COLUMBIA — The first part of the story has been told. Injuries have reduced the four-player unit the Missouri football team was rotating at tailback to an orthopedic ward. Except for the little guy who could.
The rest of the story is that at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Henry Josey is doing an admirable job.
The numbers are there to support the assertion that Josey is an elite running back. He ranks first nationally in yards per carry (12.4) and fourth in total rushing yards (533).
Off the field, at least in interviews, Josey is soft-spoken, the kind of guy whose determination shows. When he discusses his personal successes, he smiles wryly. But when discussing failures, whether they are his or the team’s, he easily transitions back to a serious look, genuine to the bone about discussing what happens on the field.
On the field for Josey it’s about two things: speed and decisiveness.
The first is obvious. Anyone who watched the Western Illinois game could see that. But also against legitimate upper-level BCS conference teams like Arizona State and Oklahoma, he showed that he could break away.
“I think he’s the real thing,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “He can touch the football and change the game. Against that (Oklahoma’s) defense, if you can do that, that says a lot.”
The second is perhaps not so obvious. Josey rarely hesitates. He makes one cut up the field and goes hard. In Missouri’s running game, with the way the blocking is set up, this level of commitment is paramount. Josey is so quick to commit that just once has he lost yards on a rushing attempt, and he has been stopped for no gain only three times.
“He’s not like a lot of people I’ve met. He cuts full speed, and he runs 100 percent all the time,” receiver T.J. Moe said. “If the little gap’s there, he’s going to hit it, and not many people are going to catch him.”
There are other Josey-related numbers that are thought-provoking. Despite his excellent yards-per-carry average, Josey has carried the ball just once on third down this season — against Western Illinois when the score was 35-0 in the second quarter. He converted the play into a 68-yard touchdown. In all, 22 of his 43 carries have resulted in first downs or touchdowns. Missouri is 16-for-55 on third down overall this season.
Perhaps his numbers are inflated from his first-half romp against Western Illinois, but Josey has shown he possesses the qualities to be the featured guy in what once was a running game with interchangeable parts. Only time will tell.