Todd Graham announced at his press conference on Monday that safety Jason Hendricks is out for the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury. Hendricks started all seven games at safety this season, made five starts last year and played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman.
"We had a tough loss last week with losing Jason Hendricks, and he will be out the remainder of the regular season with a shoulder injury," Graham said. "If we have the opportunity to go to a bowl game then he would be available to play for us."
Taking over for Hendricks is Andrew Taglianetti. Taglianetti has played in all six games this season, and has started games in his career. Despite not making any starts this year, Taglianetti's role as a Spur linebacker and at safety has been as if he is a regular starter anyway. Even with Taglianetti starting, Brandon Ifill will also see increased time. Taglianetti can still move up to the Spur position when Ifill takes reps at the bandit position.
Todd Thomas will make his return to action this week, Graham confirmed. Thomas has missed the last two games after taking over the starting job at the Spur position for the Iowa game. Since then, Greg Williams regained his starting job at the Spur position. Kevin Adams moved back to defense for the Rutgers game, and got the start at the Spur in this last game against Utah. The move allowed Williams to move over to Panther. Williams responded with arguably the best game of his career—seven tackles, four tackles for losses and 1.5 sacks. Adams had a pretty good game too, with eight tackles and 2.5 tackles for losses.
Instead of the Panthers striving to get Thomas back, they found out a little more about Williams and Adams in his absence. Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said last week the increased depth should make the outside linebacker position—regardless of who's the Panther and who's the Spur—stronger.
"Competition has created at both positions," Patterson said. "Now, ‘I have to practice if I want to play.' I think both of those positions are getting better every week."
"We will have Todd Thomas back and he is looking good so we are excited about that," Graham said. "Kevin Adams has developed at the spur position just in time because Taglianetti will have to play at the bandit position. I feel really good and I believe that is the strength of our football team."
Then, there's the offensive line. The depth chart lists Lucas Nix as the starter at left tackle, Cory King and Ryan Schlieper co-starters at left guard, Ryan Turnley at center, Matt Rotheram now the starter at right guard and Jordan Gibbs at right tackle. Gibbs made his first start of the season at left tackle against Utah, making room for Rotheram to start at right tackle.
Even though Nix is listed as the first-teamer at left tackle, Graham did say that Nix is still "day-to-day" as opposed to Thomas, who now sounds like a sure thing to be back on Wednesday. If Nix isn't able to go, it will be Greg Gaskins starting at left tackle. Gibbs is staying at right tackle, unless something happens to him. In that case, Rotheram will back him up at right tackle.
"We're hopeful and it is a game-day decision on Lucas Nix," Graham said. "I really won't know until Wednesday night whether he will be able to play or not. Either way we have to be ready to play."
With Gibbs moving over to left tackle in place of Juantez Hollins, and now Rotheram staying in the starting lineup, it appears that Hollins has gotten lost in the shuffle. Graham said it's nothing more than Hollins just going through some growing pains. Perhaps moving Hollins over to left guard will allow him to get a better feel on that side of the line, wherever his future position is going to be.
"Juantez Hollins has been doing a good job," Graham added. "He is a young player and still learning. We moved him into the guard position and we think that will help him. The left tackle position is tough to play in, and he has had trouble on the edge with getting beat with speed on the outside. He is still young but he is getting better. He is going to be a great player for us but a lot of it is youth."
It also sounds like Ryan Schlieper will get the nod at left guard, moving ahead of Cory King. Schlieper also took some snaps at center this week, being that Chris Jacobson—formerly the backup center—is out for the season. Gibbs also took snaps at center this week.
Another injury, of sorts, is backup quarterback Trey Anderson. Anderson developed tendonitis in his throwing hand over the last week. As a result, Mark Myers took all the second-team reps in practice. Graham said on Monday that Myers will be the No. 2 quarterback this week. He also said there will not be a plan to get Myers involved as there has been a plan to get Anderson snaps. The only way Myers will see playing time against UConn is if something were to happen to Tino Sunseri in the game.
"Mark has had a great week of preparation and will be going in as our number two guy," Graham said. "If something happened then he would be the next guy off the bench. Mark will be the backup and we will go with Tino as our number one guy. Trey was more a read zone run guy and had a different skill set. He has not thrown any this week and he might not for a couple weeks. I am really proud of Mark and how he has responded this week so he will remain our backup quarterback."