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Mizzou Football: Mizzou’s backfield may be one of the strongest in the SEC

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With a Heisman hopeful at QB and two star running backs, the backfield will get a lot of attention from opposing defenses.

NCAA Football: Texas Bowl-Texas vs Missouri Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Football: Tennessee at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou is in the enviable position of having two top-tier running backs to begin this year: Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree. How do you see the duo sharing carries?

Ryan Herrera, Football Beat Writer: I see Crockett starting every game, but Rountree won’t have to wait too long to get onto the field. These two both have the ability to start for this team, but if it weren’t for Crockett’s midseason injury in 2017, Rountree may not have had the opportunities he had to prove himself that he did. He took full advantage though, and he showed the ability to be the No. 1 RB for this squad. I’m looking for these guys to split a lot of carries for most of this season and provide a big boost to another explosive offense, but I also think Crockett ultimately proves he’s the clear-cut No. 1 on this team.

Jack Parodi, Football Beat Writer: Crockett and Rountree complement each other perfectly — they remind me of Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel last season. Crockett plays a more physical, ground-and-pound game similar to Chubb, and Rountree, although still an imposing physical figure, is more of a quick, open-field style back. They’ll likely split time depending on situations and rest, but expect exciting things from one of the best running back duos in the conference.

Josh Matejka, Editor: Running backs, like pitchers in baseball, are a commodity of which you can never have too much. Both Crockett and Rountree have shown they’re worthy of a number one spot on the running back depth chart, and the fact that they have to split carries may actually bode well for their future careers. They have different enough styles to where they’ll both be valuable pieces no matter what situation the Tigers find themselves in.

I do want to note, however, that Rountree’s breakout almost spoiled Mizzou fans on Damarea Crockett. The junior is one shoulder injury removed from being one of the conference’s best backs in his true freshman year. And he was well on his way to a great sophomore season last year! This isn’t to denigrate Rountree as much as it is to note how excited I am to see a healthy Crockett back and running wild.

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Drew Lock doesn’t just want to leave Mizzou at the end of the year — he wants to leave on a high note. What does Lock need to do to (a) earn his Heisman (b) cement his legacy?

Ryan Herrera: A lot of the talk surrounding Lock this offseason has had to do with how he can win a Heisman and what he needs to do to be seen as the top quarterback in Missouri history. I think the key is in one word: win. Lock can match or surpass the insane numbers he put up last season, but another 7-6 campaign isn’t getting him the Heisman. A nine or even 10-win season seems like a lot, but it is certainly possible. If Lock can produce numbers close to the ones he did last year and lead Missouri to nine regular-season wins and a higher-profile bowl game, I think his name will certainly be in the discussion.

And sure, his legacy as a forever fan-favorite is secure, but Missouri fans suffered through enough losing during Lock’s first two seasons, and I don’t think 2017’s six-game win-streak was enough to put Lock at the top of the Tigers’ all-time QB list. The Tiger faithful are craving more of the magic they saw in 2013 and 2014, and if Lock can get that nine or 10-win season to close out his senior year, there could be a lot of people wanting to give him the crown.

Jack Parodi: A couple things need to happen in order for Lock to hoist the Heisman. First, Missouri will have to win at least 10 games. Lamar Jackson is the only player in the last 18 years to win the Heisman on a team that didn’t win 10 games. That being said, things don’t look too great for Lock’s Heisman campaign from the get-go. Second, beat Georgia in week four. One of the more important factors in winning the Heisman, although not clearly specified, is getting your name in the conversation early on. I think back to players like Andrew Luck, Christian McCaffrey and Toby Gerhart as players who got snubbed from hoisting the trophy because their team didn’t get as much national attention and didn’t have a signature moment or win until late in the season. Lock has a golden opportunity to put himself in national headlines Sept. 22, as the Tigers square off against last season’s National Champion runner-up Georgia Bulldogs. If Lock can smack around the Georgia defense for four or five touchdowns in what would be a monumental upset, he’ll be in the forefront of the Heisman conversation for the remainder of 2018. He’ll have to continue to pass efficiently and put up a lot of gaudy numbers, but he proved last year he’s more than capable of doing so.

Lock doesn’t need to win the Heisman to cement his legacy in Missouri football history, though. If he can continue the winning ways Tiger fans saw at the end of 2017, he’ll go down as one of the best quarterbacks to don the black and gold. Sure, he’s got that nice pretty SEC touchdown record, but what many could remember him for is changing the culture of a football program and fan base. Through his first two seasons at the helm, Missouri football was, frankly, a disappointment. Hardly any students were lining up at the gates of Faurot to watch their mediocre Tigers play, but Lock dominated the competition for six straight wins last year and the stands were packed by the end of the season. If Lock can lead Missouri to a nine or 10 win year, Tiger fans will be back and more inclined to create an electric atmosphere once more.

Josh Matejka: There are a lot of things Lock needs to do to achieve both of those goals, but I think there’s one scenario that could specifically help him do both. Here it is: Mizzou rips off three wins to start the year, including a tough road win against Purdue. Georgia comes to town in late September, and Lock is able to sling the Tigers to win number four. If the Tigers can then proceed to go to Columbia East and take down the Gamecocks, they’ll go to Tuscaloosa with a 5-0 record, which Lock will likely factor strongly into.

That’s a dream scenario for Drew Lock’s Heisman chances. It features two signature wins - one at home against Georgia, one on the road against South Carolina - and brings him to a game that is essentially a win-win. If Mizzou loses and Lock still looks good, it’s basically just free publicity. If Mizzou pulls off the miraculous and upsets ‘Bama — it’s not happening, but humor me — that’s a biiiiiiiiiiiig bonus. Those two games against Georgia and South Carolina will likely be the fulcrum on which Lock’s Heisman chances swing, meaning we won’t have to wait to long to get invested.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports