As I wrote in the portal commitment piece of Marcus Carroll, Mizzou is (was?) in need of running backs badly, and by getting Carroll they at least secured a viable option for their #1 running back for the ‘24 season.
And then a guy named Kewan Lacy shocked the world and flipped from Ole Miss - a school that everyone essentially locked in as his choice - to Mizzou, with national recruiting analysts flipping their locks in the 11th hour to secure their sterling prediction record.
I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how they did it. But Eli Drinkwitz and running backs coach Curtis Luper deserve all the credit in the world for flipping a 4-star Texas running back who seemingly had Mizzou on the backburner this entire time.
So what exactly are the Tigers getting from this early Flipmas present?
Where he fits: Lacy is listed as the #6 “all-purpose running back” in the country according to Rivals and the 17th-best running back according to 247. Now, I don’t know how you qualify or differentiate between a running back and an all-purpose back at the high school level, but regardless of that arbitrary definition, Lacy is definitely an athlete who can play all over. When watching his Hudl film you’ll see him line up as a traditional running back, as an H-back, in the slot, and as an outside receiver. in addition to returning kicks. Now, I don’t think he’ll display nearly that much versatility once he hits the college ranks, but it highlights the main takeaway I have from watching this guy: he wants space to work in.
Think of Marshall Faulk with ‘The Greatest Show On Turf’ St. Louis Rams. Or Reggie Bush at USC. Or early-NFL-years Alvin Kamara. When you close your eyes and think of those dudes you see them beating a guy to the edge and running for 20+ yards. Or hauling in a pass and shaking a fool for extra yardage. Or returning a punt or kick and making the special teams look stupid. It’s flashy, it’s fun, and it’s an incredible display of athleticism.
What you don’t think of when you watch those guys - or Lacy’s film - is running inside the tackles into a packed box. You see Lacy run up the middle during his highlights, sure, but it’s almost always because a high school defender is hideously out of place or the offensive line bulldozed a massive lane for him. I’m not saying he can’t run hard like Cody Schrader, I’m just saying I haven’t seen it on film yet. And that’s something that he’ll absolutely need to demonstrate an ability to do once he’s in the SEC.
When he’ll play: For the most part, Drinkwitz and Moore have running backs line up as running backs, receivers as receivers, etc. That doesn’t mean backs can’t be targeted in the passing game or receivers take handoffs in the running game, just that there are defined positions where they play and that’s where they line up.
I think Lacy could be a decent slot receiver but Mizzou is flush with talented guys there. Lacy could be a good change-of-pace running back but I think Carroll will get the monster share of the carries, and that’s not even taking into consideration how Tavorus Jones and Jamal Roberts progress this offseason. Lacy probably has the highest ceiling of Mizzou’s current running back roster, but definitely needs to show an ability to do everything that a college back needs to demonstrate. Sitting here in December of 2023, I’ll predict he gets less than 10, potentially 0 carries in 2024. But does he return punts or kicks? Maybe? I’d like to see him give it a shot, anyway.
What it all means: Assuming he signs on the dotted line, Lacy will be the 9th blue chip running back to sign with Mizzou since 2000, and only the second of the past 8 years. His ability to operate in space and make defenders look helpless at the high school level is peerless, but his ability to do the “dirty things” that a running back has to do - run inside, pass block, take 20+ hits per game - will determine his ability to see the field as a freshman. It’s always a good thing to stockpile blue-chip talent but we all know Drinkwitz’s propensity to slow-roll his blue chippers into playing time unless they are otherworldly talented and/or clearly ready. For now, my guess is Lacy doesn’t qualify to those standards but the potential for being a game-breaking running back is certainly there, and his commitment is a tantalizing addition to an already talented team.