Indiana will be without its most explosive playmaker at one of the most important junctures of its season.
IU coach Kevin Wilson announced Monday that sophomore running back Tevin Coleman, who earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors after 215 yards and two touchdowns in a 52-35 win against Illinois on Saturday, is out for the Hoosiers' game against Wisconsin this week.
Coleman suffered an ankle sprain in the fourth quarter.
"Tevin's not a guy that you want to lose," offensive coordinator Seth Littrell said of the back, who was the first IU back to record more than 200 yards in a game since BenJarvus Green-Ellis did it a decade ago. "You're going to lose his productivity and the type of player that he is and the explosiveness."
This is as bad a time as any to lose that.
The Hoosiers (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) still have senior running back Stephen Houston, who ran for 150 yards and two scores against the Illini. They also have junior running back D'Angelo Roberts and further backup options in redshirt sophomore Anthony Davis and redshirt freshman Andrew Wilson.
But Coleman has breakaway speed the rest don't. His 75- and 64-yard touchdown runs against Illinois showed that. He is among the nation's leaders in plays of more than 40 yards and could become the first 1,000-yard back in Wilson's tenure.
"It's nothing major," Wilson said. "It's not a break, but it's major enough that with an ankle deal in the skill position, a fast guy, he's going to be very, very limited, in all likelihood.
"We can say end of the week we'll see how it goes, but fortunately we've got some depth there, and we'll need some guys to step up if we need it. That's probably going to have to happen."
That has been a theme for the Hoosiers this season. The squad has been riddled with injuries, but backups and third-string players have stood firm throughout the year.
Junior cornerback Tim Bennett suffered a concussion against the Illini, but should be ready for the Badgers when IU heads to Madison on Saturday. Redshirt junior center Collin Rahrig, who had started the last 15 games for the Hoosiers between center and left guard, was out with a back injury against Illinois. He should be back for the Wisconsin game, too.
But IU has already lost some key contributors, including offensive linemen Peyton Eckert and Dan Feeney for the season, as well as safety Antonio Allen. Despite the dings, it has found ways to prevent letdowns.
"We've got some depth, some guys stepping up," Wilson said. "We've got some guys hurt. Everybody does. When you have a good team, guys step up, and it's not as big of a deal."
He would like to think his team is good enough to overcome Coleman's setbacks, too – even against Wisconsin, a team that gives up just 98.4 yards per game on the ground.
"We've been very, very fortunate, as our strength program's taken off and our recruiting's gotten a little better," he said. "Walk on program has gotten better, and we've gotten more depth. That's why we can weather the storm."