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2015 Missouri recruiting recap: Tigers might have a bit of a running backs glut

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Missouri signed three potential running backs in the 2015 recruiting class. How might Chase Abbington, Marquise Doherty, and Ryan Williams fit into the offense, and how long might they have to wait for playing time?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Gary Pinkel and his staff do a pretty job of adhering to their numbers -- determining how many players they need at a specific position or in a specific unit, and landing just about that many guys there. One has to wonder, though, if the staff got a little bit liberal at the running back position based on the talent available. There were a lot of impressive local running backs in this year's recruiting class, and if you include East St. Louis product Nate Strong, who is enrolled at Hinds CC and is attempting to get to Mizzou for 2016, Mizzou landed four of them.

For basically every running back, receiver, and defensive back candidate signed, there are questions about which positions they'll end up playing. These three are most likely to end up at RB, though things can change, and their diverse skill sets could be applied in a number of ways.

Chase Abbington
The Trib (Behind the Stripes): MISSOURI SIGNEE: RB Chase Abbington
Post-Dispatch: Abbington could spark Mizzou

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound tailback — make no mistake, he’s not moving to defense, Mizzou coaches insisted last week — played for Hutchinson in 2013 and redshirted last fall to preserve another year of eligibility at Mizzou. [...]

"I think he’s a different flavor of running back for us," said Mizzou cornerbacks coach Cornell Ford, Abbington’s primary recruiter, "but one that’s needed in our program." [...]

Henson said the staff "kicked around the idea" of playing Abbington at receiver, but for now the plan is to keep him at tailback. Henson compared Abbington to New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen, who lines up at various positions in different formations and caught 52 passes last season.

Marquise Doherty
The Trib (Behind the Stripes): MISSOURI SIGNEE: RB Marquise Doherty
KC Star: Missouri mines Kansas City heavily in latest recruiting class

Doherty, who was limited in the second half of the Griffin’s season after a midseason shoulder injury, finished with 138 carries for 929 yards with 15 touchdowns. He also caught 21 passes for 328 yards and two scores.

As a safety, Doherty, who is expected to be selected in June’s baseball draft and also will play baseball at MU (unless he signs a pro contract), recorded 38 tackles, including two for a loss. He also broke up six passes, forced a fumble, intercepted two passes and scored twice on defense.

Doherty is the No. 4-ranked player Missouri, according to Rivals.

Ryan Williams
The Trib (Behind the Stripes): MISSOURI SIGNEE: RB Ryan Williams

In An Analyst’s Words: "Williams has a knack for finding the hole. He has good feet and that allows him to set up defenders before he plants and makes his cut to gash the defense for chunks of yards. He also has good balance and is able to use his style to make defenders miss in the open field. He has the ability to take it the distance but, will grind it out for the most part. Could play in most styles of offense and be a valuable component." -- Scout.com

Of Abbington, Doherty, and Williams, who do you think will end up with the most productive career?

The Beef: Doherty seems to be a bit of a coin flip at this point because of his potential MLB Draft and career arc. I like what Williams brings to the table, but it seemed pretty apparent the coaches are excited about the "change of pace/style" which Abbington brings and its importance to our offensive game plan.

dcrockett17: Abbington is my guess. He reminds me so much of Derrick Washington.

Fullback U.: Ryan Williams strikes me as a Russell Hansbrough style running back, whereas I'm not sure if there's a comparable Mizzou running back for Chase Abbington due to his combination of size and speed. I think the best athlete of the group is Doherty, so if he stays on offense he'll have the most productive career, but I think he makes the flip to safety. Which means I think Abbington, the next best athlete, will be the most productive. All that being said, the running back depth chart for the next few years looks incredibly loaded.

AlaTiger: I don’t know how much of a baseball risk Doherty is, so I’ll go with Abbington. I’d like to see what a bigger back can do in this offense. I’m still scarred from Derrick Henry’s fourth-quarter performance. I’d like to see someone on Mizzou like that. Also, Danny Heitert is convinced he’ll end up on defense. I’m still holding his glowing prospectus on Nick Demien against him, so I’ll say Danny’s wrong here too.

Bill C.: I do worry that Abbington ends up a tweener, with athleticism to play any number of positions and not enough instincts or natural ability at one position to stick. I love Josh Henson bringing up Shane Vereen in the quote above, though, not only because of Abbington but because Mizzou has a lot of tweener types who could run or catch passes out of the backfield (or, in the case of slot receivers, guys who could end up as both receiving and running threats). There isn't going to be a ton of natural, experienced receiving talent next year, and Mizzou's going to have to figure out creative ways to get the ball to play-makers.

But I digress. Because of Abbington's potential tweenerism and the potential for Doherty to either play professional baseball or move to defense, I guess Williams might actually be the strongest bet for productivity. And I'm not saying that just to be different, I swear.

Adding in Morgan Steward, Trevon Walters, Ish Witter, and (in theory) Nate Strong, give me your stab at Mizzou's RB 3-deep in 2016.

The Beef: I remain very excited to see what Walters has to offer and I am very hopeful Steward is healthy and full speed for this season (if only for his own sake, not necessarily because we need the depth). That said, it feels like Witter would be the lead back because I don’t often see us supplanting people who have previous experience, and I am assuming Witter will be behind RH this season. I can see Walters next, then Abbington and Steward. I really don’t know how this one season at Hinds will work for Strong, but I could see where maybe he RS’s in 2016.

dcrockett17: Witter, Abbington, and Walters/Steward. I have to figure that Witters' game experience and familiarity with the protections, etc. will mean that someone would have to come to camp and just beast. That is certainly possible.

Fullback U.: I realized the other day that I'm one of only 23,000(ish) people who's seen Morgan Steward play, in person, for Mizzou. Watching him in the Black and Gold game last year it was hard not to be excited about him so I think the potential is there for him to be the starter/co-starter with Russell Hansbrough.

If everyone is healthy, Mizzou's RB 3-deep for 2016 looks like:
Ish Witter/Morgan Steward
Chase Abbington/Travon Walters
Ryan Williams/Nate Strong

AlaTiger: Abbington, Witter, Walters. I’m worried that Morgan Steward never makes it back.

Bill C.: I'm also intrigued with Walters, but I'm going to assume that since Ish Witter beat him out in 2015, he will continue to do so. So I might go with something like Witter-Walters-Abbington. (I figure Williams has further to go physically.) But there are tons of intriguing options here.