Tailback Bennett out for the season

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Ashley Goetz

footbal against miami of ohio in dome

Duane Bennett and Jay Thomas know all about the old adage, which head coach Tim Brewster used Tuesday, that âÄúone manâÄôs misfortune is anotherâÄôs opportunity.âÄù Last year, as a freshman, Bennett was put into a starting role after Thomas tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee . He did well, finishing the year with 460 yards on 107 carries , and was the clear starter to begin this season. But on a screen pass against Bowling Green Saturday, Bennett was tackled awkwardly and needed to be helped off the field . He didnâÄôt return, and it was announced Tuesday that, like Thomas, Bennett tore his ACL and will be out for the season. Brewster hopes to have him back for spring practice next year. So now Thomas, fully rehabilitated from his surgery but without a carry this season , will have a chance to take back his starting job. âÄúThe tough thing about this sport is you can have bad knee injuries like that,âÄù quarterback Adam Weber said. âÄúBut Jay is the perfect example of a guy whoâÄôs been struggling with knee injuries his whole career, and heâÄôs bounced back from every single one.âÄù Neither Bennett nor Thomas was available for comment, but Brewster said he was confident there wouldnâÄôt be a drop-off in the running game. âÄúThereâÄôs a lot of sensationalism in this room. ThereâÄôs a lot of doomsday. None of that is applicable in this situation,âÄù Brewster said to a roomful of reporters Tuesday. âÄúWeâÄôre a good football team, we have good football players, and weâÄôre going to replace Duane with a good football player. WeâÄôve made peace with it.âÄù Thomas will compete with true freshmen Shady Salamon and DeLeon Eskridge for the starting job. Brewster said all three backs will get playing time this weekend âÄî heâÄôs not sure who will start âÄî but that he isnâÄôt planning on having a running-back-by-committee the whole season. âÄúIf a guy is running the football and doing a great job, heâÄôll be the guy,âÄù he said. âÄúWeâÄôre not looking to split this thing up three different ways. WeâÄôll see who steps out and takes advantage of this opportunity. ThatâÄôs what it is: An opportunity for somebody to step up, grab the bull by the horns, and say, âÄòIâÄôm going to be the guy.âÄô âÄù Salamon, a Cretin-Derham Hall graduate , didnâÄôt get a carry in the season opener against Bowling Green , but last week carried the ball 12 times for 64 yards . Eskridge has a total of four carries in two games . Senior linebacker Deon Hightower described Salamon as a âÄúhard-nosed runnerâÄù and Eskridge as âÄúmore of a shifty, quick guy.âÄù âÄúDuaneâÄôs made plays all year to make himself the starter, but those guys havenâÄôt been far behind him,âÄù Hightower said. âÄúThereâÄôs always been pretty good competition.âÄù Still, Bennett was not only the teamâÄôs top running backs, but also one of its most reliable receiving options. After two weeks heâÄôs second on the team in receiving, with 12 catches for 125 yards , and is usually the final option for Weber to dump the ball to when being pressured. Because he has played in two full games, Bennett isnâÄôt eligible for a medical redshirt . But he will likely travel with the team, Hightower said, and has already begun going over film with his former backups. âÄúEven though we lost him as a player, we gained him as a coach,âÄù Hightower said. âÄúHe can give some insights that coaches might not be able to. You know heâÄôs going to do everything he can to help us win, even if heâÄôs not on the field.âÄù