It's feared Florida Atlantic running back Jeff Blanchard may join the ranks of a club that doesn't need any more members.
Blanchard could be following in the footsteps of former DB Taheem Acevedo, WR Casey McGahee and TE Jason Harmon.
Those who know their Owls football already know what those players have in common: They had their fall seasons derailed by injuries during spring drills.
As first reported by FAUOwlAccess.com
on Wednesday, Blanchard suffered a serious knee injury that FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger thinks may require surgery. If so, that will cost Blanchard some, if not all, of the fall season.
As one reader pointed out, it's not certain Blanchard won't return in 2009. Blanchard is scheduled to have an MRI to determine the severity of the injury on Friday. It certainly is not out of the question the tests could show the injury is not as severe as preliminary tests indicate. However, you can bet Schnellenberger is quite interested in Blanchard's condition and wouldn't say the injury is serious if he thought it wasn't.
Now, although I did attend college for a few years more than the average college student, I am no doctor and I should resist the temptation to speculate how long it would take Blanchard to return. But, Schnellenberger said the injury is similar to the ones McGahee and Harmon suffered. Their recoveries took some time, but last season Schnellenberger mentioned that Harmon had nearly recovered from the surgery and he briefly considered using him in a game. Also, McGahee was able to play in the last six games of the 2006 season after his knee injury that spring.
One of the biggest questions would be if Blanchard could he get another redshirt season (The FAU media guide says he redshirted in 2007 and played in just three games after breaking his ankle in the third game of the season). Also, Blanchard played just one season of junior college football before transferring to FAU. So here is his career (eligibility-wise) as I see it.
2005 - Enrolled at Garden City (Kansas) CC, Redshirt season
2006 - Played at Garden City CC
2007 - At FAU, medical redshirt after playing in just three games
2008 - Played full season at FAU
2009 - May not be able to play full season
I believe this would mean he would be eligible for a possible sixth year of eligibility that the NCAA grants for a hardship. Since he has played only one full season of Division I-A football, I would think he would be considered for this exemption - although it is anything but a sure thing he would get it.
OK, so let's assume the Owls have to go to Plan B at running back. The options are pretty clear. Here is what the pre-season RB depth chart looked like to me.
So now Floyd stands to be the Owls' featured back? Floyd is quick and elusive, but is not the same back that Blanchard was - and it's not even close. Blanchard, a senior who is listed as 5-9, 195 pounds, was strong and could take on a tackler and keep moving. Floyd is a slasher listed at 5-9, 165 pounds who's upside is his knack for avoiding tackles, like he is doing finding hole in this photo (below) from Wednesday's practice. Does anyone see Floyd moving the pile on a crucial third and one to pick up the few inches to keep the drive alive like Blanchard? No, these are hardly interchangeable parts.
And since someone mentioned the two-back system FAU often uses, I don't quite think the system of using Floyd as the featured back and Avionne Rolle as a change of pace is going to be nearly as effective as the Blanchard-spelled-by-Floyd backfield would have been. Remember, Rolle, who is listed at 5-9, 180-pounds, has carried the ball three times in his college career.
It's not really a question of whether FAU will be able to match the 1,804 yards the Owls rushed for last year (I'll take the under). Rather, will losing the guy FAU was depending on to make a smooth transition from 2008's Charles Pierre and DiIvory Edgecomb combo limit the Owls running game so much that defenses can concentrate more on trying to stop the passing game?