DeKALB – Playing essentially on one leg didn't do too much to hurt Jason Onyebuagu's overall performance, at least in the eyes of Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill.
What it means for Onyebuagu in terms of NIU's 6:30 p.m. Thursday game against Eastern Michigan at Huskie Stadium is still a matter to be determined.
Onyebuagu's injured ankle was in a walking boot and he was on crutches at Monday's practice. NIU puts its football players in a walking boot with any foot injury regardless of the severity and Kill said the crutches were to relieve pressure.
"I think he's got a shot to play," Kill said.
One reason for optimism would be that Onyebuagu played the entire game this past Saturday against Akron despite injuring the ankle in the first quarter. Kill praised Onyebuagu for how he played against the Zips.
"[He] played his best game since I've been here," Kill said. "I don't know if he concentrated more because he was hurt or what but he played his best game by far."
Also, fullback Connor Flahive [knee] will play. Safety David Bryant [knee] will not but Kill said Bryant was looking much better and he was hoping to get the senior back for the Ball State game next Thursday. Finally, there is no update on quarterback Chandler Harnish's knee.
"I told [trainer] Kammy [Powell] I didn't want to know anything until Tuesday, because then you just get your hopes up," Kill said. "So right now we're concentrating on DeMarcus [Grady], which after watching film, the strides from Game 1 to 2 were immense. Now we need to take him another step."
Few changes: Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said with Grady at quarterback the offensive playbook hasn't changed that much, but he is trying to play more to Grady's strengths.
"I think everyone thinks we've got the width and the breadth of the offense [with Harnish in]," Limegrover said. "Well, there are things that he doesn't do real well that actually DeMarcus does better that have kind of made their way back in."
Grady went 10 of 18 through the air for 62 yards on a windy Saturday against the Zips while he rushed 20 times for 109 yards. Coaches said Grady's presence in the huddle and in the pocket improved compared to the previous week at Miami (Ohio).
Grady is NIU's best threat to run from the quarterback position, but Limegrover added that Grady didn't have the experience of throwing the ball 30 to 40 times a game in high school and is just gaining that sort of experience in practice now.
"He hasn't had the opportunity to drop back with four wides and throw it all over the field," Limegrover said. "That's where we focus on play action and the short throws and what he's done a lot in the time that we've been here and been successful at. That's where the emphasis goes."
Quotable: "After I watched film, you take the penalties out, we may have played as hard as we did all year. We really played pretty good except for the penalties." – Kill on Saturday's game against Akron. NIU was penalized nine times for 105 yards in the victory.