Bad news has come early for the Northern Illinois Huskies. Bulldozing senior tail back Cameron Stingily is out with an undisclosed injury for beginning of the upcoming season. According to a Huskie Wire post, NIU head coach Rod Carey said Stingily will miss the first four games.
There has not been any information released as to exactly what the injury is or how it occurred. The announcement came after Tuesday's practice.
Stingily rushed for 1,119 yards on 203 carries last season. Second most on the team in both categories to Jordan Lynch.
The pain of Stingily's loss will be eased somewhat by the return of tail back Akeem Daniels. Daniels redshirted 2013 due to a foot injury. With his return this year NIU was set to have Stingily be the "thunder", and Daniels be the "lightening". At 5'7" and 184 pounds, Daniels is a quick and elusive runner compared to the imposing 6'1", 235 pound hammer that is Stingily.
Daniel's came on late in 2012 to end the year with 447 yards on only 68 carries. He also used his experience at wide receiver to haul in 20 passes for another 259 yards.
The concern here will be Daniel's ability to stay healthy. He'll be coming off of a serious injury and has no track record of being able to handle the main running duties. For NIU, this is where the phrase "next man up" is no longer a cliche.
The Huskies are deep but relatively inexperienced at running back: Joel Bouagnon, Keith Harris Jr., and Jordan Huff will be competing to take some of the load off of Daniels.
Each man has his own reason to be the one to move up on the depth chart: At 6 foot 2 and 225 pounds, Bouagnon has Stingily-like size. Jordan Huff has the buzz of big-play ability. Keith Harris Jr. has the most game experience. For at least the first four games, one of these guys will see increased carries. Or maybe all of them will?
What will be the immediate impact of the Stingily injury? It's definitely bad timing. Breaking in a new quarterback is not usually an easy transition. Having Stingily in the backfield would have helped the confidence of whom ever is calling the signals when the season opens. A quarterback always feels better knowing he can turn around and hand the ball off to a 235 pound, 1,100 yard rusher.
There's also a couple of larger defensive lines waiting for NIU in weeks two and four with Northwestern and then Arkansas. Stingily's size would have helped in short yardage if the O-line can't get a good push.
And lastly there's Daniels durability. If he were to go down you're now looking at a very inexperienced back field at both running back and quarterback.
But for now there's no need to panic. Overall I think this is a minor set back. One that NIU can overcome. The rest of the offense is very experienced. Especially the offensive line. If they can take over in those early games and keep the pressure off of the new quarterback while opening up some running lanes, the Huskies will find their offensive groove and keep the ship right until Stingily returns.
Which hopefully is in time for conference play.