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Mizzou 2009, Part Seven: Running Backs

Continuing with the "three burning questions" motif...

Running Backs

2008 Unit Ranking: #16 in the nation (#2 in the Big 12)

Projected Depth Chart
Derrick Washington (6'0, 225, Jr.)
De'Vion Moore (5'9, 195, So.)
Kendial Lawrence (5'9, 185, Fr.)
Gilbert Moye (6'2, 220, So.)

Let's continue with the 'three questions' theme:

  1. What is Derrick Washington's ceiling?  In the second game of the 2008 season, Washington tore his meniscus ("I got cysts in my calf. My calf swelled way up. I had to have it drained and everything.  Then after the season we had a second MRI and it showed I had a torn meniscus.").

    That means that for the year, he rushed for 130 yards in 19 carries when healthy (don't know when he actually got hurt against SEMO, so I'm not counting it), a healthy 6.8 yards per carry, and 906 yards in 158 carries (a still nice 5.7 per pop) when not.  He also caught 29 passes for 277 yards (28 of the receptions came after Illinois).  He accounted for 1,313 total yards and 19 TDs...and he was injured for 92% of the season.  Wow.

    So with that said, what can Derrick Washington accomplish if he's healthy for all 12-14 games?  Part of that, really, will depend on Blaine Gabbert and the passing game.  Mizzou has acknowledged that they will probably be leaning more on the running game this year with a green QB in the backfield, which could mean very good things for D-Wash.  And we could take last year's final average of 5.9 yards per carry, add at least 0.2 or 0.3 yards if he had been healthy (he was all but worthless the last two games, managing just 73 yards in 25 carries, 2.8 per carry), and say that Washington could average in the low- to mid-6's this season.  But if opponents don't respect the passing game and key on #24, then there's no way he averages that much.  If the passing game is enough of a distraction (and let's face it--with this offense, opponents had to at least mind the pass even when Brad Smith was QB and Sean Coffey and Brad Ekwerekwu were the top receivers), then a good offensive line will open some holes, and Washington could have an absolutely monster year.  And if Blaine Gabbert actually starts to thrive throwing the ball?  Yikes.

    More carries and more yards per carry?  That's a nice combination.  Speaking of which...

  2. Everybody says Missouri will rush more in much more?  Missouri running backs carried the ball 284 times in 2008, an average of 20.3 per game.  Even the addition of just one carry per quarter bumps that total up to 24.3 per game.  Now consider this: Mizzou WRs saw 49 carries last year (3.5 per game), mostly due to Jeremy Maclin.  It wouldn't surprise me at all to see the motion reverse that accounted for most of Maclin's carries to stay in the playbook, but it would surprise me to see it used more than twice a game.  So if the remaining carries go back to an RB, that bumps the total to 25.8 carries per game.  (Of course, this assumes that Missouri runs as many plays, and they will need to convert plenty of first downs for that to once again it comes back, in part, to how effective Blaine Gabbert can be.  Which is why the practice reports on Gabbert's progress have been so great to hear.)

    Okay, so let's presume the new carries total is in the neighborhood of 26 per game.  Last year, the starter (Washington) accounted for 177 of the carries, 62% of the RBs' total.  Healthy, he may have accounted for more.  Also, thanks to the multiple blowouts Mizzou managed, walk-ons Tyron Reece and Shawn Scott saw a handful of carries.  But I think it's safe to say that a) with the amount of positive press De'Vion Moore has gotten this offseason, and b) with at least a couple of cupcakes still remaining on the schedule, the blowouts will continue in part, the backups (i.e. Moore) will still be trusted to get some touches, and Washington's percentage won't go up too much even if he's healthy.  Let's say that the breakout is as follows:

    Washington 62%
    D. Moore 25%
    Third-Stringer 10%
    Fourth-Stringer & Walk-Ons 3%

    Let's see...13 games x 26 carries = 338 carries.  So...

    Washington = 210 carries, 1300ish yards (at 6.2 per carry)
    D. Moore = 85 carries, 485 yards (at 5.7 per carry, 0.1 higher than last year)
    Third-Stringer = 34 carries, 170ish yards (at 5.0 per carry...who the hell knows)

    Clearly those estimates are on the high side, but they represent nothing but incremental improvements off of last year's numbers.  If (IF) the passing game isn't a liability, there's no reason to think this can't happen.  And if the running game is producing like this, tell me why Missouri can't win a "seeming weaker by the day" North division.  I'm waiting.

  3. Can Gilbert Moye fend off Kendial Lawrence and score some playing time?  It's not looking good.  Lawrence, ghtd36's god, has has a bit of a problem with fumbles this week, but he's also apparently made at least one big play in every practice to date.  Meanwhile, Moye has had the same fumble problems without many big plays (think I read that he made a nice catch a while back...that's about it).  It's pretty apparent that Lawrence is playing this year, and if that's the case I really don't know what Moye's future holds.  He is Gary Pinkel's most highly-rated Texas recruit to date, but it's seeming more and more like he's a good athlete without a position.  Wasn't quite fast enough for safety (or, put another way, didn't have the speed to counteract his lack of natural safety instincts), isn't quite big enough for linebacker, can't hold onto the ball enough to play running back...what's left?  Third-string QB (that's the position he played in high school)?

2009 Mizzou Football Preview Series