Is it possible to have worse injury luck at a single position group than the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks have experienced at the receiver group? It seems unlikely as the Warhawks biggest strength heading into the season has turned into an area of significant weakness.
Rewind back to the summer. Louisiana Monroe had three of their top four receivers returning in Rashon Ceaser, Ajalen Holley, and Tyler Cain. The trio had accounted for 179 catches, 2,008 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Add in tight end Alec Osborne and you had a group of four receivers that would make up one of the better receiving corps in the Sun Belt.
Then Georiga hit. In that game, the Warhawks not only lost Osborne for the season, but also lost Cain. Suddenly, ULM was without 62 catches from the previous season. Those losses put more pressure on Holley and Caeser to account for the missing offense from the tight end and slot receivers.
Since the Georgia game, the Warhawks have tried several different players in those two positions. It has been a failure of an experiment as only Marcus Green, Jared Mapps, Kaylon Watson, and Harley Scioneaux have even broken the 10 catch mark. Some of the failure is due to a young quarterback in Garrett Smith that is still learning how to be a good college level quarterback. The rest is due to a reserve receiver corps that has not been ready to play this season.
In addition to the losses of Osborne and Cain, leading receiver and NFL prospect Rashon Ceaser was lost following the Alabama game. His loss was huge as he was averaging over eight catches per game against qualilty competition that included Alabama and Georgia. Again, players were plugged in, but none were able to play anywhere near the level of Ceaser. Suddenly, Holley was far and away the top receiving option for the Warhawks.
Through six games, Holley was a stalwart for the offense, leading the team in receivng yards, yards per catch average, and receiving touchdowns. His play, nearly singlehandedly keeping the offense afloat, was not enough as ULM fell to 1-4. Holley fell to the injury bug in game six versus Appalachian State with an upper body injury. That injury kept Holley out of the Idaho game as well.
Versus Idaho, the Warhawks were without their top seven receivers from the previous season, three lost to graduation and four lost to injury. Without Holley to bring some balance to the Warhawks, ULM could only must 243 total yards versus a less than stellar Idaho defense in losing 27-13.
Rumbles have been heard in the rumor department about head coach Todd Berry being on the hot seat. More than any coach in the nation, he has been forced to overcome injuries to the one position group that could not sustain injuries. The coaching profession is not always fair and Berry may end up losing his job, but the rash of receiver injuries has to be discussed and taken into account.
As of today, Ceaser looks to be out for the season, though he is still listed as out indefinitely due to his ankle injury. Holley is questionable for Saturday's game versus the rival Ragin' Cajuns.
It does not look like ULM will be able to beat Louisiana in this game, and may struggle to find more than one more win on the schedule with the lack of output in the passing game.