With the 2022 season officially over, it’s time to break down the performance of the team position by position. We’ll look at the stats for the year, the departing players, new additions, and some predictions for what we’ll see in 2023.
This week looks back on the engine that keeps a Drinkwitz offense humming, the running backs.
Last year I posited the question: is Eli Drinkwitz simply working with NFL talents at running back or making NFL talents with his offense?
I love Cody Schrader’s story and work ethic. I think Nate Peat is a much better back than that snake-bitten season he just went through. But I don’t think either one will be making an NFL roster in their lifetimes.
So let’s rephrase the question in lieu of what we just saw last year: is an Eli Drinkwitz running back naturally talented or does the scheme elevate his production?
And to that question I’d answer: it’s the running back.
Now, both questions need way more data points to start crafting a legitimate answer, but last year’s rushing attack was easily the worst of Drink’s tenure at Mizzou. A 41.3% success rate on the ground - 90th best in the country - is really the only stat you need to read to know that Eli’s beloved ground game couldn’t do anything to consistently move the ball. An offensive line that could not put two of its expected starters on the field aided in the misery, including losing the backup right tackle a quarter of the way through the season, causing a continuous juggling act on the right side of the line. But even operating with the shackles of a 60% power success rate - 112th in the country - and a 16% stuff rate, Cody and Nate didn’t do much when they did get open ground, featuring the 77th best explosive rate on the ground.
But, so far - as of January 18th, 2023 - only one running back will be missing from last year’s group so everyone has a year of experience to try again and get better. Let’s see which individuals will get that chance.
Elijah Young hit the portal on January 3rd, thus robbing us of a fourth-straight year of the “ELIJAH YOUNG, GOT NEXT” discourse. He only had 66 carries in his Mizzou career but flashed enough potential - especially in the bowl game against Army - that you couldn’t help but believe he’d be the next bell cow in Drinkwitz’s offense. However, he was passed over by Tyler Badie, Nate Peat, and then Cody Schrader and, with the latter two seemingly coming back in ‘23, it made total sense for Young to move on and try to see the field elsewhere.
I mean...it’s literally every running back on the team not named Elijah Young.
Cody Schrader and Nate Peat represented 86.2% of all carries distributed over the year. Peat started as the favorite but lost that spot as the year wore on and he suffered some of the most soul-crushing misfortunes you could imagine. Schrader took over and was mostly steady until Bush Hamdan took over play calling responsibilities, in which his success rates took a nose dive towards the end of the year. Again, I enjoy watching both guys play and hope that the first year of SEC seasoning prepares them for ‘23...but if someone else wants to step up and take over (possibly a transfer?), I would also be ok with that.
The other 13.8% of the carries were split between five other dudes, none of which showed enough to unseat Schrader or Peat. I’ll be frank: I’m shocked that Young has been the only departure so far. Drinkwitz and Luper have shown a propensity of basically playing one back - maybe two, especially in ‘22 - and the running back stable currently has seven options in it. I have to think that the spring practices will help shake a few out as they realize that their playing time options continue to not improve but, until then, I’m rooting for all of these dudes to improve and be a rock star.
2022 stats: 167 rushes, 1,899 yards, 28 TDs/9 catches, 155 yards, 2 TDs
The lone addition to the 2023 running back room (so far), Jamal Roberts is a 3-star prospect out of St. Mary’s in St. Louis that helped lead the Dragons to a Class 4 State Championship. For all the versatility that his “athlete” designation hints at, Roberts did most of his damage as their primary running back, running for almost 1,900 yards and a whopping 28 touchdowns. As previously stated he enters an extremely crowded stable of runners but if he can produce even half of his senior stats at the SEC level he’ll be a starter in no time.
- Prediction: Cody Schrader, Nate Peat, and Tavorus Jones split reps at 40%/30%/25%.
- Bold Prediction: Jones finishes the year with the second-most carries of the running backs.
- HOT TAKE: Kirby Moore scraps everything and reboots the Missouri offense as a flexbone attack with Luther Burden at QB, Cody Schrader and Taj Butts at fullback, and Peat/Harris/Jones as wing backs.