Junior wide receiver Vince Sanders suffered a broken collarbone during one-on-one drills Saturday and is expected to be out 6-8 weeks. Sanders started 12 games last season and finished with 39 catches (3rd on team), 504 receiving yards (2nd on team) and four touchdowns (2nd on team).
"It's certainly a blow," head coach Hugh Freeze said of Sanders' injury. "The guy knew everything we did, and he could do at a fast pace. And he had a great offseason. Hopefully, he only misses three games. We got that opening week early, so maybe he can be back for our fourth game.
"We have some good young kids, and they will get ready to play. Hopefully, we stay healthy and not lose anyone else from that spot."
Freeze said senior Ja-Mes Logan is prepared to play both outside and inside receiver. He also said they have to have four guys ready to play at outside receiver and mentioned Logan, junior Donte Moncrief, sophomore Cody Core and freshman Quincy Adeboyejo as players for that role.
"He is a smart kid out there on the football field," wide receivers coach Grant Heard said of Logan. "He can handle a lot. I can put him in any spot, and he'll know what to do. And he's' the ultimate team player, because it doesn't matter to him. He just wants to get out there and compete."
With Sanders's injury, senior Korvic Neat's role will increase in the slot, and two other receivers who will look to step up are sophomore Cody Core, who played mostly on special teams last season, and junior Collins Moore, who missed most of last season with injuries to both shoulders.
"I need Cody to be more consistent, but he knows what to do, but be more consistent making plays," Heard said. "He can be a guy that can be a big-play threat for us."
"Collins, I'm still trying to figure out and make sure he's good. He's trying to get back into the swing of things from missing spring, but he's out there and looking good. He knows how the offense runs, so he can do some things to help us, too."
The two freshmen, Adeboyejo and freshman Laquon Treadwell, Freeze said have got to get ready to play at outside and inside receiver, respectively.
"They pick things up quick," Freeze said of the freshmen. "They're quick learners. And of course, they have the skill level, which helps. I expect them to be very good players."
"They're freshmen," Heard said. "When things start going fast and get hectic, they make mistakes, but they are picking the offense really quick. And they're making plays out there, which is good to see. I think they're having fun. This offense is easy, but it's different for them. When things get hectic, they have to learn to slow it down in their minds."
Sunday was the first practice with shoulder pads.
Senior Pierce Burton was limited, so redshirt freshman Robert Conyers got some first-team reps at right tackle. Conyers is also getting reps at center behind senior Evan Swindall.
With senior Charles Sawyer and Senquez Golson sidelined, senior Dehendret Collins and sophomore Quintavius Burdette got first-team reps at cornerback for the second straight day.
On the defensive line, senior Cameron Whigham and sophomore Channing Ward got first-team reps at defensive end, and junior Bryon Bennett and sophomore Woodrow Hamilton at defensive tackle.
Behind them, freshman Robert Nkemdiche, junior Carlos Thompson and sophomore John Youngblood got second-team reps at defensive end, and juniors Lavon Hooks and Carlton Martin at defensive tackle.
Five newcomers were among those who got reps in the back seven on the second-team defense, with freshman Tony Connor at Huskie, junior Quadarias Mireles and freshman Bobby Hill at cornerback, and sophomore Anthony Alford and freshman Derrick Jones at safety.
In a kickoff return drill, sophomore running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, freshman running backs Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore and sophomore safety Trae Elston got reps as the deep men.
Freeze, on junior quarterback Bo Wallace: "We really saved him until the end of practice today, and he seemed to be fine. He wasn't complaining, or anything. We just have to take things slow."
Heard, on flexibility at wide receiver: "The good thing about this offense is once they know it, they can be put in anywhere. Ja-Mes, Donte, Cody, I can move around, and they can go in and fill that spot."