The point of this series is to look at Mizzou’s depth chart in both 2017 and beyond. This is a particularly interesting experiment when it comes to the running back position.
On one hand, you’ve got maybe the most exciting, optimism-worthy player on the entire roster. Damarea Crockett was everything Mizzou fans could hope for and more last year. He carried just 40 times in the first five games and missed the last game due to a marijuana-related suspension. But he still hit 1,000 yards as a freshman because of the other games. He rushed 14 times for 145 yards against Florida and 29 times for 156 against MTSU. After decent efforts against Kentucky and South Carolina (26 combined carries, 137 yards), he erupted for 154 yards against Vanderbilt and 225 against Tennessee.
Crockett averaged 6.9 yards per carry for the season, and his best performances came against both great defenses (8.3 per carry against LSU and UF) and lesser ones (9.4 against a faded Tennessee unit). It took him a few weeks to build the trust of the coaches -- he had a couple of early fumbles, and blocking and assignments will always be issues for freshmen -- but once he did, kaboom.
Beyond Crockett, though? Mizzou runs out of warm bodies pretty quickly. Or the Tigers sort of do, at least.
(As always, former four-star recruits are in bold.)
Mizzou is probably alright in 2017. Even if Crockett gets hurt, Ish Witter is still around. Witter is a trustworthy player, albeit one without an immense ceiling, and he’s probably the strongest blocker of the bunch. Plus, he has 22 receptions in two seasons.
Nate Strong, meanwhile, carried 25 times in the final two games of the year, getting up to speed and quickly earning trust. (He may have forfeited some of that trust this spring, spending a portion of it on the sidelines with a suspension. We’ll see what comes of that.) He didn’t do a ton with his carries, but the fact that he earned them was hopefully telling.
After that, though, you go straight to freshmen and walk-ons. Granted, Larry Rountree III and Isaiah Miller are both pretty exciting, and redshirt freshman walk-on Dawson Downing was the star of the spring game. Plus, three-star Texas running back Travell Lumpkin is supposedly becoming a preferred walk-on as well. I didn’t have Downing and Lumpkin on the list above because it’s scholarship players only for the most part, but either could earn a scholarship soon.
Still, depth is tenuous compared to other positions, especially when it comes to the drop-off from Crockett to everybody else.
Without Crockett, Mizzou has appealing options but no stars. And with a line that should improve a bit but might still have a low ceiling, having star power in the backfield could be key to the Tigers avoiding the droughts and inefficiency that plagued them at times last fall.