COLUMBIA — De'Vion Moore and Kendial Lawrence have been competing for a while now.
The two tailbacks had the most yards-per-carry on the Missouri football team last year, and they started this season tied atop the depth chart.
The past three weeks, Moore, a senior, and Lawrence, a junior, have competed in the treatment room. Lawrence suffered a broken fibula in the season opener against Miami (Ohio), and Moore sprained his ankle the next week against Arizona State.
They haven't rehabbed side-by-side, but they would monitor each other's progress. If Lawrence had trained in the SwimEx therapeutic pool, Moore would tell him he already had gone through the same regiment, and that Lawrence should prepare himself for a rigorous workout.
Moore returned to practice Saturday. Lawrence was back on the field Sunday.
"We've pushed each other a little bit," Moore said. "It's been, 'Hey, get as much done as you can,' trying to make sure we're on the same page as when we get back."
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Monday that Moore and Lawrence are questionable for this weekend's game against Kansas State. Neither is 100 percent, he said — there is a possibility both could play, and there is a possibility neither could play.
Teammates said both looked a little rusty when Moore and Lawrence initially returned last weekend, and Moore said as much himself. The pain returned from time to time. But it didn't keep him from enjoying the participation.
"Being productive with the team is a good feeling," he said. "You get to go out there and play with your friends, that's how I see it. I see the guys every day, and we talk every day. The only difference is that I haven't been out on the field with them."
Differences will remain when Moore and Lawrence do return. In their absence, sophomore Henry Josey has emerged as one of the best tailbacks in the Big 12 Conference. His 133.2 yards per game leads the conference and is sixth in the nation. His 263 rushing yards against Western Illinois was the third-most by a Missouri tailback for the program. Perhaps more impressively, he ran for 133 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown, against Oklahoma.
What exactly, then, does Moore and Lawrence's return mean?
"For one, it will definitely give Henry a break because he goes on all these long runs," quarterback James Franklin said.
According to Pinkel, Josey has done enough to remain the sole starting running back, and getting the ball into his hands as many times as possible is "probably wise to do." But Pinkel plans on using the tailback depth in prevention of, rather than response to, injury.
"We need depth at the position given how physical it is, and both (Moore and Lawrence) can make plays too," Pinkel said. "It’s a win-win for everybody."
Watching from the sideline, Moore and Lawrence have been as impressed with Josey as anyone. Moore said nobody could overshadow Josey's success, and that they weren't going to try to. Missouri is 2-2 and facing another ranked opponent on the road in No. 20 Kansas State.
"We don't think about who's going to get carries," Moore said. "We think about coming back and helping our team to win."
Moore and Lawrence could help set up shorter-yardage third downs, a situation the Tigers have struggled in this season. More first downs would consequently give the defense longer breaks, something it needed in the loss to Oklahoma.
Wide receiver Jerrell Jackson pointed out that the return of Moore and Lawrence would be to Josey's benefit, too.
"Henry's been amazing, as everyone has seen, but they can give him some fresher legs and make him even more dominant," Jackson said. "It’s going to be a blessing to have those guys back."