In Eli Drinkwtiz’s first season as Head Coach of the Missouri Tigers, the offensive guru leaned on one player in particular to carry the load for his offense— Larry Rountree III. Now in Drinkwitz’ second year at the helm of the Tigers, Rountree is off to the NFL and all signs point to Tyler Badie - Rountree’s backup last year - becoming the feature back. But with their contrasting styles, Drinkwitz will surely utilize Badie in a different way than Rountree, right?
Rountree was your typical work-horse, beat ‘em in the trenches power back. He carried it almost 21 times per game in the Tigers’ 10 SEC games last year and even carried it 37 times in his gutsy performance against Kentucky. However, unlike Rountree, Badie relies on his quickness and shiftiness instead of power, and is a more capable receiver than Rountree. This is leading many to wonder how Drinkwitz might change the role for the Tigers’ new feature back.
The good news for Tigers fans is that Drinkwitz is no stranger to smaller, all-purpose backs. Looking back to Drinkwitz’s time working as offensive coordinator at NC State and head coach at Appalachian State, there are a couple of key examples that point to his willingness to build his offense around a back that isn’t your typical downhill runner.
First, let’s take a step back to Drinkwitz’s days calling plays for the Wolfpack in the ACC.
Matt Dayes and Nyheim Hines
Brandon Kiley mentioned Nyheim Hines as a possible comparison to Badie on Monday (and in several other instances as well) but there are actually multiple examples at NC State of Drinkwitz using small speedy backs.
Nyheim Hines, Matt Dayes, and Tyler Badie all come in at 5’9”, weighing between 197-205 pounds. Instantly, you can see that Drinkwitz has not felt the need for a Rountree-sized back to be his go-to guy in his past. Likewise, Dayes and Hines both returned kicks and caught the ball 33 and 26 times, respectively, in their final seasons before taking their talents to the NFL. These are also skills that Tigers fans know Badie has. However, even with both of those guys having smaller stature and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, Hines still averaged 15 carries/game with 1265 yards from scrimmage in his final season, while Dayes averaged even more with 19 carries/game and 1437 yards from scrimmage.
Beyond just the similarities in stature and abilities, Badie’s running style is very similar to both Dayes and Hines. All three are extremely fast, have a great ability to cut, and aren’t scared of contact despite their size. If you look back at the college highlights of both Dayes and Hines then proceed to look at Badie’s from last year, you can see the aforementioned similarities, which should have Tiger fans smiling from ear to ear.
However, even with the success of both backs at NC State and Hines’ success in the NFL with the Colts, the most exciting comp for Badie in Drinwkitz’s past is Darrynton Evans.
Dayes and Hines were both incredible backs, but in 2019, Darrytnon Evans was almost other-worldly.
Some might try to discredit what Evans did because of the Sun Belt competition, but the 2019 Appalachian State team finished in the Top 25 and Evans was Offensive Player of the Year in the Sun Belt, a conference that has proved its capability in recent years with teams like App St, Coastal Carolina, and Louisiana.
The aforementioned stature, running style, and ability as an all-purpose back is the same for Evans as it was for Hines and Dayes. With that being said, Evans was probably the most explosive of the three with an electric speed that can only be compared to Hines. Badie isn’t quite as fast as Evans or Hines, but watching Evans you can’t help but see a little Badie.
Many of Evans’ most explosive runs are outside zone plays that suit Badie more than the inside zone that catered to Rountree’s style. Likewise, Evans is probably the most explosive receiver of the three backs mentioned. He doesn’t catch the ball quite as much as Badie likely will with only 21 catches in 2019, but when he did catch it, you could almost guarantee a first down with his 9.4 YPC. His creativity in space is very reminiscent of Badie.
Hines might be the more household name when comparing backs from Drinwitz’s past because of his NFL success, but as far as college production goes, the ceiling for an all-purpose back in an Eli Drinkwitz offense is undoubtedly Evans. In his final college season, he finished with 1678 yards from scrimmage while averaging 6.1 yards/touch and 18 carries/game.
What does this mean for Badie?
I think that many Mizzou fans have questions about Badie’s ability to stay healthy throughout a full season in the SEC, and to that I say, why? Badie doesn’t have a history of injuries and in 2019 he carried the ball 9 times/game while adding almost 3 catches/game.
Clearly, Drinkwitz is not scared to rely on a guy who might be a little undersized based on his history with Dayes, Hines, and Evans, so why can’t Badie be added to that list?
If I were to make a prediction of how Drinkwitz will utilize Badie based on his skillset, I would guess that the goal will be for him to get 20 touches a game. Seeing that the other three backs mentioned earlier all averaged 15 or more carries/game, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think Drink will ask Badie to carry it a similar number of times while mixing in some pass-catching to get to that 20 touches/game number.
Obviously, none of this is certain, but history seems to show that Badie might be trusted with a lot more touches than many of the fans and media might’ve been expecting coming into this year. We will know for sure on September 4th.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that day can’t come soon enough. Follow me on Twitter for more Mizzou updates as we inch closer to football season at @KortayVincent.