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Riding Round and Round on the Mizzou Running Back Carousel

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The Tigers have three great options at running back. But which back has been in when the offense has been at its best this season?

NCAA Football: Memphis at Missouri
Missouri’s offense has functioned the best on a per-play basis with Larry Rountree in the game against Power-5 competition this season.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

I hereby propose a new nickname for the Missouri Tigers football program: “True Freshman Running Back U.”

Don’t think that’ll really catch on. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

The fact remains, though, that the Tigers are putting together a very impressive three-year stretch of running back recruits stepping right into the offense and making huge impacts.

It started with Damarea Keener-Crockett’s 1,000-yard season in 2016. Then, with Crockett hurt last year, Larry Rountree picked up the mantel and ran for 703 yards at a 5.58-per-carry clip. This year, Tyler Badie is on pace for a 536-yard season over 13 games, at 4.85 yards a carry, in addition to being Missouri’s most consistent third-down back.

These three have basically been 1a/1b/1c all season, with Rountree taking the plurality of the snaps that mattered (you know, ones in which Drew Lock was in the game) against UT Martin, Purdue, Alabama, Crockett getting the most against Wyoming, South Carolina, Memphis and Kentucky, and Badie getting the most against Georgia.

Derek Dooley and Cornell Ford’s ethos this season has appeared to be going with the hot hand. But which back, on the whole, has seen the most Missouri offensive success this season?

We took a look at all the snaps the three took with Lock at the helm to see how the offense has performed with him in the game, as well as if the playcalling has been any different.

Here’s what we found:

Overall

Larry Rountree — Snaps: 219 (Usage: 38.3%)
Run: 120 for 656 (5.47 avg.), 9 TD
Pass: 59-of-97, 718 yards (7.40 avg.), 7 TD, 2 INT, 2 fumbles lost
Sack: 2 for -17
Total: 219 plays, 1357 yards (6.20 avg.), 16 TD, 4 TO
Run/Pass Distribution: 54.8/45.2
High: 48 plays, 357 yards (7.44 per), 3 TD vs. Purdue
Low: 19 plays, 76 yards (4.00 per), TD, TO vs. Georgia
% Touches: 50.2

Damarea Keener-Crockett — Snaps: 196 (Usage: 34.3%)
Run: 106 for 512 (4.83 avg.), 7 TD
Pass: 60-of-86, 754 yards (8.77 avg.), 6 TD, 2 INT, fumble lost
Sack: 4 for -38
Total: 196 for 1228 (6.27 avg.), 13 TD, 3 TO
Run/Pass Distribution: 54.1/45.9
High: 41 plays, 306 yards (7.46 avg.), 3 TD vs. Wyoming
Low: 13 plays, 0 yards (0.00 avg.), 2 TO vs. Alabama
% Touches: 54.1

Tyler Badie — Snaps: 160 (Usage: 28.0%)
Run: 60 for 303 (5.05 avg.), TD
Pass: 50-of-96, 672 yards (7.00 avg.), 3 TD, 2 INT, fumble lost
Sack: 4 for -28
Total: 160 for 947 (5.92 per), 4 TD, 3 TO
Run/Pass Distribution: 37.5/62.5
High: 33 plays, 165 yards (5.00 avg.), TO vs. Purdue
Low: 15 plays, 66 yards (4.40 avg.) vs. Alabama
% Touches: 38.1

Power-5

Larry Rountree — Snaps: 150 (Usage: 39.7%)
Run: 84 for 411 (4.89 avg.), 5 TD
Pass: 38-of-64, 459 yards (7.17 avg.), 3 TD, 2 INT, fumble lost
Sack: 2 for -17
Total: 150 plays, 853 yards (5.69 avg.), 8 TD, 3 TO
Run/Pass Distribution: 56.0/44.0
High: 48 plays, 357 yards (7.44 per), 3 TD vs. Purdue
Low: 19 plays, 76 yards (4.00 per), TD, TO vs. Georgia
% Touches: 52.7

Tyler Badie — Snaps: 121 (Usage: 32.0%)
Run: 46 for 217 (4.72 avg.), TD
Pass: 32-of-71, 375 yards (5.28 avg.), 2 INT, fumble lost
Sack: 4 for -28
Total: 121 for 564 (4.66 per), TD, 3 TO
Run/Pass Distribution: 38.0/62.0
High: 33 plays, 165 yards (5.00 avg.), TO vs. Purdue
Low: 15 plays, 66 yards (4.40 avg.) vs. Alabama
% Touches: 39.7

Damarea Keener-Crockett — Snaps: 109 (Usage: 28.8%)
Run: 60 for 309 (5.15 avg.), 4 TD
Pass: 24-of-45, 273 yards (6.07 avg.), TD, 2 INT, fumble lost
Sack: 4 for -38
Total: 109 for 544 (4.99 avg.), 5 TD, 3 TO
Run/Pass Distribution: 55.0/45.0
High: 33 plays, 210 yards (6.36 avg.), TD vs. South Carolina
Low: 13 plays, 0 yards (0.00 avg.), 2 TO vs. Alabama
% Touches: 56.0

—————

OK, a couple interesting things. To me, at least:

  • The offense has functioned best on a per-play basis with Lock at the helm and Rountree in the game against Power-5 competition (5.69 yards per play). Crockett comes in second (4.99) and Badie comes in third (4.66). Against all competition, Crockett (6.27) nips Rountree (6.20), with Badie (5.92) in third.
  • The run game works the best with Rountree in the game against all competition (5.47 per) and Crockett against the Power 5 (5.15 per), with more than half of that goodwill coming from the South Carolina game. The pass offense is most explosive with Crockett in the game (8.77 per) against all competition and Rountree (7.17 per) in the game against the Power 5.
  • While Badie is at the short end of a 38/34/28 usage split against all competition, he actually stakes out ground between Rountree and Crockett in a 40/32/29 split against the Power 5. A lot of that comes from Purdue and Georgia, in which Missouri was running a bunch of two-minute offense. And Badie is its two-minute back.
  • Which you can easily see in the run/pass play distribution. Rountree and Crockett both hover in that 54-56 percent run range against all competition. Missouri is 62.5-percent pass when Badie is the game, or about 37 percent more likely to throw when Badie’s in the game than it is when Crockett or Rountree is back there. Missouri has never run more than it has passed with Badie in the game this season (these are on Lock snaps, remember, not in garbage time). The only time it came close was Wyoming: eight runs for 52 yards, 6-of-8 passing for 77 and a touchdown. A 50-50 split. The Tigers have been north of 70 percent passing with Badie in the game against UT Martin, Georgia and Memphis.
  • Interesting, also that, while Rountree (50.2 percent against all competition, 52.7 Power 5) and Crockett (54.1 all, 56.0 Power 5) both get touches on more than half of their snaps, Badie gets the ball about 27 percent less frequently (38.1 all, 39.7 Power 5). Again, lot of that has to do with staying in the backfield to block on pass downs, or going out on routes in which he is not the primary target.
  • I measured high- and low-water marks by total offense while the back was in the game, not snaps. So, for instance, Missouri gained 0 yards on 13 Crockett plays against Alabama (boooooo) but 210 yards on 33 Crockett plays against South Carolina (yayyyy). Badie’s low-water mark was Alabama (15 for 66) too, and his high-water was Purdue (33 for 165). Rountree’s low-water was Georgia (19 for 76) and his high-water was Purdue (48 for 357).

Here’s my work, if you wanted to see: