Coaches coy when it comes to in­juries

Houston Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Joseph Duarte STAFF WRITER

Around 5 p.m. Satur­day, the col­lege foot­ball world should know whether Hous­ton All-Amer­ica de­fen­sive tackle Ed Oliver will play or sit out an­other game with a bruised knee.

About the same time, on the op­po­site side of the foot­ball field, Tem­ple will go through pregame warm-ups and of­fer the first pub­lic in­di­ca­tion this week if run­ning back Ryquell Arm­stead and cen­ter Matt Hen­nessy will be avail­able.

Keep­ing quiet about in­juries is noth­ing new. Some coaches are will­ing to of­fer de­tails. Oth­ers are care­ful, some­times to the point of para­noia, to not give even a hint that might tilt the com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in their op­po­nents’ fa­vor.

Cougars coach Ma­jor Ap­ple­white and Owls coach Ge­off Collins con­sider each other friends, go­ing back to their days on Nick Sa­ban’s coach­ing staff at Ala-

bama. This week, how­ever, nei­ther was will­ing to of­fer a peek into per­son­nel that ei­ther will be avail­able or out for the cru­cial Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence show­down at TDECU Sta­dium.

Asked whether he could say if Arm­stead, sev­enth in the AAC in rush­ing with 768 yards, and Hen­nessy, a sopho­more cen­ter who has not al­lowed a quar­ter­back pres­sure in 232 pass-block sit­u­a­tions, would be avail­able against Hous­ton, Collins replied, “Nope.”

Ap­ple­white pro­vided a few more de­tails — but not much — about Oliver, ac­knowl­edg­ing he has made progress since in­jur­ing his right knee on a low block Oct. 20 at Navy. Oliver is listed day-to-day and will be a game-time de­ci­sion.

“We’ll just see what hap­pens Satur­day,” Ap­ple­white said.

Once in po­si­tion to run away with the AAC West Divi­sion, the Cougars are coming off a 45-31 loss to SMU that cut their lead over the Mus­tangs and Tu­lane to one game with three weeks left in the reg­u­lar sea­son. Based on re­main­ing sched­ules, the Cougars are in a must-win sit­u­a­tion with home games against Tem­ple (5-4, 4-1), Tu­lane and a road game against Mem­phis to end the reg­u­lar sea­son.

On the other hand, the Owls, 52-40 losers last week to No. 12 Cen­tral Florida, needs one win to be­come bowl-el­i­gi­ble for the fourth con­sec­u­tive year.

UH has been care­ful what to say about Oliver, who is widely pro­jected as a top-five pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Af­ter miss­ing the first game of his ca­reer Oct. 27 against South Florida, the school an­nounced be­fore the SMU game that Oliver would re­turn. The twotime All-Amer­i­can and Out­land Tro­phy win­ner did not feel com­fort­able dur­ing warm-ups and was ruled out be­fore kick­off.

Oliver, rated No. 2 on ESPN an­a­lyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board of draft prospects, has not been avail­able to the me­dia since the in­jury.

Even from just a few years ago, Ap­ple­white said things have changed in terms of how much in­for­ma­tion coaches are will­ing to of­fer re­gard­ing in­juries. Some coaches cite fed­eral pri­vacy laws. Ear­lier this sea­son, in re­ac­tion to the U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sion that al­lows states to le­gal­ize sports gam­bling, there was talk that the NCAA could adopt a na­tional col­lege foot­ball in­jury re­port­ing sys­tem sim­i­lar to the one used by the NFL.

On Fri­day, UH an­nounced that start­ing de­fen­sive end Jer­ard Carter will miss the rest of the sea­son with an ap­par­ent foot in­jury, an­other blow to a unit al­ready with­out sacks leader Isa­iah Cham­bers (knee) and Oliver’s ques­tion­able sta­tus. Aymiel Flem­ing, Oliver’s backup, also is re­cov­er­ing from an in­jury that has left his sta­tus un­known.

Add safety Gar­rett Davis, who suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing foot in­jury in Week 3, and the Cougars have lost a com­bined 19 games to de­fen­sive play­ers who ei­ther be­gan the sea­son as a starter or played sig­nif­i­cant roles.

On of­fense, wide re­ceiver Court­ney Lark (leg) is out, and run­ning backs Mul­bah Car and Ter­ence Wil­liams are ques­tion­able af­ter leav­ing the SMU game with ap­par­ent foot/an­kle in­juries.

With the in­jury re­port grow­ing, Ap­ple­white would pre­fer to keep the Cougars’ med­i­cal is­sues pri­vate.

“You’re get­ting ready to go into a fight,” Ap­ple­white said this week. “You don’t want your op­po­nent to know how many bul­lets you have. If you are down bul­lets, you don’t want them to know, ‘Hey, I’m rob­bing your bank with one bul­let.’ You want to keep those things to your­self.”

Be­fore so­cial me­dia, Ap­ple­white said it was tougher to track in­jury in­for­ma­tion.

“You used to try to have a bird in the bush in ev­ery col­lege town that could be able to tell you what they are see­ing and what they are hear­ing,” Ap­ple­white said. “Now it’s on kids’ In­sta­gram and team­mates’ Twit­ter.”

At his weekly news con­fer­ence in Philadel­phia, Collins ad­mit­ted that he has been “a lit­tle more free” when dis­cussing in­juries this sea­son.

“I am not go­ing to do that,” he said. “There were times in the game the op­pos­ing team knows where the in­jury is, knows where the vul­ner­a­bil­ity is, and I think there are times that part of the body might be tack­led a lit­tle harder or some­thing like that, so I am not dis­cussing that.”

El­iz­a­beth Con­ley / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

It con­tin­ues to be wait-and-see on Hous­ton de­fen­sive tackle Ed Oliver, who might see ac­tion to­day for the first time since Oct. 20, when he in­jured his right knee against Navy.

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