What already was a young group of USF receivers just got younger with the news that Sterling Griffin will miss six to eight weeks with a fracture in his ankle.
Griffin was hurt in a loss to Cincinnati, and coach Skip Holtz feared the worst Monday during the Big East coaches call. That timetable means Griffin most likely will miss the rest of the season and would be available should the Bulls (4-3) make a bowl game. It really is a tough blow for the Bulls and Griffin, having a career year after missing all of last season with an injury to the same ankle.
Just a redshirt sophomore, Griffin was the veteran in the group of receivers USF has relied on most this season. He leads the team with 40 receptions for 493 yards, with two touchdowns, and ranks No. 4 in the Big East in receptions and yards per game. It is obvious how much he has become the go-to receiver on this team. Victor Marc is second on the team with just 18 receptions.
But several young players stepped up against the Bearcats and are going to be asked to do much more with Griffin out.
Redshirt freshman Deonte Welch set a career-high with 130 yards receiving on five receptions, and was able to get open and rip off big chunks of yards. True freshman Andre Davis had a career-high 60 yards on four catches, and his 10-yard touchdown reception with 1:27 left in the game put the Bulls up 34-30 before Cincinnati came back for the win.
True freshman Ruben Gonzalez also has made some contributions this season.
"It's going to be hard -- to lose a sophomore like that would be a blow, because he's really been playing well," Holtz said Monday, before knowing the full extent of Griffin's injury. "It's kind of forced guys like Andre Davis, Deonte Welch, Ruben Gonzalez to grow up, forced them to mature and grow up. ... To see the way a couple of the young guys are stepping up is really exciting. I would absolutely hate it for Sterling for everything he's been through. He's come back so strong and he's such a great young man. He's worked so hard to be here and has made such a huge impact on this team this season, it would be difficult to lose him. It definitely looks like that's going to be the case, at least for a couple weeks. Somebody's going to have to step up."
USF is off this week before playing at Rutgers on Nov. 5.