Henry Josey out for the season, others ready to step in
Darren Hellwege, Sports Commentator
The running back situation at Missouri might well be sub-titled “how soon they forget.” Many are subscribing to the notion that the Tigers lost their big star at carrying the ball, Henry Josey, and will have to “settle” for Kendial Lawrence.
It’s an odd way of looking at the situation, given that Lawrence was the starter and Josey the third-stringer at about this point last season. It was only after injuries to Lawrence and the now-departed De’Vion Moore that Josey got his chance and became one of the best stories in recent memory. Josey ran for 1,168 yards and made first-team all Big 12 in spite of missing several games after his devastating knee injury in the Texas game. The injury will require a lot of recovery time and it’s very doubtful we’ll see Josey before the 2013 season. Heaven only knows if we ever get back the Henry Josey that blew away defenses last year. Which leaves for the Tigers the guy who was supposed to be the starter in the first place: Lawrence.
Tail back Kendial Lawrence (4) is pursued by Derrion Thomas (85) and Kentrell Brothers (38) during the Black and Gold spring football game. Photo by Kelsey Alumbaugh.
Kendial Lawrence: An experienced hand who probably would have been the starter throughout 2011 had he not suffered a broken leg before the Arizona State game last season. Over three seasons he has averaged just under five yards per carry, but perhaps most impressive is that after losing his starting position and watching Josey become the story of the year, he remained positive and when his chance re-appeared he instantly gave top performance, including rushing for more than 100 yards in the Tigers’ Independence Bowlvictory over North Carolina. He’s also a fine receiver out of the backfield.
Jared McGriff-Culver: The redshirt senior provides experience and a change of pace. Lawrence may run around you, but the 250-pound McGriff-Culver can just run right over you. This is what college football is all about, a former walk-on who is now a key part of the team, he also contributes on special teams and can deliver a hit that some linebackers would be jealous of.
Greg White: Even without Josey in the mix, there is some bench strength at tailback starting with White. White’s another strong guy, who played on the defensive line in high school. He has been recognized for his outstanding practice habits and while he’s not a sprinter, he does have very good athleticism.
Marcus Murphy: He caught our eye during the Black and Gold game and was chosen “most improved tailback” through the course of spring drills. Murphy was impressive as a freshman two years back but injuries robbed him of the 2011 season so he’s another guy with something to prove this year. Speedy, elusive, could become a major force in the return game. While each Tiger back has his own skill set, if you’re looking for someone who will remind you of Josey, you might want to keep an eye on Murphy.
Tyler Hunt: I watched this guy play quarterback at tiny Westran High, just up the road in Huntsville, Mo. While the former quarterback and baseball pitcher with major league potential is still learning the position, I wouldn’t bet against him.
Russell Hansbrough: An incoming freshman, he originally committed to Arizona State and was heavily recruited by a long list of schools including Southeastern Conference foe Auburn, but he’s now a Tiger. Scouting reports talk about his vision and elusiveness. While he’s small (5 feet 7 inches, 165 pounds) we’re told he’s deceptively strong.
Morgan Steward: Coming out of Kansas City’s Staley High, he was part of the state’s top team. He’s a versatile player who can run or catch passes out of the backfield, already shows good fundamentals and has speed with a burst. While he’s not a huge guy either, Steward can get yards after initial contact. I think this is a major prospect for Missouri’s future.