Hoosiers lose Gest to ACL tear

The early-season injury curse continues for Indiana football.

IU coach Tom Allen announced Monday that running back Cole Gest tore his ACL during Saturday’s season opener at Florida International and will miss the rest of the season. Not only is it the latest hit to a backfield running low on experience, it’s the third consecutive year that the Hoosiers have lost an offensive skill player in his first game of the season.

Last August, top receiver Nick Westbrook suffered an ACL injury on the season-opening kickoff. In 2016, No. 1 receiver Simmie Cobbs injured his ankle on his first play of the year and required season-ending surgery.

Gest’s injury appeared to occur when he was run over by FIU free safety Richard Dames while trying to block on Peyton Hendershot’s three-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter. He finished with 17 yards on five carries.

“Hate it for him,” Allen said. “I know how hard he’s worked and played extremely well when he was in there. (He’s a) great, great person, works unbelievably hard and, obviously, has a setback now he has to handle. We’ll be with him side by side through this whole process and he’ll come back stronger than ever and he’ll be with us again in the future. So thoughts and prayers with him through this time.”

With Gest out, IU will likely enter this weekend’s home opener without its top two rushers. Sophomore Morgan Ellison, last season’s most productive back, remains on an indefinite suspension. Allen said Monday that, “there’s no additional information for me to add with Morgan’s situation.” Both Allen and IU athletic director Fred Glass have declined to discuss the nature of Ellison’s suspension, which Allen said last week was “out of my hands.”

So that leaves seniors Mike Majette and Ricky Brookins, as well as freshman Stevie Scott as the likely candidates to handle the bulk of the carries. Indiana entered the season planning to use a running back-by-committee approach, though the losses of Gest and Ellison further underscore the need to get more players in the mix.

Scott finished as IU’s leading rusher in his college debut Saturday, recording 70 yards on 20 carries. For Scott, 28 of those yards came on the final drive of the night while helping the Hoosiers kill the final 6:03 off the clock.

“Obviously, Stevie Scott got a lot of work on Saturday night and showed some good promise as we saw in fall camp,” Allen said. “But (he) needs to continue to develop and grow. Mike Majette, obviously, has to expand his role.”

Freshman Reese Taylor, who played both ways at FIU, was IU’s second-leading rusher on Saturday with three carries for 40 yards, including a 32-yard burst that stood as Indiana’s longest run of the night. Allen said he expects Taylor’s role on offense to keep expanding, even while he spends a portion of the practice week working as IU’s third-string quarterback.

The IU coach is also challenging true freshman Ronnie Walker to step up. Walker, a former four-star high school prospect, did not appear in the season opener. Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said Monday that Walker is still getting acclimated to the offense, while picking up protections and working on reads.

“Really want to see Ronnie Walker step up,” Allen said. “(I) really feel like we have a group in that room of young men that will be called upon now. And bottom line is that seasons always give you things you don’t expect and, obviously, this is one of those for us. You have to adapt and move on.”

24 comments

  1. I really feel bad for Gest. Just when it looked like he was in position to get significant playing time, he goes down with a season-ending injury while blocking. It’s an opportunity for Walker to step up, learn the offense, demonstrate he can block, and become a significant contributor. Time to start recruiting a couple more running backs for next season. My guess is that IU will start looking at JUCO and graduate transfers.

  2. Whether it is running back, qb or other position history at IU when it seems they have a little depth at a position; too many times not only one player is injured, has personal issues, or gets into trouble etc but a combination of issues cause the loss of 2 or 3 players at a single position. Gest was one of the most physical backs along with Ellison this year. Does this force a more wide open game to some extent?

  3. Bummer, I agree really feel very bad for Cole Gest. The running back depth will really be challenge this year at Indiana University. Really hope that Mike Majette and Ricky Brookins step up. Heard really great things about Craig Nelson (not a every down back) all spring hopefully he is ready also. This team is now very thin at the skilled positions. Who will return kickoff (J-Shun Harris or DB) now?? Mike Majette and Cole Gest where listed as your primary kickoff return specialist.

