Without senior corner D.J. Hayden covering the other team’s best receiver, other players in the secondary will take on new responsibilities, defensive backs assistant coach Zac Spavital said.
D.J. Hayden was taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital by ambulance during Tuesday’s practice after colliding with a player.
“Other guys are going to have to step up. We’re not going to play any different. We’re going to do what we do,” Spavital said.
Hayden injury update
Junior defensive back Thomas Bates will start on the outside, but other players will rotate, Spavital said.
“Right now, I’d just like to have everyone keep D.J. in your thoughts and prayers,” head coach Tony Levine said to SportsTalk 790 AM. “It was a freak accident — we were working defense against our scout offense and he and another player broke on a ball then collided.”
Team moving forward
Levine also spoke about how injuries become a part of the game and the importance of maintaining the right mind set for the remainder of the team.
“A couple weeks ago I watched the South Carolina game live when their running back Marcus Lattimore went down with a serious leg injury and it’s hard [for the team] to get back up and compete,” Levine said. “That’s my responsibility to make sure the team is okay and the other 124 young men respond to it in the appropriate way.”
Hayden was named Conference USA Defensive Newcomer of the Year a season ago after leading the Cougars with 11 passes broken up.
“I was in touch with a number of players last night and again, it’s not easy,” Levine said. “Talking about young men who have known their teammates for a long time, are roommates with them. That occurrence is never easy to deal with.”
Leadership hard to replace
Spavital said on the field there is no substitute for Hayden’s talent. Through nine games played, Hayden is first on the team with four interceptions and third in solo tackles with 38.
“He’s a vocal leader and a leader by his actions. He’s made some big plays for us lately and we’re trying to manage that and keep everyone going.
Additional reporting by Christopher Shelton