After breaking out with a 194-yard, two-touchdown performance in last year’s Sun Bowl, and emerging from a crowded backfield as the clear starter going into the 2007 season, one might think Tony Temple can relax a little bit. But the senior tailback says he isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I feel good about (being the starter),” he said. “But, I’ve got to make sure I keep it. I have to go out and compete because a lot of other people want that position. I have to have the mind-set that I have my back against the wall and keep going forward.”
Three other running backs with significant playing time are back. Junior Jimmy Jackson is No. 2 on the depth chart and trying to hold off Earl Goldsmith and Marcus Woods for the backup job. Jackson said he also hopes to challenge Temple.
“Of course, I want to push him,” Jackson said. “That’s my friend and my teammate, but, I want to push him.”
The depth chart at tailback changed several times last season, showing the coaching staff’s willingness to swap the tailbacks, and creating an intense competition between the four. Jackson, though, says they are all friends who want to help each other get better.
“All these guys are my friends, so of course I enjoy (the competition),” he said. “I enjoy them and what they bring to the game. It motivates me, definitely. But at the same time, I love them like brothers.”
Jackson says he knows his friends below him on the depth chart are good enough to pass him at any time, which puts a lot of pressure on him. But, he says that is a good thing.
“That’s the beauty of it,” he said. “You don’t want to be able to go out and slack off, they give me no room to slack off or anything.”
Temple, meanwhile, appears ready to have a big year. He is the leading returning rusher in the Big 12 (1,063 yards last year), and says he expects his strong play at the end of 2006 to carry over into the new season. He said he was especially pleased with his Sun Bowl performance.
“I was very happy, just bringing in confidence to my football team and my coaches,” he said. “It was a great way to end the season, and build on it for next year.”
Temple came to Missouri as a star of the 2004 recruiting class, ranked the No. 8 running back in the nation by Rivals.com. But, after playing just one game in 2004 before being injured, Temple had a disappointing year in 2005. Although he ended the season with 462 yards rushing, more than any other Tigers tailback, fumbling problems kept him behind Marcus Woods on the depth chart and he started just two games. He said it was tough for him to deal with not being the starter.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” he said. “Especially, when you know your ability and you just want the opportunity to show people and show yourself.”
Temple says he has put the fumbling problems behind him.
“It’s in the past,” he said. “Every running back fumbles, that’s the position I play, but you’ve just got to keep going forward.”
With most of their weapons returning from an offense that finished eighth in the country in total yards a year ago, Temple says he knows a big year from him could make the offense special.
“It’s going to be very good,” he said. “We’re clicking, we’re more aggressive, and we know each other. That experience is really going to help us in big games.”
NOTES: The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved several rule changes for the 2007 season Thursday. Last year’s new clock rules have been rescinded. The clock will once again not start until the ball is touched on a kickoff, and there will be clock stoppages for change of possession.
The rules committee did, however, create new rules designed to speed up the game. Timeouts will be reduced from 60 seconds to 30 seconds and teams will now kickoff from the 30-yard line instead of the 35, a move intended to create more kickoff returns which will run time off the clock.
Tight end Chase Coffman returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Tuesday with a hip pointer. Linebacker Brock Christopher also returned from injury.