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Larry Rountree and the Immediate Future of Mizzou Feature Backs

The junior seems poised to be “the guy” in the Tigers’ backfield in 2019. But what, exactly, does that mean?

Arkansas v Missouri
Larry Rountree has punched his ticket to Feature Backsville for Missouri’s football team in 2019, much like he punched Arkansas’ Santos Ramirez during this devastating stiffarm last season.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

A Dave Matter story got me thinking, as they often do.

This particular one was about Larry Rountree’s sneaky great 1,216-yard season last year and how it has him poised to be Missouri’s feature back in 2019.

Feature back, though, has been a bit of a jumbled term in the recent past at Missouri. Henry Josey was the “feature back” in 2013, but Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough also both logged a ton of time. Murphy and Hansbrough were double features in 2014, Hansbrough and Ish Witter were in 2015, Witter and Damarea Crockett were in 2016, Witter and Crockett (when he was healthy) were in 2017, and Rountree and Crockett (again...when he was healthy...) were last year.

So “feature back” at Missouri hasn’t meant the same thing as “feature back” at a place like Wisconsin, where Jonathan Taylor logged 54 percent of the team’s carries last year.

What has it meant, though? And what can that tell us about what to expect out of Rountree in 2019. Let’s look at it from a number of different categories, along with the top three exemplars of each from 2013-18.

Snaps per Game
1. Ish Witter, 2016 — 37.3
2. Marcus Murphy, 2014 — 34.6
3. Larry Rountree, 2018 — 34.4

Pct of Offensive Snaps (in Games Played)
1. Marcus Murphy, 2014 — 50.9
2. Ish Witter, 2016 — 47.4
3. Ish Witter, 2017 — 46.7

1. Larry Rountree, 2018 — 17.3
2. Russell Hansbrough, 2014 — 14.6
3. Ish Witter, 2017 — 14.5

1. Larry Rountree, 2018 — 1.987
2. Damarea Crockett, 2018 — 1.993
3. Larry Rountree, 2017 — 2.10

Pct of Team Carries (in Games Played)
1. Damarea Crockett, 2017 — 42.1
2. Larry Rountree, 2018 — 40.7
3. Ish Witter, 2017 — 38.7

1. Larry Rountree, 2018 — 18.4
2. Russell Hansbrough, 2014 — 15.6
3. Ish Witter, 2017 — 15.3

1. Damarea Crockett, 2018 — 1.84
2. Larry Rountree, 2018 — 1.87
3. Larry Rountree, 2017 — 2.015

Pct of Team Touches (in Games Played)
1. Larry Rountree, 2018 — 28.7
2. Russell Hansbrough, 2014 — 28.4
3. Damarea Crockett, 2017 — 28.3

So, in eight of the categories listed above, Rountree already tops the list in half of them when it comes to the past six years.

The only ones who have him beat are Witter in snaps per game (37.3 in 2016), Murphy in percent of the team’s offensive snaps played (50.9 in 2014), Crockett in percent of team’s carries (42.1 in 2017) and Crockett in snaps per touch (1.84 in 2018).

The good news for Rountree is that, under Barry Odom’s watch, Missouri’s offense has trended more toward featuring a feature back. You can see that in Witter’s extended usage in 2016 and the fact that the Tigers fed both Rountree and Crockett more frequently on a per-snap basis over the past two years than they had backs in the past.

Think about if Rountree paired his frequency of rushes/touches with Witter or Murphy’s snap share.

Say the team runs 940 plays next year, which is about the average from the past six. That would give Rountree about 480 snaps, taking Murphy’s snap share.

Say he continues to get a carry once every 1.99 snaps and a touch once every 1.87. That’s about 240 carries and 257 touches.

That would get him up into the 1200-1320-yard range again pretty easily if he’s running for 5-5.5 yards a carry.

Here’s a deeper look into the numbers, if you’re interested: