Junior college transfer Zach Hulce tore an ACL in practice last week and is out for the season, further depleting the running back position at West Virginia.

The 5-foot-10, 200-pound native of Puyallup, Wash., missed the first three games of the season with a shoulder stinger and hurt his knee preparing for the Marshall game.

"It's definitely a disappointment," running backs coach Chris Beatty said. "He's disappointed, too. He came in with some big expectations and got that stinger and the very first day back after he was cleared to practice full-go he tears his ACL. It's frustrating for him and I feel bad for him. Hopefully he can rehab and be back in time for the spring."

Hulce will take a medical redshirt and have to years to play two seasons. He was No. 8 nationally last year with 1,101 yards at Glendale (Ariz.) Community College and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

"The tough part is we were going to get him in there," Beatty said. "He was going to be a guy we put in there in short-yardage and let him run between the tackles."

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FRESHMAN TERENCE Kerns is no closer to being that short-yardage, between-the tackles back and is almost certain to redshirt this season.

"It would take something extreme (for Kerns to play)," Beatty said. "It's not even so much him but more so that at this point you'd hate to waste a year for a guy who's not going to play a lot."

Beatty won't push Kerns in as a short-yardage specialist, though Kerns or someone could have that role in the future.

"The thing about that is he tried that in the summer and he couldn't do it," Beatty said. "There are a lot of elements to getting that yard or so. It's not like you just go out there and do it because you're a big guy. There's a lot more to it with reading blocks and footwork and things like that. It's more difficult than people imagine."

Beatty said issues off the field haven't stalled Kerns' progress. Ironically, the 6-foot, 240-pound frame that was supposed to be a strength has been a weakness.

"Flexibility is an issue for him," Beatty said. "He's one of those guys who can't go downhill. He's so muscle-bound and tightly wound that he has trouble getting downhill. He's got to do a steering wheel type of thing to get back downhill. He's getting better, but I think it's a situation where in high school you're that big and that fast you don't really run off it. You run because people are scared to tackle you."

Kerns has hardly any body fat and Beatty said Kerns doesn't have to lose weight, but has to work to become flexible in an offseason program.

"If he could learn how to run and how to bend and do different things like that, that'd help him," Beatty said.

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BEATTY TOOK news of Hulce's injury well and won't take Kerns off the shelf because the depth chart has taken form thanks to freshman Mark Rodgers establishing himself as the backup running back after spending most of summer camp at slot receiver.

"I feel a lot better about things," Beatty said. "I'm probably where I thought we'd be. I thought around week six or week seven Mark would be able to go in and give us some time. Now, I wouldn't have a problem playing Mark on regular downs if Noel needed a break or if I wouldn't want to put Jock back there. He's probably two weeks ahead of where I thought he might be. Usually the light comes on at the midway point with freshmen when things start to slow down and they see things better. Mark's already there."

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SENIOR RECEIVER Tito Gonzales, who rolled his right ankle against Marshall and is wearing a protective boot as he watched practice, should be able to play in Saturday's noon game against Rutgers. If he does, he'll do so as a member of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. Gonzales is one of 11 Division I players chosen for embodying teamwork and giving back through "selfless contributions and commendable acts of kindness." ... Senior linebacker Reed Williams, who has injury issues of his own, was named a Draddy Trophy semifinalist. Candidates must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2, be a first-team player or significant contributor and demonstrate strong leadership and citizenship. ... Rutgers did not make players available for interviews with out-of-town media this week.

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