Central Michigan spring football: Chippewas set to reload at running back position in 2020 season
This is the second of nine position group previews throughout Central Michigan spring practice. Today's edition focuses on the Chippewa running backs. For the other groups, follow the links below:
With Jonathan Ward graduated, Central Michigan has lost a two-time 1,000 yard rusher. Despite losing an athlete who coach Jim McElwain called "a great leader," McElwain remained confident when asked about the depth at the running back position heading into the 2020 season.
"We've got a 1,000 yard rusher coming back," McElwain said with a smile.
Kobe Lewis, who will be a junior in the fall, returns to the Chippewa backfield after rushing for 1,074 yards and 12 touchdowns in 14 games in 2019. Lewis burst onto the scene when Ward missed a pair of games due to a shoulder injury and never missed a beat, giving the Chippewas a potent one-two punch.
Lewis will inherit the bulk of the responsibility after splitting the load with Ward last season, meaning that he will have an opportunity to match or even exceed his production with an increased work load. However, he's not the only returnee at the position.
Freshman Lew Nichols retains a year of eligibility after playing in only four games last season. Nichols played in each of the Chippewas' first four games only to redshirt with the emergence of Lewis. In the four games, Nichols carried the ball 19 times for 89 yards with a long of 15 in the Chippewas' Sept. 14 over Akron.
In his first press conference of the season, McElwain praised the experience Nichols was able to gain in his four games.
"We've got total confidence in him," McElwain said.
Redshirt freshman Josh Crawford also returns, though he did not see game action last season.
The Chippewas will also bring in a pair of three-star recruits come fall camp in Myles Bailey and Marion Lukes. Bailey hails from North Brunswick, New Jersey while Lukes is from Charlestown, Indiana. Each could potentially be a redshirt candidate given the depth in the backfield.
Senior running back Kumehnnu Gwilly has moved across the ball, switching to the linebacker position. Gwilly was a linebacker in addition to being a running back at Utica High School.
With the uncertainty at the quarterback position, the running backs will be leaned upon frequently. Though Ward will be missed, there are multiple options in the backfield for McElwain. The running back position still possesses plenty of depth, even with Ward – who rushed for over 2,000 yards in his career – gone.