The Injury Replacements: Three Players to Watch on Saturday in the ACC

The biggest story of the ACC’s opening weekend, aside from the 0-4 record against Power 5 opponents, was the amount of injuries to key starters across the conference. While surprising and upsetting, it is part of the game, and teams will have to re-group so that they can salvage these early injuries. Here’s a look at the primary replacements for each team’s injured starter, as we head into week two.

The Game: Appalachian State Vs. #12 Clemson, 12:30 ET–

The Injury: Clemson WR Mike Williams

The Primary Replacement: WR Charone Peake

Analysis: While this injury is not as catastrophic as an injury to quarterback Deshaun Watson could have been, it is never good when a team loses a big-time pass catching target like Mike Williams. Williams, a 6’5″ athletic freak, fractured his neck last weekend against Wofford, an injury that could very well cost him the rest of the season. While the Tigers should be fine on the outside with a big time playmaker in Artavis Scott, they will still need a second receiver to make a solid impact to counter the loss of Williams, who was expected to have a large impact this season. The team will look no further than fifth-year senior, Charone Peake.

Peake, who was an extremely talented recruit coming out of high school, one that ranked higher than school record-holder Sammy Watkins, has never met expectations due largely to the amount of receiving depth on the roster, as well as injuries that have nagged Peake throughout the duration of his career thus far. He played a minimal role last season, only catching 12 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns, after receiving a medical redshirt in the 2013 season. While he was healthier than he was in 2013, Peake still was hurt throughout much of last season, which limited a role that could have been much larger. If he stays healthy, and that is a BIG IF, he could emerge as a secondary target alongside Artavis Scott, which would help Clemson to not miss a beat throughout the rest of the season. His injury history causes confidence overall to be shaky, so we will have to see what happens. As long as he’s healthy however, this should be the role expected for him throughout the rest of 2015. That way, he can start making more catches like one below.



The Game: Furman Vs. Virginia Tech, 3:30 ET–

The Injury: Virginia Tech QB Michael Brewer

The Primary Replacement: QB Brenden Motley

Analysis: The Hokies had the defending national champs and the undisputed #1 team in the country, Ohio State, on the ropes last Monday night, as Virginia Tech took a 17-14 lead into the half in Blacksburg. Michael Brewer, a fifth-year senior quarterback, had just completed perhaps his best first half performance of his college career. At the break, with the Hokies up a field goal, Brewer was 9 of 13 for 139 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. After exiting with a collarbone injury on the first possession of the second half after getting absolutely drilled on a third down pass across the middle to Ryan Malleck, the Hokies offense went in the tank, as Brenden Motley came into the contest looking completely overwhelmed. Motley, a redshirt junior, was the co-number one starter coming out of Spring Practice. Ultimately, Motley’s inability to grasp the passing game, a shortcoming that was put on full display on national television Labor Day night, was the deciding factor in naming Brewer the starting quarterback this fall.

To be fair to Motley, coming into a game unexpectedly against a team like Ohio State is no easy task. As a runner, Motley has shown an ability at times to make people miss when running the spread option offense in the past. This was something that the Buckeyes prepared for, as the only allowed him to run for 17 yards on seven carries in the opener. Once their defense accounted for his running ability and forced the Hokies to pass, the game was all but over, as Motley was exposed. He finished the second half 4 of 9 for 36 yards with an ugly interception that sealed the Ohio State victory, as well as a garbage time touchdown to Isaiah Ford to account for the 42-24 final score. Despite the rough outing, Motley is the most experienced quarterback remaining on the roster heading into the rest of the season, as Michael Brewer recovers from his injury that has derailed his senior year. He was named the starter on Wednesday, and how he performs against Furman on Saturday will determine the outlook for the offense throughout the duration of the 2015 season. While Furman is an inferior opponent, a strong outing could be a nice stepping stone heading into the remaining 10 games. If Motley struggles however, look for the Hokies to look at any and all remaining options, which would include redshirt freshman Chris Durkin, as well as highly-touted true freshman quarterback Dwayne Lawson, who the team was hoping to redshirt this season.


The Game: Pittsburgh Vs. Akron, 6:00 ET–

The Injury: Pittsburgh RB James Conner

The Replacement: RB Qadree Ollison



Analysis: After All-ACC RB James Conner was lost for the season last week with a torn MCL, the Panthers running game outlook seemed bleak for the rest of the year. It is always tough to lose a running back that is as good as James Conner, but the Panthers came out of their contest with Youngstown State last Saturday with more questions about their defense than their offense. The defense gave up 37 points and 407 total yards to the Bo Pelini-led Penguins, but the offense looked more than adequate despite the loss of their star ball-carrier.

Why did the Panthers offense look so solid? It is because redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison came into the game and absolutely torched the Youngstown State defense to a tune of 16 carries for 207 yards and a touchdown. Not bad for a debut for the young running back, who will no doubt be the man moving forward at the position with James Conner almost positively heading to the NFL after the season. If Chad Voytik can play better moving through the rest of the season, the Pitt running game should be just fine if Ollison is able to stay healthy. Solid recruiting at the running back position by Paul Chryst is to credit for the lack of a drop-off in the rushing attack, no matter how much Pitt fans may be miffed by his departure to Wisconsin. Here’s to hoping that the production at the position will carry on throughout the rest of the season to keep the Panthers competitive in the ACC.


Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @MikeMcDanielACC and check out InsideTheACC on Facebook and on twitter @InsideTheACC.


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