Missouri Tigers Position Preview: Running Back
Previous Position: Quarterback
When the Missouri Tigers lost All-Americans at nearly every skill position after 2008, their offense instantly gaped with crater-sized holes and question marks. However, the one silver lining was that running back Derrick Washington was returning.
D-Wash started hot as a sophomore, averaging over 100 yards a game on 7.47 yards a carry with more than two touchdowns a game, but dramatically slipped in Week 6 against Oklahoma State. Suffering from knee and shoulder injuries, and never quite regaining form, he barely finished the season with over 1,000 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns scored.
However, Washington returns in 2009 healthy, and Tiger fans are thankful for that. After Drew Temple left the team and Jimmy Jackson graduated, Mizzou was left with only two scholarship players on their roster at running back for spring ball. With a true sophomore at quarterback for Missouri who has never started a college football game, Gary Pinkel and Co. figure to lean on D-Wash early and often this year.
But who will back up Washington? Well, that question essentially starts and ends with redshirt sophomore De'Vion Moore, at least until fall practice breaks shortly. Moore is an exciting young player that reminds many of Tony Temple, who averaged over five yards a carry last year and scored his first collegiate touchdown in limited duty. As the only other back on the team that has taken a college snap, Moore will definitely be involved.
The answers beyond that are still foggy until the team gets going in August. Redshirt sophomore Gilbert Moye never transitioned to defense after the coaching staff tried to convert the four-star athlete to safety, but he'll get a chance to carry the rock as a running back. However, as inconsistent and banged up as Moye has been, don't expect much.
True freshman Kendal Lawrence is the name to really listen for. Lawrence put up an astounding 43 touchdowns on over nine yards a carry as a senior in Texas last year on his way to Parade All-American honors, and even though his size isn't very big at 5'10'' 180 lbs., he could make a tremendous impact by contributing solid carries and limiting turnovers in relief of Washington.
I'd be shocked if Washington didn't get 20-25 carries a game this season, and Moore should get double digit touches as well. Moye shouldn't factor in much, so like I mentioned, the real wild card is Lawrence. The tough fields of Texas typically shape some of the most college-ready players in prep sports, and Mizzou could certainly use the depth, but Gary Pinkel has never hesitated to redshirt talented players that aren't absolutely ready.
The running game will be a big, probably the biggest, part of the Missouri offense next year. If it's successful, the Tiger offense will be respectable if not good. If they can't move the chains, it'll be a long year in Columbia.
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