The season is over for University of Miami junior running back Mark Walton.
Walton, arguably the Hurricanes’ most valuable player and one of the elite runners nationally, sustained a right ankle injury in the Hurricanes’ 24-20 win at Florida State on Saturday and will undergo season-ending surgery, UM coach Mark Richt confirmed on a teleconference Sunday evening.
Richt would not reveal the type of injury or surgery.
“I won’t get into that,’’ the coach said. “I’m not even sure exactly what they call it. I’ll let somebody else talk about that.
“It’ll be a season ending surgery. I think that’s pretty clear. I know it’s the type of surgery that guys that have had it have recovered 100 percent and never had an issue with that type of thing again. That’s the good news on that type of deal, but I don’t know what we’re going to do yet. We’ve got some guys that are already playing running back that are doing well.”
The surgery will be performed at the UHealth Sports Medicine Institute at The Lennar Foundation Medical Center, UM announced, and Richt said it would take place “in the next couple of days.”
And possibly more unsettling news for UM: Though freshman starting offensive guard Navaughn Donaldson seemed to have injured his knee on the same play as Walton’s injury, Richt wouldn’t reveal anything Sunday about his situation. Nor would the coach give an update on All-American receiver Ahmmon Richards, who missed most of fall camp and the first two games because of a severe hamstring pull and “was struggling with his hammy,’’ Richt said Saturday night.
Richt also wouldn’t give an update on starting safety Sheldrick Redwine, who was hurt with 4:49 left in the third quarter but walked off the field.
“We’ll give out an injury report on Thursday on that,’’ Richt said Sunday. “Let’s just leave it at that.’’
UM (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) which rose to No. 11 in the AP Poll on Sunday and No. 10 in the Amway Coaches Poll, plays Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-0) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (ABC) at Hard Rock Stadium.
Walton needs just five yards to reach the 2,000-yard career rushing mark at UM. He has rushed for 428 yards and three touchdowns in four games this season, ranking third in the ACC with 107 rushing yards per game. He was carted off the field Saturday with 5:35 left after making a 7-yard rush, and was later photographed by the Miami Herald in the bowels of the stadium atop the cart with his right foot heavily bandaged.
Saturday’s game marked the third week in a row that Walton had to leave with a foot or ankle injury. He rushed for 204 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries Sept. 23 against Toledo, the game in which he rolled the other (left) ankle. Then, last week at Duke, he came out in the fourth quarter after reinjuring the left ankle. In that game he was held to 51 yards rushing but caught four passes for 79 yards.
Entering Saturday’s game, during which Walton was clearly hurting, his 9.1 yards per carry ranked second in the nation and his 134.3 rushing yards per game ranked fifth nationally.
Walton’s backup, sophomore Travis Homer, has done an excellent job with his opportunities this season. He has 25 carries for 213 yards, an impressive 8.3 yards-per-carry average, with three rushing touchdowns. He also has five catches for 71 yards.
“He’s done very well,’’ Richt said about Homer, who also is a star on special teams. “He loves playing special teams. He doesn’t want to come off of them. He’s been a starter on all four [special teams] since he’s been here, but we’ll probably cut it down a little bit.”
Hurricanes redshirt junior Trayone Gray, coming off a torn ACL after sitting out last season, has four carries for 34 yards. And true freshman Robert Burns had shoulder surgery early in spring camp and has been on the scout team, but will now likely be put on the travel roster, Richt said.
“We’ll consider [freshman receiver] DeeJay Dallas possibly taking some snaps at that position to help us out,’’ Richt added. “But right now we have the guys that have been working that position from the beginning, and whether or not we have DeeJay or not, we’ll see.”
Richt said his players understand “that it’s football, it’s physical, guys get hurt, so I don’t think there will need to be any type of explanation” about Walton. “We shot this [press] release out just recently and by the time I meet with these kids in about 30 minutes they’ll all know it anyway. It won’t be shocking to them that something like that happened. They knew Mark was hurt, maybe a lot of them didn’t know the exact extent of it.”
Richt said Walton will not be on the sideline until it’s safe for him to be there.
“We’ll see. If he gets to the point where he’s in a boot and can move around a little bit, we may have him on the sideline. We’ll see in due time.”