Hamilton out for the season, others to step in

Paris Hamilton was projected to step into a starting role before injuring his left knee during summer workouts.

Aaron Blake

Minnesota football wide receiver Paris Hamilton underwent his second knee surgery in 45 days Wednesday and will miss his entire junior season.

“He couldn’t function at the position,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said Aug. 26. “But now he has lots of time to rehabilitate and get ready for his final year.”

The No. 1-rated junior college wideout was projected to step into a starting role before injuring his left knee during summer workouts.

Hamilton had declared himself ready for Minnesota’s season opener versus Tulsa one week before Saturday’s contest. Just three days later, Mason announced that Hamilton would undergo the season-ending surgery.

Mason reiterated that the unexpected event doesn’t change much. He said because the team has not been preparing with Hamilton, playing without him will not be as difficult.

Hamilton’s absence opens the door to sophomore Jared Ellerson and junior Keith Matthews to see more playing time. Though Mason has acknowledged the progress of the other receivers, he maintained this progress had “nothing to do with (the decision to undergo surgery).”

Coaches trust Delaney

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has expressed his satisfaction with the Big Ten and its handling of the current three-team scheduling conflict. The Wolverines’ game at the Metrodome on Oct. 11 needs an alternate plan if it conflicts with the Minnesota Twins’ postseason.

“I’m not frustrated at all,” Carr said Aug. 26. “We have made our position on this issue very clear. We feel very strongly about our views. And at the same time, we’re very cognizant of the issues facing the University of Minnesota.

“Essentially, I trust that (Big Ten commissioner) Jim Delaney will make the fair and appropriate decision. Whatever that decision is, I will support it and Michigan will support it. That’s really going to be my final comment on this issue.”

Michigan State coach John L. Smith, whose Oct. 18 date in Minnesota is also involved in the conflict, echoed Carr’s sentiments.

“Let’s not jump here before we have to,” Smith said. “Let’s wait and see how things play out. I’m sure it will all work out. I’m sure the conference will end up doing the right things. We’ll come to a compromise some way.”

Mason agrees.

“There is obviously a problem,” Mason said. “But I’m confident that we’ll be able to work out some type of agreeable solution.”

No decision on alternate plans will be made before late this week.

Life after Banks

More than 10 months after Iowa gave its fans a reason to tear down the Metrodome’s goalposts, the defending co-Big Ten champions face a hefty turnover. Just four of 11 offensive starters return.

Most notable is the departure of Heisman Trophy runner-up and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year quarterback Brad Banks. Senior Nate Chandler, who is listed at a mammoth 6 feet 7 inches tall and 250 pounds, gets the nod in Banks’ place this season.

“We’re breaking in a new guy here,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said prior to Saturday’s game versus Miami (Ohio). “He’s been here for a year, fortunately. He’s served his apprenticeship. We’re anxious to get him out there. We have a good feel about him.”

Clarett on scout team

While awaiting word of his fate from the NCAA, Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett has been allowed by Ohio State officials to practice in a special capacity.

“Maurice is going to be playing tailback on our scout team,” Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said Aug. 26. “It will be a great challenge for our defense. And obviously he can do every other type of preparation that young people can do – weightlifting, running, film studying.”

Clarett was suspended for “multiple games” by Ohio State on Aug. 22 for an exaggerated theft report on a car he borrowed from a dealership and separate academic reasons. The NCAA will decide how many games he will miss at some point this week.

Smith takes over

Michigan State isn’t getting the preseason respect it got last season, and first-year coach John L. Smith understands. After a 4-8 season and a 2-6 conference mark, the Spartans will begin the process of rebuilding.

“We have a number of challenges,” Smith said Aug. 26. “It begins with a new set of expectations Ö in the meantime, it’s going to take us a while to go out and hit the recruiting trail. Our depth is not there without a doubt, so we’ve got to stay healthy this year. So it’s going to take a period of time getting out and recruiting and holding our guys to those expectations.”

When asked about his time frame for restoring his team, Smith had an interesting answer.

“Some coaches say ‘I’ve got a three-year program’ or ‘I’ve got a four-year program,’ ” Smith said. “I’ve got a six-year contract so that’s what my program is.”

Smith, the 2001 Conference USA coach of the year with Louisville, will have a little help this season from starting quarterback Jeff Smoker. Smoker was suspended indefinitely Oct. 24 after a loss to the Gophers and then came forward with a substance abuse problem in November. But he returned to the team three weeks ago and was awarded the starting job.