Football spring practice proves costly for both ASU, UofA

A run at a championship in college football is often as fragile as a knee ligament.

And, believe it or not, a rash of injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee, better known as the ACL, has afflicted both the Arizona State and University of Arizona football teams as they work through spring practice.

In Tucson, doctors have already confirmed that starting safety, Adam Hall, and back-up running back, Greg Nwoko, have torn their ACLs in spring practice.

In Tempe, they’re still awaiting official word, but it appears that ACL tears may also be sidelining senior cornerback, Omar Bolden, and wide receiver, T.J. Simpson.  Head coach Dennis Erickson is supposed to announce tonight the results of MRI exams taken yesterday.

It’s not uncommon to lose a player to an ACL injury, but they generally don’t come in bunches – and before the season even starts, to boot.

“To have two guys go that fast, it’s weird,” Arizona head coach, Mike Stoops, told the Tucson Citizen.

But weird or not, it could be a serious blow to both programs, as each has been projected to be in the hunt next season for the Pac-12 crown.

Bolden’s knee injury, suffered during Saturday’s scrimmage, could have the most serious impact.  The senior captain had passed on an opportunity to enter the NFL draft to return for one more season at ASU.  A unanimous first team All-Pac 10 selection last year, he has started 34 games for the Sun Devils and is recognized as one of the premier cornerbacks in the conference.

Simpson will also be a senior next season and comes into the 2011 campaign as the team’s leading wide receiver.  He caught 29 passes last year for 481 yards and gave the Devils a deep threat whenever he was on the field.

For the Wildcats, Hall’s knee injury during one-on-one drills represents a serious blow to an otherwise outstanding defensive unit that helped Arizona to a No. 19 national ranking at one time last year.  He was the nickel back in that nationally-recognized unit.

A graduate of Palo Verde High School in Tucson, the junior was expected to be the starting free safety this season.  He finished last year with 54 tackles and two interceptions.

Robert Golden played free safety during his freshman and sophomore years, then moved over to cornerback last season.  He will likely return to his safety role to replace Hall, although Josh Robbins from Canyon del Oro High School outside of Tucson, was his back-up as a redshirt freshman last year.

Nwoko, who went down during weekend contact drills while trying to avoid a tackler, gives the offensive unit a big-back option with break-away ability.  He was expected to see increased playing time in 2011, his junior year.

If the results at ASU show ACL tears, as expected, all four players would likely be out for most, if not all, of the 2011 season.  An injury to the ACL, which plays a primary role in the stability of the knee, generally takes 6-7 months to rehab.

It’s been a costly spring practice for both teams.  And each is finding out early just how deep their rosters really are.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)