When No. 19 Michigan State's kick/punt return group came out to the field for its pregame warmups before Saturday night's game against Western Michigan, there was one noticeable absence: Jalen Nailor.
Rumors began to filter early this week of a possible injury for the sophomore wide receiver. Coach Mark Dantonio confirmed on his pre-game radio show that Nailor suffered a lower-leg injury and would be out for a period of time. Dantonio also noted he did not think it would be season-ending.
Redshirt sophomore receiver CJ Hayes said that Nailor had caught a deep pass in practice and just landed "different."
"It was a great deep-ball catch, I think, and then he just landed awkwardly," Hayes said following MSU's 51-17 win against Western Michigan.
Hayes said that the rest of the team had an idea that something bad had happened when the training staff brought the cart out for Nailor.
Nailor — from Palmdale, California — attended Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. As a true freshman, he recorded eight receptions for 138 yards and three touchdowns in only eight games due to injuries. He added nine carries for 128 yards on the ground. After a breakout performance in MSU's 35-21 win at Indiana, Nailor didn't dress in the Spartans' next three games.
Nailor recorded three receptions for five yards while also providing a spark in MSU's return game during the season opener against Tulsa.
"First of all, Jalen is an exciting returner, exciting with the ball in his hands," Dantonio said during his weekly press conference. "I thought he had a pretty good return game this week. Called back with the penalty."
Dantonio reiterated after MSU's win against the Broncos that it was a lower-leg injury for Nailor and that he still believes he will be back at some point this season.
A long-term injury to the player known as "Speedy" will be a huge hit to a Spartan offense looking for some spark. MSU's offense scored just seven points against the Golden Hurricane and were largely ineffective for the majority of the game.
In MSU's win Saturday night, Hayes stepped into a major role with Nailor's absence. He recorded three catches for 31 yards and showed the ability to gain extra ground after the catch. Senior Darrell Stewart Jr. also provided a big boost with a career-high 185 yards on 10 catches and one touchdown.
This is a developing story. We will update it as more information is announced.
Follow our coverage of MSU's game against Western Michigan on our website or on Twitter at @thesnews.