You may not have heard this, but Missouri true freshman running back Damarea Crockett is having a heck of a season.
The Little Rock, Arkansas, native -- and, until about, oh, Jan. 24, a Boise State commit — has a program-record (for a freshman) nine rushing scores to go along with 837 yards on only 129 carries, or 6.49 per.
After starting the season waiting his turn behind Ish Witter, Crockett has busted loose for 592 yards and six scores on 89 carries over the past five games, or 118.4 yards a game and 6.65 yards a carry.
He’s 163 yards away from joining Brad Smith (who was a redshirt, remember) as the only freshman Missouri backs to ever hit 1,000 yards. He’s on pace for 1,004 yards in this 12-game season. If he keeps up his recent pace, he’s on pace for 1,074.
Which begs the question: just how special is this season Crockett is having?
This year, for starters, there are four freshman running backs currently on pace to hit 1,000 yards in a 12-game season: Ohio State’s Mike Weber (on pace for 1,122), Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams (1,051), Kentucky’s Benjamin Snell (1,025...remember him, guys and gals?) and Crockett (1,004).
Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill also has a good shot. He’s on pace for 947 yards in 12 games on a bowl-bound team.
All but Weber are true freshmen.
From 2008-15 (using considerable help from the always indispensable CFBStats.com), 36 freshman running backs ran for at least 1,000 yards, 24 of them being true freshmen. So, 4.5 freshmen a year, 3.0 true freshmen. So this year is pretty typical.
Most of the names are very well known (here a Samaje Perine, Dalvin Cook or Leonard Fournette, there a Nick Chubb, Todd Gurley or T.J. Yeldon), but some are...less so (Victor Anderson? Morgan Williams? Jamauri Bogan?).
Some years were flush with successful freshmen (2014 had 10), some years were not (2013 had only Arkansas’ Alex Collins).
Here is the group of 36 (true freshmen are starred) with totals, per-game averages, progression from year to year in their careers and how those trends would translate to the rest of Crockett’s Missouri career.
Seeing how successful we were using a similar projection tactic with Drew Lock before the season (**cough**NOT VERY**cough cough**), we figured why not try again?
We fit Crockett to the overall freshmen projection model as well as the true freshmen one. Then we played out the final two games of the season with his more recent production (the on-pace-for-1,074 timeline) and re-fit him to the two models.
Confused? Good. Read on, and we’ll reconvene later:
The bad news: 1,000-yard freshmen rushers of recent vintage don’t really get all that much better as their careers progress and, in fact, regress just a little bit. The true freshmen ones get a little bump between the first and second years, but then fade.
The good news: even fit to that regressing model, Crockett could put up an all-timer type career at Missouri. Projecting him out for four years places him between 3,526 and 4,201 career yards and 40-45 career touchdowns, which puts him firmly second to Smith on the Tigers’ career yards list and challenging for first, along with Smith’s 45 rushing touchdown record.
But some more bad news: not many of these early success guys stick around for four years. In fact, of the 20 on the list whose college careers have lapsed, only six played on through to their senior years. And I doubt some of the ones who are still in school (Perine, Chubb, Royce Freeman, Fournette, Cook) have many plans to stick around for their senior years either.
Some more good news: Crockett is still set up to do some damage in a three-year career, with the projections placing him between 2,851 and 3,332 yards and 31-34 touchdowns. That yardage would put him anywhere between top-five in program history and, again, second to Smith.
So, if Crockett can keep on keeping on, he can be one of the best to ever put on a Missouri jersey.
Also: he’s got pretty good precedent to follow if he wants an NFL career.
Of those aforementioned 20 players, 13 of them ended up getting drafted in the top five rounds. And those ones still in school that I mentioned earlier are probably adding to these ranks in the spring as well.
Here’s a list of the ones who have come before:
1st Round – Todd Gurley
2nd – T.J. Yeldon, Giovani Bernard, Ryan Williams, LaMichael James
3rd – Ronnie Hillman, Bernard Pierce
4th – Kenneth Dixon, Marcus Lattimore, James White
5th – Alex Collins, Dion Lewis, Jacquizz Rodgers
Not Drafted – Lyle McCombs, Michael Dyer, Chris Polk, Darren Evans, Bryce Beall, Victor Anderson, Morgan Williams
Not bad, right?
Yes, I realize it’s a bit foolish to plot the rest of a person’s football career based on his first 10 games.
But when have you known “a bit foolish” to ever stop me from bringing you basically meaningless stat-crunch pieces before?
(I hope to keep updating these numbers through the end of the year and possibly revisit it come January. Fun, fun fun!)