  4. Really hate it for Cole Gest, big opportunity lost for him, at least for this year. Was impressed with Stevie Scott’s effort as IU was running clock. The ability to effectively carry the ball in situations where the defense has no doubt what is coming is impressive. Wish he had a little more game breaking explosiveness, but maybe that will come as he develops. Then again it never hurts to have a battering ram for a RB that is effective. If he can keep doing that in the B1G East , that’s a very good thing.

  5. Bad, CG is the most dangerous RB in the stable. Powerful, good hands receiver, likes to block, open field threat and has burst and breakaway speed(23mph). Hurts every bit as much as Morgan. Was looking for an all conference year from Cole. He was going to get the snaps to earn it.

  6. This hurts IU and is a bad deal for Gest especially since he was saying he felt healthier than he every had before. Majette needs to play like a senior RB with talent and will have a shot to do that. Scott looks like he could be a workhorse with Majette being a change up due to his speed and open field ability. You would hope a senior would take the position in a way a freshman couldn’t get it away from him but we will see. Their is also a chance for players not in the rotation to step up IE Walker.

  7. JPat, Taylor is very gifted, but he’s not big enough to take the pounding that comes with being a running back. His skills would be wasted at running back. Not to mention that he’s IU’s third quarterback and needs to be ready in case Ramsey and Penix go down with an injury.

  8. IU has dept at RB now they are a RB committee. IU has depth at qb and so far still does. BD no longer with team, and if you get a dent, ding, or some type of injury to another, and one not getting job done for whatever reason then RT becomes qb. RT needs to be ready at qb. It is a possible scenario at IU. Seems like to much of a common occurrence at IU. Or will it be Qb by committee to some degree along with running back by committee. Does RT become a member of both committees? Does he stay on running back/receiver committee and only qb committee if needed because of possible scenario with qb noted?

    1. t,
      If RT develops in the way most of us believe, he is too valuable a commodity to waste tied to one particular position. I would love to see TA utilize him the ways he did Saturday and even more. Depending on what the game is giving you, I could see RT inserted into a variety of scenarios giving IU game breaking opportunities. Yes, he can play QB, but why limit a true athlete to one position being adequately covered now, when there are so many other places he can make valuable contributions? Given time, IU will be a much better FB team anytime RT is on the field at whatever role assigned.

  9. Po, Taylor is 5’11, 184 lbs and Cole Gest is 5’8, 194 lbs…we have had many backs this size that have been successful. Think, I like what you are saying. I saw a guy in Taylor that is as elusive as anyone I have seen on the field since Randle el. Lne him up at RB or QB, but the ball needs to be in his hands!
    Take a look at our roster and you will see that Taylor is the size of most of our backs…I hope Allen is smart enough to know he should be there….eventually.

    1. I agree his size is near enough. His strength is equal or possibly more than a Frosh. But I think his running needs to come from everywhere. He can run from the slots, QB, RB and certainly sweeps, slants and cutbacks from WR. Whop in 1 slot and RT in the other and let them loose on sprint routes to the end zone with Penix pitching. Probably too goofy to happen.

      1. HC
        Not a goofy idea at all. It is exactly how they should be utilizing this type of talent. Yes, he can fill in at QB if needed, but use the natural gifts he has to their fullest and that is doing exactly what you suggest. Reminds me of Reggie Bush and how he was properly utilized and not. Saints tried to use him as an every down back and got him beat up. When they used him as you suggest, they won big. Steelers took a similar talent in Randle El and won big. Someone like RT on the field and in space scares the fire out of defenses and keeps their DC awake at night trying to figure out how to contain them.

  10. Exactly JPat! And Gest just got his knee blown up and is lost for the season. Plus, Gest was a running back through High School, so he was conditioned for that role when he arrived on campus. Taylor is obviously a gifted runner, but he needs to be in space where he can utilize his speed and quickness to avoid tackles. He’s just not built for running up the middle and getting pounded by linebackers. You don’t put an Indy-car in a demolition derby.

    You could make an argument for Taylor moving to running back if he was not a quarterback. But there’s a chance he’s going to need to play QB before the end of the season, and the third string quarterback is far more valuable to IU than being one of five running backs.

