Northern Illinois senior tailback Cameron Stingily, the No. 2 returning rusher in the MAC, is expected to miss the first four games of the year with an unidentified injury.
NIU coach Rod Carey announced the injury after Tuesday's practice. Stingily (6-foot-1, 235 pounds) ran for 1,119 yards and nine touchdowns last season as the Huskies' No. 2 rushing threat behind quarterback Jordan Lynch.
Stingily, a physical, downhill runner with the potential to be taken on the third day of the draft, was expected to be the offensive focal point for NIU this season. He has dropped almost 10 pounds in preparation for more work this fall; he had 203 carries last season.
Stingily arrived at NIU as a linebacker and didn't move to offense until his sophomore season, when he had one carry. He became an important part of the offense for the 12-2 Huskies last season. He is on the Doak Walker Award watch list; the award goes to the nation's top running back.
His starting job now likely goes to senior Akeem Daniels (5-7, 189), who missed last season with a foot injury. As a part-time starter in 2012, Daniels rushed for 447 yards. While Stingily is a bruising runner, Daniels relies on quickness and elusiveness.
NIU will have a new quarterback with the departure of the do-everything Lynch, and the loss of Stingily exacerbates the issue in the backfield. While the Huskies open with FCS foe Presbyterian, their next three games are on the road: Northwestern, UNLV and Arkansas. Stingily's absence is going to make it tough to pull upsets against Northwestern and Arkansas. The good news is that the line returns four starters and the top six receivers also return.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.