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Is Mizzou’s running back room good enough to compete in the SEC?

Mizzou’s running back situation is largely unchanged from 2022. Will that be a weakness in 2023?

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2023 season approaches, we’re asking our football staff to answer a series of questions facing the Mizzou Tigers. Read along to get their takes on who should start, who will shine and who will leave their mark on the season.

Running backs are all anybody is talking about now-a-days.

NFL running backs are angry about their seemingly low status in the eyes of NFL owners. Some are holding out. Others are demanding trades. But down here in the NCAA? We’re just l-i-v-i-n.

Well, at least some of us are. Those of us with unproven, underperforming RB rooms? Not so much as p-a-n-i-c-k-i-n.

Panicking may be a bit strong, but you catch my drift. With fall camp starting today, the running back situation at Mizzou is largely unchanged from last season. And last season wasn’t great! So today we’re addressing the elephant in the backfield...

None of the Tiger running backs made an indelible impression in 2022. Is Mizzou’s running back room good enough to compete in the SEC?

Josh Matejka, Deputy Site Manager: That really depends on how much you believe in Tavorus Jones, doesn’t it? Nathaniel Peat and Cody Schrader have qualities that play at any level of Division I football: Peat is a powerful, versatile threat out of the backfield and Schrader helps as a short gain bruiser and pass blocker. But neither of them have the fully rounded game that you need from a true number one.

Tavorus Jones was signed to be that guy, but he’s still pretty young. Should he take a step up and claim some more rotational snaps this season, that opens up the amount of times Kirby Moore has to put Peat and Schrader in positions they’re not built to succeed. It’s all about depth, folks. Peat and Schrader are two pieces of the puzzle, but they need someone else to help them complete it.

Parker Gillam, Beat Writer: Josh is pretty spot on in the fact that each of the running backs have some capabilities of being a polished runner, but none of them have all of the requirements. Schrader certainly proved that he can withstand the weekly grind of the SEC last season with how physical he plays the game, which is impressive in its own right. However, his lack of game-changing speed and Peat’s inconsistency prevents either of them from being a clear-cut RB No. 1.

If you’re ranking this unit against the other RB rooms of the conference, it’s certainly in the double-digits. Still, Drinkwitz knows that, if he continues to recruit the position well, then he’ll find a diamond in the rough just based on odds and the nature of the spot. For now, the running backs just have to hold serve, balancing the offense behind a shaky offensive line. A tall order for a group that could use some push up front to get them going.

Nate Edwards, Football Analyst: At the conclusion of the 2022 season, no, Mizzou’s running backs were not good enough to compete in the SEC. In fact, using any stat — raw or advanced — shows you that Cody Schrader and Nathaniel Peat were the worst running back tandem not only in the SEC but for most of the P5 teams. And before you blame the offensive line, a.) that’s accounted for in advanced stats, and b.) Chris Rodriguez was one of the best running backs in the country running behind one of the worst offensive lines in the country, so that can be overcome by talent. But 2022 was last year. Does an extra season help both Schrader and Peat? Possibly! I think the real answer is having Tavorus Jones and/or Jamal Roberts — guys with bona fide talent and a penchant for creating space for themselves (in high school at least) — to crack into the rotation or take it over completely. I love Schrader’s work ethic and story, and I’m rooting for a Peat redemption tale this season. But if there’s no improvement from either of them and the youngsters can’t overtake them then this running back stable will once again be one of the worst in the league.

Jaden Lewis, Beat Writer: Can Cody Schrader and Nathaniel Peat compete at the SEC level? Yes, I think they have proven they can play in the best conference in college football. Schrader, coming from an hour and a half north from Truman State made the most of his opportunities against perhaps the best defense in the nation in Georgia while taking a bulk of the carries through the back half of the regular season. Nate Peat rushed for 100 yards against both Auburn and Florida and if it wasn’t for one play in Jordan-Hare Stadium, he would be viewed as the hero of that game. I think there good enough to compete at the SEC level its just that can they be consistent for a full-season and part of that can and will be contributed to improved offensive line play and a play-caller that knows how to put them in the best positions to succeed.