Week eight injury report: Sullivan questionable, Brown, Johnson out
A key piece to Central Michigan's offense may be close to returning from an injury entering Saturday's week eight showdown with Northern Illinois.
Coach Jim McElwain officially listed senior receiver JaCorey Sullivan, who has missed the last two games with a hand injury, as questionable heading into the matchup with the Huskies. Right guard Deiyantei Powell-Woods was listed as doubtful and both linebacker Troy Brown and defensive end LaQuan Johnson will be out.
All four of the listed players missed the Chippewas' homecoming win over Toledo, a 26-23 overtime effort. As the team enters the meat of its divisional schedule, McElwain wants his best players to play but won't put them in the lineup if they're not ready.
"I'm a firm believer that I listen to the kids," McElwain said. "They've gotta feel right, they've gotta be 100 percent ready to go in their minds. And they're doing everything they can to get ready. I don't question that at all. And yet, I'll defer to them in whatever it is, knowing that whoever's taking over and the guys around them, we need to lift our level of play until we can get those guys back."
Redshirt freshman Justin Whiteside will make his second consecutive start in place of Brown. McElwain has praised the Flossmoor, Illinois native for his efforts after stepping into the starting role.
"I thought Whiteside made some great plays," McElwain said after the win over Toledo.
Also contributing at linebacker will be fellow starter George Douglas, senior Kumennu Gwilly and freshman Kyle Moretti.
Despite the loss of Johnson, the Chippewas are developing a solid rotation at defensive end led by senior Troy Hairston II. Juniors Thomas Incoom and Amir Siddiq, along with occasional showings of true freshman Michael Heldman, helped force seven Chippewa sacks against Toledo.
Should Powell-Woods not be able to go, freshman Keegan Smith will make his second consecutive start. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith played 70 snaps in the Toledo game.
"I thought it was good that he got a full game of work in," McElwain said. "But I think he kind of found out what it is to play college football on an every down basis. I think he'll learn a lot from that experience and I expect him to be a lot better this week."
Running back Darius Bracy remains out with an MCL injury, while defensive back Dishon McNary is still out with an ankle injury.