BLOOMINGTON, IN - MARCH 11, 2021 - offensive lineman Zach Carpenter #50 of the Indiana Hoosiers during practice at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, IN. Photo by Missy Minear/Indiana Athletics

IU football starting center Zach Carpenter has non-season ending hand injury

Indiana is playing in starting center Zach Carpenter’s hometown this weekend, but it isn’t clear whether the 6-foot-5, 305-pound redshirt junior will be suiting up.

The Cincinnati Moeller H.S. product was injured during pre-game warmups on Saturday as IU prepared to play Western Kentucky.  Head coach Tom Allen didn’t explain exactly what happened to Carpenter, but he was certainly caught off guard when the improbable turn of events unfolded.

“Very freaky, I guess, would be safe to say, freak accident,” Allen said on Monday.  “That doesn’t usually happen. I’ve never had this happen before in my 30 years of that type of thing and that type of warm-up because he just did the same thing we always do.”

Indiana has already lost starting right tackle Matthew Bedford for the season after he suffered a knee injury in week one.  The offensive line was already a suspect part of the team, and the Hoosiers certainly cannot afford to be a down a second starter for long.  The good news for IU is Carpenter’s injury is not season-ending.  The bad news is that it involves his hand, obviously a critical body part for any offensive lineman, and especially a center.

As of Monday, Indiana was still attempting to determine the precise nature of the injury, and Carpenter’s short-term availability.  Allen implied the injury relates to the hand Carpenter uses to snap the football.

“Something with his hand,” Allen said.  “Still getting evaluated trying to figure out what it’s going to be. Not season ending, anything like that, something we have to deal with. Obviously since he’s a center, snapping the football, it’s something with his hand he’s got to deal with.

“Definitely for his position and what he does, could be something we’ll have to make adjustments with.”

Another complicating factor on Saturday was backup center Cameron Knight was also unavailable. He could be seen in a walking boot on the sidelines.  In a pinch, IU went with third-stringer Caleb Murphy, who performed well under the circumstances.

A transfer from Michigan, Carpenter has also played guard at the college level.  That’s one potential adjustment — to move him to another interior spot and swap positions with one of the main rotation guards — Mike Katic, Tim Weaver or Kahlil Benson.  Of that trio, Katic is the most likely.

With the competition level intensifying, Indiana now has a week to try to figure everything out.

“That’s why you’ve got depth and that’s why you develop guys,” Allen said.  “So hopefully we’ll know more here soon getting him back with us.”

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