As the season marches on, the number of walking wounded rises.
When the University of Akron (1-7, 0-4) takes on Central Michigan (2-5, 0-3) on Saturday at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Zips coach Terry Bowden might have to rotate two freshman running backs in and out of service against the Chippewas.
Starter Jawon Chisholm suffered an injury to his wrist last weekend in a loss to Northern Illinois. After a CAT scan and two other evaluations, doctors concluded there are no broken bones, but there is enough pain to make his status day-to-day. Additionally, senior backup running back Quentin Hines suffered a quad strain.
Conor Hundley, a freshman from Cincinnati’s St. Xavier, already has Bowden’s trust, having played in each game this season and rushing for 174 yards on 45 carries and three touchdowns.
Hundley is a grinder and the guy Bowden turned to on numerous occasions when he needed a tough yard. He will receive all the reps with the first team during practices this week.
“He’s the kind of guy that if he touched the ball 20 times, he’d get 100 yards. He drives forward and always picks up positive yardage,” Bowden said.
Hundley did receive seasoning during the course of the first eight games, but that’s less the case with fellow freshman Hakeem Lawrence, a running back out of Florida who arrived later in preseason camp because of eligibility issues.
Appearing in seven games, he has rushed for 68 yards on 16 carries. He’s a speedy player, but he’s also a small one. After getting some opportunities early in the season because Bowden and his offensive staff were in search of playmakers, his reps have slacked off.
“Hakeem is one you would have easily redshirted when you first got him here, [because] he was in awe of the whole college experience,” Bowden said. “He had some good plays, but he still was in awe of the whole college experience.
“That’s very common for a freshman. As much as they have the ability, the whole experience of the major college scene is a little bit more.”
There was also a little shock involved with that awe, as Bowden said that in some cases, incoming freshmen aren’t as prepared for the way players hit at the Division I level. Lawrence also suffered a shoulder injury earlier this season that he had to get over.
“He’s further along now and maybe he can take more of the load,” Bowden said of Lawrence. “He needs to step up and be ready for an opportunity.”
No looking ahead
There’s no hope for the Zips to win much in the way of a conference championship, but they are playing for something else — victories and respect.
Kyle Pohl, the redshirt freshman and likely future quarterback of the team, will continue to wait for his turn, Bowden said. That, however, won’t necessarily come this season.
“I think he’s ready to play if he has to go in,” Bowden said.
But with a senior class that has endured a whole lot of losing in the past four years, Bowden said that winning games right now is too important to them.
“Right now, Dalton still gives us the best chance to win,” he said.
In addition to Chisholm and Hines, defensive tackle Nico Caponi (ankle sprain) and teammate defensive end Albert Presley (fractured fibula) remain in day-to-day situations.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.