Although no specific details were confirmed at Monday’s press conference, Northwestern senior cornerback and captain Matthew Harris will miss at least one week with what appeared to be a head injury that occurred last week against Illinois State. Here’s video of the hit.
Here's that Harris injury it's very ugly. https://t.co/plea2znzd3— Lifelong Indiana Fan (@BenG412) September 10, 2016
Harris immediately crumpled to the ground and remained motionless for several minutes as trainers attended to him. Eventually he got to his feet and very uneasily started to walk toward the sideline before turning and heading to the locker room slowly and with assistance from the staff.
Harris has now suffered a significant injury in each of his three years at Northwestern, including on his very first play of his career as a true freshman against California on kick coverage. As a sophomore, he suffered another concussion against Penn State but still able to give a thumbs up as he was carted off. And then last year, he broke several bones in his face against Michigan.
That Harris was even in on kick coverage given his injury history is a major issue, but the more pressing one right now is where this leaves Northwestern’s defense. The four cornerbacks listed in the Week 3 depth chart have a combined two starts in their career, both from sophomore Montre Hartage. Added in with the loss of Alonzo Mayo against Illinois State and Keith Watkins in the preseason, as well as the shift of Marcus McShepard from cornerback to wide receiver, the injury leaves a gaping hole in the secondary. Hartage had the first interception of his career last week against Illinois State, but has been very up and down. Trae Williams is essentially untested, having only played a few snaps in both games this season, and Roderick Campbell and Brian Bullock are just three months removed from high school graduation.
Hence, it is reasonable to expect Northwestern to use starting safety Kyle Queiro as a third cornerback in the nickel package and Jared McGee, who also registered a pick Saturday, to come in alongside Godwin Igwebuike when Queiro moves up. Regardless, the Harris injury leaves Northwestern extremely thin in the defensive backfield.