COLUMBIA — Last season’s dismissal of Derrick Washington from the Missouri Tigers forced a quartet of running backs into the spotlight. They rushed for a combined 1,557 yards.
Two of those backs were freshmen: Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy. Josey finished second on the team in yardage on the ground with 437 yards, and Murphy ranked fifth with 181 yards.
The Missouri offense, led by starting quarterback James Franklin, impressed at Thursday's scrimmage, the final scrimmage before the season starts on Sept. 3. Franklin led the offense on a touchdown-scoring first drive, which ended with a touchdown pass to receiver T.J. Moe. The offense found the end zone on three other occasions, including a Henry Josey run, a pass from Jimmy Costello to Jimmie Hunt and a pass from Ashton Glaser to Andrew Jones.
Hunt had a big day, catching five passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. Most of those yards came on the 56-yard touchdown reception. Moe also tallied big receiving numbers, catching five passes for 55 yards.
The defense had their moments, too, highlighted by an interception by defensive back Darvin Ruise off a pass from quarterback Corbin Berkstresser. Defensive end Kony Ealy was involved in a couple of big plays, including a big tackle of running back Greg White and a partial block of a punt.
The injuries have piled up throughout camp, and the list of players not participating in Thursday's scrimmage was so long the media relations staff supplied a printed list so reporters could keep track. Here are the players who were out for the scrimmage:
- Defensive back Kip Edwards (hamstring).
- Quarterback Kortland Webb (foot).
- Defensive back Tavon Bolden (back).
- Defensive back Kenji Jackson (hamstring).
- Defensive back Matt White (ankle).
- Linebacker Zaviar Gooden (viral illness).
- Wide receiver Jerrell Jackson (hamstring).
- Linebacker Will Ebner (concussion).
- Offensive lineman Travis Ruth (Achilles).
- Offensive lineman Austin Wuebbels (viral illness).
- Tight end Eric Waters (hamstring).
Other players were injured during the scrimmage. According to coach Gary Pinkel, after the scrimmage wide receiver Gahn McGaffee left the field with a strained knee, running back Kendial Lawrence sustained a strained shoulder and linebacker Kentrell Brothers sustained a sprained ankle. Wide receiver Bud Sasser left the field at one point, but Pinkel said after scrimmage that he was fine.
Now sophomores, the two backs’ 2011 seasons have taken dramatically different turns. Murphy is out for the season after injuring his shoulder earlier in camp. Josey has been on the field every day taking reps at running back and working on kick returns.
The most recent depth chart from July 22 listed Josey third at running back, behind Kendial Lawrence and De'Vione Moore, but Josey said he thinks this summer has gone as well as last year, if not better.
“This summer camp has been one of the best summer camps we’ve had,” Josey said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that came back, and experience is a big thing. We’ve all been competing our butts off this whole summer camp, and it’s been really good this year.”
Josey is in battles at both positions. At running back, he’s up against Lawrence and Moore, who have received the majority of touches in camp. Coach Gary Pinkel said at the team’s second scrimmage that all three players would get carries once the season starts.
Josey is fighting for kick returns against Wes Kemp, T.J. Moe and Lawrence, among others. Moe praised Josey for his speed and big-play ability.
“Henry’s as fast as anybody on our team,” Moe said. “He’s a guy that can break it. You give him the ball, and things happen.”
Josey said he’s been receiving encouragement along the way from Murphy, his roommate, who has been on the sidelines during camp, surveying the action.
“It’s really tough on me," Josey said of Murphy being injured. "But I live with him. We always talk about things. He gives me pointers about the kick returns. It’s just really a big motivation for me to keep going and play for him also.
“He’s really proud of me. He’s been really staying on me, too. He’s ‘Coach Murph’ now, that’s what he thinks he is, and he’s just on me all the time, ‘just keep going’ and everything. Anything else a coach would say,” Josey said.
At Thursday’s final preseason scrimmage, Josey found the end zone on a 13-yard rush.
Josey said he and his teammates have been working hard during camp, and they’re ready for the season to start.
“We’re just ready to play, really," he said. "We’re looking forward to playing someone else besides ourselves. That’s going to be a real big key.”