Just when it seemed Stony Brook's offense was getting on track, leading rusher Stacey Bedell suffered a minor knee sprain that will keep him out of Saturday night's final non-conference game at North Dakota. While coach Chuck Priore continues rotating his running backs and quarterbacks, the Seawolves must follow the leadership of two four-year starters, right tackle Cody Precht and center Mike Lisi.
They were instrumental in Stony Brook's first 300-yard rushing game in more than a year in its 20-3 victory over Division II American International a week ago. Bedell and running back James Kenner each topped 100 yards rushing, and the Seawolves (1-2) figure to emphasize the running game against UND of the Big Sky (1-2), which has allowed 199.7 yards rushing per game.
Re-establishing the running game against AIC "was really important," Precht said. "It was good to put together some drives and remember what that feeling is like to have a 10-play drive and score. That was big."
In their first two losses to Bryant and at FBS Connecticut, the Seawolves' offense lacked consistency. Priore again plans to rotate John Kinder and Conor Bednarski at quarterback, and the running back rotation without Bedell will include Kenner, Marcus Coker and Tyler Fredericks.
"We're going to go every two plays," Priore said of those three.
The coach is shuffling the offensive line, too. Lisi remains at center, but Precht moves from guard back to right tackle. Senior Shane Johnson, a transfer from Pitt, flips over to right guard from the left side and redshirt freshman tackle Timon Parris moves from the right side to the left next to redshirt freshman guard Armani Garrick.
That makes the leadership of Precht and Lisi critical to success. "It starts with the leadership part, and they set the work ethic," Priore said. "They give more to this program than most people give."
Precht said he and Lisi put in extra work to make sure the offensive line is on the same page, especially the two freshmen, Parris and Garrick. "It's really important because, when you're that young, you don't have the same communication skills on the field that a guy like me or Michael has," Precht said. "We put aside a half-hour to an hour after practice three or four times a week to meet and go over film and to get the calls down and make sure they know everything."
Bedell is expected to return for next week's Colonial Athletic Association opener against William & Mary at LaValle Stadium, but the Seawolves hope to set a tone for the rest of the season at North Dakota.
"We really have to make a statement, rush for yards, be physical and play Stony Brook football leading into next week," Precht said. "It will be a good test for us."