It wouldn't be Penn State spring practice without a visit from the injury bug, and this year's string of setbacks started early. Last week, during a noncontact drill, WR Curtis Drake suffered what AD spokesman Jeff Nelson called a "left leg injury." This is the second time a leg injury has set Drake back, as the wide receiver from Philadelphia broke his leg in preseason practice last year, forcing a 2010 redshirt. Drake is expected to miss the rest of spring practice, but it is not sure how his regular season will be affected.
The extent of the injury is still to be determined but Massaro could miss the 2011 season.
Massaro was expected to push for a starting role behind Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore, each of whom are dealing with lingering injuries of their own. After taking a look at the depth chart earlier this week, these injuries beg the question: whose injury, for lack of a better word, hurts more?
Let's take another look at the wide receiver depth chart, this time including the Class of 2011 wide receivers.
Drake's injury immediately forces true freshman Bill Belton into the backup slot receiver role. Others might challenge for and even see time in the slot role, but the prototypical slot receiver is the speedy playmaker, and Drake certainly fit that mold. Further, the experience on the depth chart, even with Drake, is top heavy. Moye and Brown are experienced at the wideout spots, and Smith has seen his fair share of playing time, but after that playing time has been limited. Kersey, Kuntz, and Moseby-Felder, all Class of 2009 recruits, combined for four catches in 2010. Zanellato, Belton, and Robinson are all incoming freshmen. Finally, players like Chaz Powell and Alex Kenney could be in line for a position change, but they are much needed in the defensive back depth chart.
Now, the defensive end depth chart, with 2011 commits that project on the defensive line.
If Massaro is truly out for the year, that moves Baublitz or Olaniyan into a spot on the two-deep. However, like the depth at wide receiver, experience is limited to those at the top. While Crawford and Latimore might be favorites for the starting roles in 2011, position coach Larry Johnson, Sr. utilizes a pretty regular rotation that featured all four players listed at the top two spots above in 2010, at least until Latimore's injury put him on the shelf. After that, Baublitz surprisingly burned his redshirt at the end of the year against Michigan State, and none of the rest of the players listed have seen a snap as a Penn State player. However, like position changes mentioned for some of the DBs above, some of the defensive tackles on the roster could slide in to help, but that position is thin, like the defensive backfield.
So which injury hurts more? It's tough to say. Replacing a wide receiver is arguably easier than replacing a defensive end, especially a rising star like Massaro. Unfortunately, it appears as if Massaro will have to sit out 2011. Which leaves eight players for two defensive end positions on the roster for 2011. Conversely, with Drake, Penn State has 10 wide receivers for three receiver positions. But Drake's specific position, that of slot receiver, is now left with two likely candidates.
Hopefully Drake will make a speedy recovery and put this debate to bed. Until then, fans will have to wait with bated breath until the injury bug hits again.