While most University of Miami football fans were still reveling in the team’s dramatic 24-20 win over hated rival Florida State, they were given some sobering news late Sunday afternoon.
The school announced that junior running back Mark Walton will undergo surgery on his right ankle, which he injured during Saturday’s game against the Noles.
Then UM head coach Mark Richt confirmed everyone’s worse fear on his weekly teleconference, saying that Walton’s season was over.
“That type of surgery is a season-ending surgery,” Richt told reporters on the line. “There’s no timetable, but we know that this kind of injury and surgery is season-ending.”
The school’s released said that Walton’s surgery will be performed at the UHealth Sports Medicine Institute at The Lennar Foundation Medical Center and Richt confirmed that it will happen “in the next couple of days”.
Walton injured his right ankle against FSU and was carted off the field during the second half. He finished the game with a team-low 25 rushing yards on 12 carries.
The junior was already limited stemming from the left ankle injury he sustained in the second quarter of Miami’s 52-30 win over Toledo on September 23. While he ended up finishing that game – with a career-high 202 rushing yards – and played in the Hurricanes’ win over Duke the following week, Walton was nowhere near 100 percent going into the Florida State game.
Richt also said during the teleconference that he planned on meeting with the rest of the team Sunday night.
“When we go to meet with those guys they’ll already know what’s going on with [Mark],” Richt said. “I mean…it’s football, they know that guys get hurt. It won’t be shocking to the team.”
Losing Walton is a huge blow to Miami’s offense. Through the first four games, he rushed for 428 yards and three touchdowns and continued to be a weapon and safety blanket for quarterback Malik Rosier as a receiver out of the backfield.
Sophomore Travis Homer is the obvious incumbent No. 1 ball carrier in Walton’s absence. The former 4-star prospect from Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns through four games this season.
Homer got almost all the backup reps behind Walton this season, but now Miami will have to lean on redshirt junior Trayone “Choc” Gray and freshman Robert Burns.
Gray saw limited action against Bethune Cookman (3 carries for 25 yards) and Toledo (1 rush for 9 yards) since he returned to action this year after missing the 2016 season with a torn ACL.
Burns was an early enrollee but lost a lot of practice due to a shoulder injury he sustained during spring camp. The Miami Gulliver Prep alum hasn’t seen any game action this season and has been primarily working with the scout team.
While Miami does have other running backs on the roster, none of them would be viable options to see game action. Because of that, Richt has said since the spring that the coaching staff had discussed the idea using freshman athlete DeeJay Dallas as a running back for added depth.
Dallas, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound Brunswick, Georgia native, played running back – and quarterback, receiver, and defensive back – in high school but was mostly working as a wide receiver with the Hurricanes.
Richt said that he’s still unsure about what he’ll do to bolster his running back group.
“We don’t know yet,” Richt said. “We’ve discussed using DeeJay at running back before, and that’s something that still a possibility. Trayone is a lot more prepared because he’s been getting reps in practice…and Burns will be getting more work with the traveling team now. But we haven’t made any decisions yet.”
No Donaldson Update
Besides the news about Walton, Richt was mum about the injury status of freshman offensive lineman Navaughn Donaldson and defensive back Sheldrick Redwine.
“We’ll put out the injury report later this week,” Richt responded when asked about the status of the two players.
Both players left the game Saturday against Florida State with what appeared to be significant injuries.
Donaldson was seen wearing a walking boot Saturday night. Fellow freshman Corey Gaynor played at right guard in Donaldson’s place – including the game-winning series in the final minutes of the game.
Robert Knowles took Redwine’s place in Miami secondary Saturday. It appeared that the redshirt sophomore got mixed up in coverage on a fourth-quarter series and was out of position as Florida State scored on a 21-yard pass that put it up 20-17 with 1:24 left in the game.