There is a scene in the classic baseball film Moneyball where Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane explains his sabermetric strategy to his squadron of stodgy old scouts. The scouts are concerned with replacing Jason Giambi’s RBI production with another big-name bopper, but Beane — played by erstwhile Missouri Tiger Brad Pitt — plans to replace Giambi “in the aggregate,” by signing a trio of bargain free agents.
What does this scene have to do with Missouri football, other than the presence of Pitt? Well, in the 2024 season, the Tigers will look to replace the dominant Cody Schrader “in the aggregate,” with two veteran transfers and a trio of youngsters.
Schrader was a bellcow for Missouri in 2023, carrying the ball an astonishing 276 times for 1,627 yards. It would be a pleasant surprise if either Carroll or Noel – or anyone, really – were that kind of workhorse. It takes a special kind of talent to grind and finish the job the way Schrader did, week in and week out, in a league like the SEC. But Eli Drinkwitz can replace that production in the aggregate. Let’s take a look at the faces – three newcomers, two incumbents – who will be vying to divvy up Schrader’s production.
Marcus Carroll, Graduate, Transfer from Georgia State
Carroll broke out in a major way this year for the Georgia State Panthers. He was mostly the same player he had been throughout his four years in Atlanta, but he received a ton more opportunities when Tucker Gregg and Jamyest Williams moved on. Carroll capitalized, staying healthy all season, and working with dual-threat quarterback Darrien Grainger to form one of the best overall non-academy rushing attacks in FBS. Carroll thrived in a great rushing infrastructure: head coach Shawn Elliott has made a career out of building great rushing offenses at every stop.
Carroll is your singles hitter. He will replace Giambi’s on-base percentage. (I know this cross-sport metaphor does not stand up to much more scrutiny, but I am doing something here!) He did add some big plays to his repertoire for the first time this year, with 37% of his yards coming on breakaway runs – easily a career high. But he is more of an efficiency monster, thriving in a zone block system like what Drinkwitz is known for.
Carroll also bears one similarity to Schrader: he is a closer. Both ran for over 7.0 yards per carry in the fourth quarter this season.
Nate Noel, Graduate, transfer from Appalachian State
Noel is also a graduate transfer from a Sun Belt East school that calls a ton of zone run schemes, but the similarities end there. Noel has had issues staying on the field, as midseason injuries have hampered him both of the previous two campaigns. But when he has played, he has been one of the most dynamic runners in all of college football.
He will be the home run hitter in Kirby Moore’s offense. Noel’s big-play highlights have made their way around Mizzou twitter in the past two days, and if you have not yet taken those in, take a moment and go indulge. While Carroll improved his breakaway yardage this season to get up to 31% for his career, Noel is at 38% for his career. Carroll averages 2.6 yards after contact per attempt; Noel, 3.1.
None of this is to slander Carroll – he is going to be a good Tiger, and an efficiency monster and a closer just like Schrader. But Noel is a game-breaking talent in a way Carroll is not, and I think there is a good chance he is RB1 for the Tigers, especially if he stays healthy. He has been better, and more productive, in a pass-heavy App offense. Underestimate his impact at your own risk.
Kewan Lacey, 4 Star True Freshman
A wild card here is Kewan Lacey. It’s a longshot, because Eli Drinkwitz has been loathe to give freshman much responsibility, but maybe he will give the rock a few times a game to the talented ballcarrier from Texas.
Tavorus Jones, sophomore and Jamal Roberts, freshman
This pair has a total of eight carries in three combined seasons on campus, all in mop-up time. Will their production ever match their recruiting pedigree? While they will be behind the veteran transfers in camp, their familiarity with Moore’s terminology will afford them a chance to show their stuff in spring ball.