2015 Draft: Quarterback injury concerns

A few of the quarterbacks eligible for the 2015 draft could have their status impacted by injuries, and will it even send one of them back to college again?

For most highly ranked 2015 draft prospects, the upcoming months will be an open audition for them in either maintaining or upgrading their draft status. There is the postseason bowl game or playoff contests with their current teams, followed by the college all-star circuit, where the elite decide whether to play in contests like the prestigious Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine Game over lesser-known clashes.

When the games come to an end, those players will attend weeks of rigorous workouts at some training center arranged by their agent, hoping to improve upon their current athletic ability to further enhance their draft stock with a great agility test performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. That is followed by one or two visits from teams, coming en masse to campus for the annual Pro Days, where players again undergo agility tests while also being interviewed at length by respective position coaches.

All of these steps lead to the biggest one an athlete will take – hearing his name called on draft day. For some, it is a walk out to the podium to receive a bear hug from the commissioner and a jersey with No. 1 flashing from their new team that will employ them and examine their talent level for at least one training camp – hopefully for more than just a few weeks of auditioning.

Other high-profile prospects will take a different route to the NFL. Instead of playing in bowl games with their current team, they will be observers along the sidelines. Instead of suiting up in an all-star game, they will be sitting at home wondering if their skillset is better than the “next man up” who took their roster spot in that game.

While over 300 players in attendance for the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis will be going through the paces of running, jumping and interviewing with teams in February, some will be spending the bulk of their time being X-rayed, examined, twisted, tugged and turned by team medical personnel that will be making determinations that will greatly impact their draft status and affect the dollar amount that will accompany their first NFL paycheck.

Injuries – no matter how well you prepare for a game, no matter how hard you train, it is a fact that bumps and bruises play an important part in an athlete’s life. Those reviewing the updated draft projections by The NFL Draft Report might be wondering where some of their favorite local heroes rank and did not find them listed in the normal power poll ratings charts.

These athletes are currently in limbo, as they can not be properly evaluated while having to undergo rehabilitation. It would not be fair to project where they will rank leading up to the draft until they can be fully examined under the watchful eyes of NFL team doctors. Below is a look at some of the players that fall into this category, along with some updates on their current medical status:

#ADAMS JR., Vernon Eastern Washington rJr05:11.2 1904.64   
#HALLIDAY, Connor Washington State rSr06:03.6 1944.87 4.96-7
#HILL, Taysom (TB) Brigham Young Jr06:02.1 2214.62 5.55
#KEETON, Chuckie Utah State Sr06:01.1 1994.67 5.25-6
#MILLER, Braxton Ohio State Sr06:01.4 2154.42 6.04-5

Vernon Adams will likely return to school in 2015, as he’s been sidelined since early October after he suffered two broken bones in his right foot vs. Idaho State. He was hoping to return for the Eagles’ playoff run, but the staff elected to keep him on the sidelines, as he is still not 100% ready to return to action.

Connor Halliday was tearing apart the school record books this season, putting up 3,873 yards with 32 touchdowns behind 354 of 526 passing (67.3%) through the first nine games on the 2014 schedule. He was carted off the field during the USC clash when projected 2015 first overall pick defensive tackle Leonard Williams rolled on top of the quarterback’s right leg. The result was a right leg fracture, as trainers placed his leg in an inflatable cast before he was carted off the field, forcing him to sit out the final three games. He is expected to be ready to run by WSU’s Pro Day, but unable to appear in any postseason games.

There are a few whispers that Taysom Hill’s career might have come to an end. The speedy quarterback was being evaluated more for his running skills than throwing arm, with many scouts projecting a position change to tailback for the Cougar at the next level.
Three days after he suffered a left leg fracture vs. Utah State on Oct. 3, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall described it as worse than originally believed, and included “shredded” ligaments.

Not true, Hill said.

“I have never heard my injury being described as shredded ligaments,” he said. “I broke the bone and had a little ligament damage. But I wouldn’t say that I shredded ligaments or that they had to bring other ligaments in to replace those. It was nothing like that.

