Stepney, Bracy moving from running back to secondary in 2022

Mobile, Ala. junior Darius Bracy goes airborne at the end of a run against EMU, Friday, Nov. 26.

With the departure of three key pieces in Central Michigan's secondary, coach Jim McElwain has elected to slide two running backs into the secondary. 

Redshirt freshman De'Javion Stepney and senior Darius Bracy will move from the offensive backfield to the defensive. Both were originally recruited as two-way players, with Bracy playing the first two years of his career at cornerback. 

"Bracy's done it before," McElwain said. "We kind of discovered him as a running back during the COVID deal (in 2020) when we were down a bunch of players and we were cross-training guys. He did a fantastic job for us, but he'll be moving back into the secondary." 

The need for help in the defensive backfield is a new one. The trio of Gage Kreski, Alonzo McCoy and Devonni Reed helped to anchor the unit for the last three seasons. Now, with Reed transferring to South Carolina and McCoy and Kreski graduated, the Chippewas are looking to fill the need from within. 

Bracy and Stepney both saw limited action at running back in 2021. The former dealt with a Grade 3 MCL sprain and missed five games, but finished the year with 36 carries for 212 yards. Stepney, meanwhile, played in only four games to preserve his redshirt and ran for 109 yards on 13 touches.

With Kobe Lewis returning after missing all of 2021 with a knee injury and Lew Nichols III entrenched as the starter after leading the nation in rushing, there was a logjam for the third-string spot amongst Bracy, Stepney and sophomores Myles Bailey and Marion Lukes. 

"Some of the things we try to do is you want to get your best players on the field," McElwain said  "We knew we were deep in that running back room, and yet those guys have been able to show that they can play on both sides of the football. Part of it, too, is where are the numbers and where can we get those guys on the field the soonest." 

Stepney, who will wear No. 5 this season after wearing No. 24 in his first campaign, played both running back and free safety at Dakota High School in Macomb. He committed to the Chippewas as a running back, but had 95 tackles and six interceptions over his last two prep seasons. 

"Step is a guy that is very, very talented and should be able to step in and play for us right away over there," McElwain said. 

The Chippewas are scheduled to open spring practice March 19.