FORT WAYNE – One minute, maybe less. Thats what Antoin Campbells worth comes down to if youre Saint Francis football coach Kevin Donley.
It comes down to a doctors office and an MRI and a few words that sucked all the air out of the room, replacing it with tears. Donley didnt have a clock on the tears part, but he knows it wasnt long.
Obviously hes heartbroken, he said Thursday of the moment when Campbell, the Saint Francis Cougars linchpin running back, got the news that his season was done. But it wasnt one minute until hes saying What can I do now, Coach, to help the team?
You miss the great player. But probably as difficult to replace is his presence and leadership. Hes an inspiration.
And, in sheer raw numbers, impossible to replace in one chunk.
In three games this season, Campbell had 394 yards on 71 carries and six touchdowns for a team that has averaged 25.3 points and 443.3 yards per game.
Now the Cougars go to No. 25 Siena Heights, its fourth consecutive top-25 opponent, with Campbell either standing or sitting or leaning on crutches on the sideline.
Hell still be an inspiration. But how will the Cougars replace the rest of the package?
Donley figures it starts up front.
I challenged our offensive line, he says. Those guys have to be the leaders of our offense. As a group. Nothing gives a quarterback more confidence than to hear Weve got you protected, youve got time. Nothing gives a running back any more confidence than to say Run right behind me.
So its got to start with those five guys. Theyve really got to take control of the leadership part of it.
No problem, says 6-foot-5, 217-pound tackle Cam Edwards.
Our confidence is there, he says. We just put in our offensive line plans. What can we do? Antoin, yeah, he was a key loss. Were all going to miss him. But the season still goes on, you know. Weve got to stay focused and stay confident.
At running back, meanwhile, Campbells absence wont be filled by any one person. Garrett Harvey, his backup, will be the first option. Freshmen Aaron Harris and Jason Nicodemus will likely see some work, too.
It wont be like having Campbell back there. But, collectively, theyll have to be close enough.
Even though quarterback Josh Millers aggravated ankle has eased and hell be back in the lineup after going down along with Campbell last week, Miller alone cant make the Cougars high-energy offense go without a running game to keep Siena Heights honest.
Millers statistics are impressive – he has completed 44 of 67 passes for 402 yards and two touchdowns, while not throwing an interception – but hell likely need help against a defense thats giving up only 13.8 points, 323.8 total and 134.5 rushing yards per game.
Weve got to be able to run the ball, Donley says. Weve got Garrett Harvey, and weve got a couple freshmen that are really talented. Harveys a more physical guy, hes a 230-pound power runner. Harris reminds me a lot of (Cory) Jacquay as a freshman. Nicodemus reminds me a lot of Taylor Veick, strong, tough kid. As a collective group, they have the ability.