“Going forward, I would like to do everything that I can to minimize the risk of getting injured again.”

For Hill, minimizing the risk means not running with the football as much, getting out of bounds when he can, and sliding more to avoid contact, although he allowed that the clean tackle by USU safety Brian Suite that caused the break and some minor ligament damage “was a fluke thing that could have happened to anybody.”

He also wondered aloud if BYU’s up-tempo offense, coupled with his penchant for carrying the football so much, exposes him to more risks than the typical QB in a more traditional offense. He rushed 86 times for 463 yards and eight touchdowns in 4½ games before the injury. Some were scrambles, but many were carries out of the zone-read attack where he had the option to hand the ball off or keep it.

Recently, Hill spoke to reporters for a dozen minutes to provide an update on his recovery process and dispel some of the rumors that have floated around since the setback.

“Yeah, that’s the plan,” he said when asked if he will be back in 2015. “I am going to graduate inside the finance program next December, and for a lot of reasons it doesn’t make sense to leave [early],” Hill said. “It is something that I am still continuing to look into, and I will see what happens, but as of right now, that is where I stand.”

Hill said talk that he would either turn pro or redshirt in 2015 was a “media thing,” but admitted to having had “conversations about it, and stuff like that.” He said he’s realized that “there’s more to life than football,” and talked about the second major injury (he suffered a season-ending knee injury against USU in 2012) changing his perspective on life, his studies and his football future.

Hill said he’s been told by doctors that the recovery process will take six months. He will be involved in spring practices next March, but is unlikely to go through any contact drills until August.

Chuckie Keeton is no stranger to the rehabilitation trainers on campus. He suffered a left knee anterior cruciate ligament tear and medial collateral ligament damage vs. BYU in 2013, undergoing surgery that cost him the final eight games that year. He was not cleared to return to the field until June, 2014.

In the five previous games, he completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 1,362 yards, 18 touchdowns and two interceptions. Since 2011, he’s thrown for 6,387 yards and 58 scores to just 17 interceptions. Keeton is one of five FBS quarterbacks to throw for 6,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a career.

In the first half of the 2014 Wake Forest clash, Keeton re-injured his knee and was on the sidelines in street clothes for the second half of the September 13th meeting. The team first said he would miss a few games, but he never returned to the field, finishing with 426 yards on 51 of 92 passing (55.4%) with two touchdowns and four interceptions in 10 quarters of action.

“Chuckie’s health is our top priority and he has not been cleared to play by our medical staff,” Utah State head coach Mike Wells said heading into the 2014 season finale. “We will continue to monitor his progress throughout the fall, but given his current condition it is unlikely that he will play in any games in the foreseeable future.”

Braxton Miller’s shoulder issues from 2013 carried over into 2014 August camp, when he re-aggravated the injury that he suffered in last season’s Orange Bowl during preseason practice and was forced to miss the entire season. Dr. James Andrews performed surgery on Miller, and in October photos of the quarterback rehabbing with his arm out of the sling made it clear that the quarterback is recovering well.

Head coach Urban Meyer has a “pleasant” problem on his hands, as first J.T. Barrett and now Cardale Jones have “held down the fort,” so much so Meyer’s Army marches into a championship playoff appearance vs. Alabama.

Miller’s injury was certainly a jarring one for an Ohio State team that had College Football Playoff aspirations, even after losing four starting offensive linemen and star running back Carlos Hyde. Miller was a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate after throwing for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns and running for 1,068 yards and 12 more touchdowns in 2013.

It was clear that Ohio State missed its signal-caller in the early-season loss to Virginia Tech, but Barrett impressed in dominating victories before her suffered a leg injury in the 2014 season finale.

Now, it will be curious to see if Miller is a Buckeye next season. Due to the injury, the quarterback has indicated he will likely file for a fifth year of eligibility. Rumors are swirling that he will play football for another college, though, with both Arkansas and Oregon named the favorites to land Miller if he decides to leave Columbus.

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