll (keep) looking at that every day.”
Despite essentially missing a game and a half, Smith currently leads the Wolverines with 331 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He’s added four receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown coming out of the backfield the first four games.
Should Smith be unable to go again, the Wolverines have three other backs with at least 100 yards on the ground: Ty Isaac (187, 7.2 yards per carry), Drake Johnson (125, 4.2 ypc) and Derrick Green (100, 3.3 ypc).
In addition to Smith, Harbaugh is hopeful Channing Stribling will be available this weekend as well. The starting cornerback didn’t play against the Cougars because of injury