Missouri football team adjusts running back situation — again

Monday, September 12, 2011 | 10:06 p.m. CDT; updated 10:57 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 12, 2011
MU Sophomore tailback Henry Josey carries the ball up the middle of the field as the Sun Devils linebacker Oliver Aaron goes to stop him during MU's second game of the season at Sun Devil Stadium on Friday.

COLUMBIA — One play into Missouri's most recent football game, Tigers coach Gary Pinkel was already waiting for news from head athletic trainer Rex Sharp.

"De'Vion Moore is out," Sharp said. 

Monday's media conference

Injury update: Defensive end Jacquies Smith is still out with a dislocated elbow, and Will Ebner will also miss Saturday's game with an ankle sprain. Running backs Kendial Lawrence (broken fibula) and De'Vion Moore (ankle sprain) and wide receiver Gahn McGaffie (knee sprain) are also out.

Depth chart update: Center Travis Ruth will return from a strained Achilles' tendon, but he's listed behind Jayson Palmgren for now. According to Tigers coach Gary Pinkel, that's because Ruth is not ready to play the majority of the game yet.

Receiver Jerrell Jackson, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, is back at No. 1 ahead of Marcus Lucas at the one outside slot. L'Damian Washington was moved to the No. 2 spot behind Wes Kemp so he can continue to get playing time.

Michael Sam is now listed ahead of Brayden Burnett at defensive end. In Smith's absence, both will continue to play.

Having recovered from a hamstring injury, Eric Waters is back on the depth chart at No. 3, behind Michael Egnew and Andrew Jones.

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"Is he coming back in?" Pinkel asked.

"No, he's not."

"Oh. OK."

Pinkel recounted the exchange dryly Monday, and one couldn't help but sense the gallows humor. Moore had replaced Kendial Lawrence atop the depth chart at running back after Lawrence suffered a broken fibula in the season opener against Miami (Ohio). In the game against Arizona State, Moore sprained an ankle; he will be out for three to four weeks.

Forgive Pinkel if he sounds nonchalant about the ever-lengthening injury list. When asked for a rundown during the Big 12 conference call Monday morning, he said that, to save both his and reporters' time, he would send out a written list later.

When Moore was hurt, Pinkel didn't have time to stew. He simply moved onto the next available option, the smallest running back yet. And Henry Josey delivered.

Josey ran for 94 yards and had another 51 yards on two catches. His 39-yard run late in the fourth quarter set up Missouri for a potentially game-winning field goal. Now, as the team prepares for its match against Western Illinois, the team is looking for the 5-foot-10, 186-pound sophomore to reestablish himself.

Josey will have some help from two of the team's biggest backs. Junior Jared Culver is only an inch taller than Josey, but he's 60 pounds heavier. Redshirt freshman Greg White, who is 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, will see the field for the first time. Wide receiver T.J. Moe might help out. Pinkel said the team will take precautions in protecting Josey during games as well as practice.

It's not exactly what Josey wants to hear. His most obvious skill might be his speed in open space, but he prides himself for holding his own in the physical aspects of the position such as pass protection.

Against Arizona State, he blocked for Franklin in the pocket and down the field. On Franklin’s long sideline run in the first quarter, Josey took out a defender closing on the quarterback.

"I really like to prove people wrong about that because I can get in there and take on the big guys just like any other guy can," Josey said. "I got ran over a couple times (against ASU), but I got back in there."

Translation: He's not letting Culver and White do all the less-than-glorious stuff. He wants in, too.

"I'm not really worried about getting hurt at all," Josey said. "Twenty carries a game — I'm more than capable of doing that. I really think so."

Culver, a walk-on from Downers Grove, Ill., said he is willing to do whatever the coaches ask of him, but his fumble recovery from the bottom of a pile Friday is a good example of his playing style. Missouri was trying to push the ball into the end zone from a yard out in the second quarter when Franklin fumbled. The ball bounced to the left, and Culver crashed with another player going after it.

With his back turned to the ball, Culver heard a huge roar from the crowd. He figured Arizona State had recovered. But when he flipped over, the ball was still loose. He wrestled it away and held on at the bottom of the pile. Two plays later, Missouri scored to tie the game at 10.

"I'm not going to say what was going on in the pile," Culver said. "But everyone was fighting tough for it."

One job Josey will definitely have to give up is kick returner. Moe, the punt returner, will most likely take over for him. Moe may also get some carries in Missouri's offense.

Pinkel, who has used Moe in the past on sweeps, said he hasn't talked to the wide receiver about it yet, but that the Tigers are going to have to look at someone in addition to the three remaining running backs.

"He'd be the first one in line with his hand up to help out there," Pinkel said. "He does a lot of things anyway — he does just about everything."

Even if Josey doesn't get to do everything he wants, he is the go-to guy for now. Pinkel and running backs coach Brian Jones recalled watching Josey's high school highlights tape. The word "electrifying" was used then, and it still applies now. 

"(Pinkel) hasn't ever said that face-to-face, but I guess I showed him a little more than he was expecting out of me," Josey said. "I'm looking forward to keeping it going."

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