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2014 Missouri spring football: Marcus Murphy is still Marcus Murphy

The senior led the way in the Black & Gold game in Russell Hansbrough's absence.

Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

The Trib (Behind the Stripes): Missouri Spring Game Notes: Mauk solidifies his grip on Missouri offense

Russell Hansbrough sat out today after labrum surgery, and Steward and Marcus Murphy took the opportunity to be No. 1 back by tandem.

Murphy, even though still dealing with the sprained ankle he suffered two weeks ago, has looked quick and decisive over the three scrimmages. Missouri has also shown a willingness to get him involved in the pass game in a meaningful way, completing four to him for 41 yards. [...[

Oh, and Josh Henson still loves the speed option. That's how Mauk got his touchdown, rolling right with Steward as the option threat, then tucking and going. Murphy scored on a speed option last scrimmage, too.

While it would have been great to keep Russell Hansbrough healthy and get him a few more reps in advance of him potentially starting as Missouri's running back in 2014, we learned a few things in his absence.

First, we learned that Morgan Steward might be ready for a decent load of carries this fall. The sophomore was the star of the first scrimmage, and while it took him a little while to get rolling in the Black & Gold game, he showed increased toughness and balance as the scrimmage went on. At 6'0, 210 pounds, he's quite a bit bigger than either Hansbrough or Marcus Murphy, and that makes him an obvious potential asset near the goal line. Of course, he was bigger than them (and Henry Josey) last year, too, and that didn't result in anything more than garbage-time carries. There is a role for him in 2014, but we'll see exactly what that is.

We also learned that Marcus Murphy is still Marcus Murphy. He was easily the best back on the field on Saturday, gaining 56 yards on 11 touches (nine carries, two catches). Though he isn't nearly as big as Steward, he is still Missouri's best back in traffic, and he is the prototypical one-cut-and-go back this offense and its stretch plays and zone blocking often require. We saw a lot of flares and checkdowns on Saturday, and as I mentioned in the quarterbacks piece, a lot of that is probably because of the nature of the quarterback touch rule -- QBs know that touches count as sacks, so perhaps they're more than willing to quickly check down to running backs; I'm pretty sure I've seen more passes to RBs in spring games than in all regular season games the past few years*. But Murphy appears most capable of turning checkdowns into big gains, and all he needs is one block to do so.

* Slight exaggeration. But only slight!

We also learned that, if worst comes to worst and injuries force Missouri to dip into the pool of walk-ons, you could do a whole lot worse than Miles Drummond. The sophomore from Centralia looks the part at 5'11, 215 pounds, and he showed solid skill in negotiating four carries for 26 yards and two catches for 18. Including incoming freshmen, Missouri will have five scholarship running backs this fall, so Drummond's odds of seeing the field aren't great, but to say the least, you could do worse than Drummond as your No. 6 RB.