Thursday, February 29, 2024

Smoker, Knott top injury list

Senior defensive end Greg Taplin was injured during the game against Louisiana Tech on Saturday. —

The door at the trainers' office inside the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center has seen more action than many Spartans players have lately.

Injuries were a factor in Saturday's 20-19 last-second loss to Louisiana Tech and also will play a major role this weekend as MSU heads to South Bend, Ind.

Senior quarterback Jeff Smoker said his team needs to get healthy during the week and be ready for the long haul.

"I sure hope (we're) not (tired) because it's a long season," Smoker said. "We've got to be able to work through those things. A lot of guys are still felling the bumps and bruises from last week."

Smoker received multiple minor injuries last week against Louisiana Tech, the main one being to his right big toe. Smoker left the game in the second quarter and head coach John L. Smith said he has a 50-50 chance to play this weekend. But the quarterback doesn't want to sit out any more this year.

"This is my senior season," Smoker said. "And I don't want to miss a game.

"I haven't gone through a season yet where I played every single game. And that's something that I'd like to."

Smoker said the injury is improving every day. But after barely practicing Tuesday, he said he needs to see some more time.

"I can't let it get me down," he said. "I've got to stay positive and once I get back in, try and pick up right where I left off."

Junior running back Tyrell Dortch, who started MSU's first two games, sat out last Saturday because of an ankle injury he suffered against Rutgers. Dortch is listed as probable for this weekend's game and says he's set to go, although he's not 100-percent healthy.

"I'm feeling OK," Dortch said. "I'm about 90 percent."

Even if he is set to go, the injury-plagued rusher is listed as the No. 2 running back, behind sophomore Jaren Hayes. MSU has five backup players listed as starters for the Notre Dame game to replace the injured.

Other Spartans are combating injuries they suffered starting from the preseason to this past week.

Senior left guard Joe Tate battled dehydration and exhaustion on Saturday during the game and on Tuesday as he walked off the field after practice. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Matt Trannon walked off the practice field Tuesday with his arm taped to his shoulder. Senior defensive end Greg Taplin tweaked his ankle during the Louisiana Tech game but is slated to start against Notre Dame.

Sophomore strong safety Eric Smith is listed as probable after hurting his shoulder against the Bulldogs. Junior tight end Eric Knott is listed as questionable and practiced for the first time this week since injuring his knee in the season opener against Western Michigan. Junior cornerback DeAndra Cobb, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Rutgers, did not play against the Bulldogs because of a scratch on his eyeball. Cobb is listed to start as the kick returner.

Freshman wide receiver Sam Champagne also was hurt Saturday and will not play against the Irish. Defensive tackle Brandon McKinney has been struggling to improve a stress reaction in his foot, which has kept him out of the last two games and will keep him out of this weekend's matchup. Senior punter Jason Daily will not play this Saturday because of an ankle injury he suffered during the preseason.

Senior defensive tackle Kyle Rasmussen said the team was hurt by the starting quarterback's absence last Saturday.

"When Smoker went down, that was a big loss," Rasmussen said.

If Smoker doesn't play Saturday, redshirt freshman Drew Stanton will be expected to complete the first collegiate pass of his career against the Irish.


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