CMU running back Lewis to have surgery, out indefinitely

Junior running back Kobe Lewis kneels before Central Michigan's game at Northern Illinois in DeKalb, Illinois.

Central Michigan starting running back Kobe Lewis suffered a non-contact knee injury and will have surgery Tuesday, head coach Jim McElwain announced Thursday. 

"The team and ourselves just feel horrible for a great leader like that," McElwain said.

Under the NCAA's redshirt rules, a player can play a maximum of four games and still keep their eligibility. Because Lewis did not redshirt as a true freshman, he has an available redshirt season and an additional year of eligibility as a result of the coronavirus waiver. 

"Obviously, losing Kobe, you're not only losing a great player and an explosive player and a guy that can make plays and help you win, but you're losing a great leader," McElwain said. "A guy that is very valuable in that locker room. And yet, you know what? We're gonna get it taken care of and he's gonna comeback." 

Lewis, a 2018 signee from Americus, Georgia, is a three-year contributor. As a true freshman, he carried the ball 10 times for 37 yards. His breakout came as a sophomore, crossing the 1,000 yard plateau and scoring 12 touchdowns to form a solid 1-2 punch with starter Jonathan Ward. 

Last season, as a junior, Lewis ran for 468 and six touchdowns on 105 carries. He split time with redshirt freshman Lew Nichols, who will likely inherit the starting workload. Nichols was named Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year in 2020 after running for 508 yards and four touchdowns. 

With Lewis out, the responsibility for production at the position falls to Nichols and junior Darius Bracy, along with freshmen Marion Lukes, Myles Bailey and DJ Stepney. 

"There's a sense of urgency now, because we don't have Kobe to rely on," McElwain said. 

Bracy is a converted defensive back who carried the ball 15 times for 95 yards last season. Lukes and Bailey are both 2020 signees who greyshirted last season during the coronavirus pandemic. Stepney is a 2021 signee and a finalist for Michigan's Mr. Football award in 2020.