Northwestern was among the nation's healthiest teams in 2012. According to Phil Steele, the Wildcats only lost five total starts because of injuries last fall.
Pat Fitzgerald's squad isn't as fortunate this season.
Fitzgerald announced Monday that starting cornerback Daniel Jones will miss the season after suffering a left knee injury late in the first half of Saturday's opener against California. Jones, who had to be carted off of the field after a play in the end zone, will undergo surgery.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Jones started seven games last season and recorded 33 tackles and four pass breakups. He beat out challengers Dwight White and C.J. Bryant to start opposite standout Nick VanHoose. Jones used his redshirt season in 2010, so he would need to get NCAA approval to get this year credited back.
Although Northwestern has more secondary depth now than in past years, Jones' loss certainly stings as pass defense always is a concern for the Wildcats. Cal's Jared Goff passed for 445 yards against Northwestern in his college debut, often picking on White, who replaced Jones.
The news isn't as bad about Northwestern's starting offensive backfield of quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark. Both are day-to-day for this week's home opener against Syracuse. Colter left the Cal game on the first series after suffering an apparent concussion. Mark played sparingly as a running back and not at all on returns. Fitzgerald said Monday that Mark has a lower-body issue and wasn't 100 percent coming out of preseason camp.
Northwestern's offense will be fundamentally different when Colter and Mark get healthy. We'll see if they're on the field together Saturday night against Syracuse.