COLUMBIA, Mo. — There’s intrigue in Missouri’s backfield beyond the uncertain quarterback competition.
Just like last year, the Tigers need to replace a prolific veteran running back. A year ago this time around, Tyler Badie got the first chance to succeed the late senior Larry Rountree III. But no one outside of Badie could have expected him to vastly outrun Rountree’s production, earn All-Southeastern Conference first-team honors and contend for the Doak Walker Award. Can history repeat itself with another surprise playmaker out of the current stalemate?
This will be a headlining storyline when spring training begins next Friday. Badie set the MU single-season rushing record in 12 games and despite missing the Armed Forces Bowl, he led the SEC in rushing (1,604 yards), scrimmage yards (1,934) and touchdowns (18 ). One of the most explosive point guards in the Power Five, Badie led the SEC in rushes for 10 yards (46), 20 yards (13), 30 yards (10), 40 yards (seven), and 50 yards (7). three).
How can the Tigers recover this production?
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Mizzou clearly wasn’t happy with Badie’s backups and added three traffic jams this offseason, two per transfer plus a vital high school recruit. Transfer from Stanford Nathaniel Peat, a former three-star recruit from Columbia’s Rock Bridge High, left the Pac-12 to join his hometown team and instantly becomes the team’s most experienced Division I running back . The Tigers also added St. Louis native Cody Schrader from Truman State, who last year led all Division II players with 2,074 yards in 12 games. The former South High All-Metro Lutheran player joined the team as a favorite extra with a chance to earn a role this fall. Peat and Schrader have signed up and will participate in spring training.
The long-term answer could be Tavorus Jones, a four-star prospect from El Paso, Texas, widely ranked among the top 15 running backs in the nation in the 2022 class. He will be in Colombia later this summer. He rushed for nearly 3,600 yards, plus 45 touchdowns, in his college career, plus 1,300 additional yards.
During the next month of spring training – the spring game is scheduled for March 19 – Mizzou’s goal in this position is simple: to create competition.
“Last year we weren’t sure,” Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “We knew Tyler was a great player, but we didn’t know how good a player he was or how elite a player he was. I think it’s the same here. We wanted to add enough of ingredients in the mixture and see, as they say, the cream rise to the top.
“We have a lot of guys,” he added. “And you know what, it’s going to allow us this spring to really create the competition that we need and allow the guys to really show us what they’ve got.”
Based on experience alone, Peat stands out from the rest of the field. Of all the contenders with Division I experience, Peat has more career carries (117) for more rushing yards (665) than the rest combined. He was Stanford’s No. 2 for most of last season, but finished the year as the Cardinal’s top running back. He only had three games with 10 or more carries but was efficient with his touches, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. His highlight of the season came against Southern California, when he broke up an 87-yard run. Of his 404 yards, 324 came after contact, according to Pro Football Focus. His body of work wasn’t as large as Badie’s, but Peat averaged more yards after contact per carry (4.2) than Badie (3.4). Peat averaged 6.0 yards per carry on first down and on 90 touches from scrimmage, had only one fumble, one fall and one penalty.
A year ago, Drinkwitz pored over the use of a committee of running backs, unsure if the Tigers had a back that could carry the heavy load like Rountree succeeded as a senior in 2020. Elijah Young, a promising sophomore, would have the chance to earn the understudy role that Badie has played under Rountree in recent seasons. Except that never happened. Badie has proven himself tough enough to not only take a heavier load than Rountree, but the heaviest share of the SEC. Throughout the season, Drinkwitz talked about finding more runs for backups, but that never happened before the bowling game – and only after Drinkwitz convinced Badie to sit down to protect his interests in the NFL.
Young finished the year with just 37 carries with just two games where he had many touches: 42 yards on 12 carries in rake time against Southeast Missouri and 75 yards on 13 carries against Army in the bowl game, plus five catches for 32 yards. Dawson Downing, a sixth-year senior and former walk-on, emerged as United blocked third-down passing situations and played the second-most snaps (141) among reserve running backs in the team. He will not return in 2022.
Michael Cox, promoted from stock player status mid-year, had a brief run as the team’s favorite short-yard specialist, getting 18 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns, but couldn’t. maintain this role at the end of the year. . Of the team’s two first-year fullbacks, BJ Harris secured a role with 48 snaps, while Taj Butts (De Smet) never came off the bench.
But if the Tigers do indeed favor a committee approach this fall, it will run counter to Drinkwitz’s record. During the two seasons at Mizzou, his only year as Appalachia State head coach (2019), his three seasons as North Carolina’s offensive coordinator (2016-18) and a year in As Boise State coordinator (2015), Drinkwitz always relied on a running back. to represent more than 50% of the running backs on the team.
Here’s how Drinkwitz’s top rushers explained his team’s runs by running back position:
2021: Badie, 22.3 carries per game, 268 of 368 RB carries, 72.8%
2020: Rountree, 20.9 carries per game, 209 of 272 RB carries, 76.8%
2019: Darrynton Evans, 18.2 carries per game, 255 carries on 469 RBs, 54.3%
2018: Reggie Gallaspy, 17.5 carries per game, 228 carries on 403 RBs, 56.6%
2017: Nyheim Hines, 15.2 carries per game, 197 of 323 RB carries, 61.0%
2016: Matthew Dayes, 19.2 carries per game, 249 of 351 RB carries, 70.9%
2015: Jeremy McNichols, 20.0 carries per game, 240 carries on 421 RBs, 57.0%
Ball carriers at a glance
Elie Youngjunior: Saw his role fluctuate in 2021 but finished strong with 107 total yards on 18 touches in the bowl game.
Michael Coxsophomore: average 8.3 meters per run in a limited role, elimination of the 55-meter TD against SEMO.
BJ Harrissophomore: Of his 22 runs, 14 have come against North Texas.
Taj cigarette buttsredshirt freshman: Has not appeared in any games.
Nathaniel Peat, junior: Led Stanford with 404 yards last year. Also expected to contend for the kick-off return specialist role after excelling in Pac-12.
Cody Schraderjunior: A three-time All-Metro returning to Lutheran South, he posted five 200-yard rushing games at Division II Truman State last year.
Tavorus Jones, Freshman: The four-star prospect is Mizzou’s highest-rated running back rookie (5.9 per Rivals.com) since Tony Temple in 2004.
Tyler Badie: Leaves Mizzou No. 7 all-time rushing (2,748) and leading United running back with 1,000 career receiving yards despite starting just one year.
Dawson Downing: Blocking back ran for 516 yards in six years, valued member of the special team.
Simi Bakare (transfer): career save played exclusively on special teams
Part of a series highlighting the positional depth of Mizzou’s football team. Then: receivers and tight ends, offensive line