The University at Buffalo’s chances of repeating as Mid-American Conference champions has taken a sudden turn for the worse.
Senior running back and Niagara Falls native James Starks, the school’s all-time leading rusher, has suffered a labral tear in his shoulder that will require surgery. The injury will cause him to miss the entire 2009 season.
Starks red-shirted as a freshman, so he will be ineligible to play next season.
From the UB press release:
“The doctors did an MRI that revealed James had a labral tear that required surgery,” said head coach Turner Gill. “He tried rehab and practices but it was too painful for him to play. Therefore he will have the surgery now and miss the season. It will be a 4-6 month recovery period. Doctors have told me that they anticipate he will make a complete recovery and I believe he will have an opportunity to play at the next level.
“On behalf of the staff and his teammates we want to thank James for all of his outstanding contributions to the University at Buffalo football program, the University and the Western New York community. He is scheduled to graduate in December, and of course, will remain a part of this program.”
“Injuries are, and will always be, a huge part of football,” said Gill, “but this one is particularly painful because of what James has meant to this program and community. However, this is an incredible opportunity for a group of very talented running backs that we have to step up and help us achieve our goals this season.”
Without knowing all of the ins and outs of NCAA rules, I would venture a guess that UB could attempt to petition to the NCAA for a medical red-shirt. However, from what Gill said, it looks like Starks’ playing career at UB is over.
Mel Kiper, Jr. had Starks pegged as a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and he was named to the watch list for the Doak Walker Memorial trophy, given to the nation’s top running back, earlier this month.
Now the odds are seriously stacked against him for playing any kind of professional football. Starks is arguably the most talented athlete on the team and the Bulls will sorely miss him on the field.
It will now be up to Mario Henry and Brandon Thermilus to shoulder the load for the UB ground attack. They struggled when Starks was out for 2.5 games with a hip injury last season.
The Bulls open the season on Sept. 5 at UTEP.