This season has been a tough year for injuries in Conference USA, especially at the running back position. We have seen three preseason first-team All-CUSA running back selections fall to a variety of injuries as the season has progressed. Overall, four players on the projected first-team All-CUSA team have succumbed to injuries that have left them out indefinitely or for the season.
Let's take a look at the four injuries that rocked Conference USA the most in 2015.
Leon Allen injures his knee versus Louisiana Tech. Allen came into the 2015 season off a season that saw him rush for over 1,500 yards and catch another 50 passes. His season came to a premature halt in the second game, a 41-38 win over Louisiana Tech in what looked like a preview for the CUSA title game. It was one of those plays when you know that the player injured will be out for the season.
The preseason first team All-CUSA selection was lost for the season in that game. The Hilltoppers have managed to win six of the eight games played since his injury, with backups Anthony Wales and D'Andre Ferby both stepping up in his absence. Even with the good play from Wales and Ferby, the Hilltoppers might be 9-1 and competing for a New Year's Day Bowl if not for Allen's injury.
A season of injuries for Devon Johnson. Rather than a single injury, Marshall's Devon Johnson has struggled to stay full healthy at any point this season. Fighting through a multitude of injuries, most signifcantly to his back, he has not been able to stay on the field. Even with his injuries, Johnson is still the team's leading rusher with 555 yards on 84 carries.
The senior running back missed games versus Old Dominion, North Texas, Charlotte, and MTSU, while carrying the ball a combined eight times versus Kent State and Florida Atlantic. A stable of backs have worked to take some of the load in the backfield, but the Thundering Herd are not the same without Johnson.
Aaron Jones injures his ankle versus Texas Tech. In the second week of the season, UTEP's Aaron Jones injured his ankle in a loss to Texas Tech. His injury turned out to be torn ligaments in his ankle, ending his season. Jones was a workhorse with over 400 carries for just over 2,100 yards heading into the season.
At the time of his injury, he was UTEP's leading rusher with 209 yards on 32 carries. Six games later, he was finally overtake for the season's leading rusher. His ability to carry the ball and make drives take up time was able to hide a somewhat suspect defense in route to a bowl berth in 2014. Without him, the UTEP defense has been on the field way too long, leading to a 4-5 record.
Jordan Budwig injures his shoulder in offseason workouts. The biggest problem for Florida International in 2015 has been the inability to score enough to win. Taking away wins over FBS newbie Charlotte and FCS prorgram North Carolina Central, the Panthers have scored over 30 points only three times.
A significant reason for the lack of points has been poor play on the offensive line. Jordan Budwig was heading into this season having started all 24 possible games of his college career. He was preseason All-CUSA first team selection and projected to be one of the best offensive linemen in all of group of five football. During off-season workouts, Budwig injured his shoulder. He will be back in 2016, but his loss for the 2015 season has been something that FIU could not overcome.
Luckily for Conference USA fans, three of these four players should be back for the 2016 season. Here's hoping that the group can stay healthy next fall.