    By the way, I want to know how Taylor gained 19 lbs. since his Senior Year in High School. My guess is that there’s a little fudge factor in listing him at that weight.

    1. Nothing spectacular about about an athlete gaining weight over 14 months time when it is planned by experts. Why in hell would this coaching staff want to fudge the weight of their 4th string QB whether he is past Mr. Football or not. No benefit I see other than to scare off the transfer QB.

  11. Was Taylor weighed with or without his Reese’s cup?
    There are a lot of pieces to still be figured out in building a potent Hoosier offense…but not the Reese’s pieces?
    Aside from Reese’s giving us peanut butter in our chocolate, we got running back in our quarterback?

  12. Po, we can respectfully agree to disagree on him playing rb. No problem. I’m sure the weight is accurate…he is with real deal trainers/nutritionists at IU. I also really like what HC and Think say. Use him all over the field in many schemes and packages…love it!

  13. I worry they will over use RT. He was able to take a shot and keep running. But he also said it was the hardest hit he’s ever taken- and that was the team from Concourse A, Florida International. Wait until Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State…etc. It’s the big leagues and he needs more muscle to absorb those hits. There’s a reason strength coaches get paid so much. Most of the players hitting him will have 3-4 years of conditioning compared with his 3-4 months. I want to see the team win too, but not at the price of getting someone’s son hurt. I’d limit him to slot receiver/db and limit his # of plays.

    1. 123,
      I agree with your concerns which is why I mentioned the misuse of Reggie Bush as an every down back. The use of RT needs to be in a targeted manner for situations where his particular skills can be maximized. Another thing to remember is just because he is on the field does not mean exposing him unnecessarily. If RT can develop as we all hope, just being on the field will force defensive adjustments whether he is getting the ball or not. Sometimes a decoy can disrupt the entire opposing defense just by being on the field.

  14. I agree with both 123 and thinkaboutit’s excellent comments above.

    Hey, if Taylor weighs 184 lbs., then good for him. Perhaps the weight previously listed (165 lbs.) throughout the media and on all those recruiting sites was understated or simply old data. Perhaps the weight he’s listed at now is slightly embellished (IU did that with Zander Diamont). But it does not change my opinion that Taylor should not be used as a running back. As stated above, he’s too valuable to be pounding into defensive linemen and linebackers for ten to 15 plays a game, regardless of his weight. Earlier this summer I expressed support for IU allowing him to compete at quarterback, simply because he was incredibly productive in High School, and because I don’t like the height bias that often prevents shorter quarterbacks from getting a chance. Watching Taylor’s High School highlights, it’s obvious that his unique skills make him a game-changer and that it would be very difficult for defenses to defend against him (makes you feel sorry for those High School defenders that had to play against him). Given Dawkins’ departure, Taylor’s back in the mix at QB, but he’s also getting utilized in other positions. His incredible versatility and football IQ makes Taylor very valuable. Far too valuable to take the beatings that running backs endure.

  15. Po, you don’t have to dig and dig and keep explaining yourself. I’ve stood next to him quite recently and his weight is accurate. Also, I think 8-12 carries as a frosh at RB would be great for him. As stated above though by Think and others, move him around. Football is an easy game…you want the ball in the most dynamic players hands. Like I said, agree to disagree and move on. Enjoy this hopefully last hot Wednesday night if you are local.

    1. JPat I’m right with you. Somehow and from multiple positions RT needs to touch the ball 8-12+ times a game. From lots of looks, directions and locations. QB, RB, WR, slot and even ST’s + continued exposure at CB. He took the big hit and sprinted for more yardage. That D player is still shaking his head as to why he did not go down. He’s proved his 184 is legit and all muscle and speed. He very well could be the IU leader in all purpose yards at the end of the season.

  16. I wouldn’t doubt JPat’s estimates…It appears he’s earning a few extra bucks for home game tickets by teaming up with a former Hoosier

  17. I think it is safe to say that Taylor will run the ball from time to time. If he lines up as a running back, he’ll be a decoy or he’ll be used to throw a halfback run/pass option. I believe Randle-El did that and threw a few touchdown passes while with the Redskins.

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