Former Missouri running back Damarea Crockett has moved on to the NFL and just scored his first professional touchdown for Houston in the Texans’ preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers on Thursday.
Now that Crockett’s gone, the Tigers are without one of the top rushers the school has had since it made the switch to the Southeastern Conference. But that doesn’t mean Missouri is without backs who can bring one of the most potent ground games in the SEC.
Since camp started on Aug. 2, the names offensive coordinator Derek Dooley will call most often are basically set in stone: junior Larry Rountree III and sophomore Tyler Badie. Both have shared snaps on the first team all week, and both are expected to build off of productive seasons in 2018.
Rountree was already a known commodity heading into the year, and he became Missouri’s top running back by season’s end when he led the team — and ranked fourth in the SEC — with 1,216 rushing yards. As the No. 1 option on the most recent depth chart, Rountree will bring his status as a power back to the forefront of the Tigers’ offense.
Badie wasn’t as known prior to last year, but he turned in a breakout freshman campaign with his shiftiness and ability to affect both the rushing and passing games. Rountree said after the team’s first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday that Badie’s hands might make him even more dangerous than his legs do.
While Rountree and Badie both share the ability to impact the offense in a big way, perhaps it’s the difference in their styles of play that make them such a dynamic duo.
“I’ve seen a lot of explosiveness out of them. I’m very excited to watch those two go to work. They’ve done a great job preparing for this upcoming season,” right guard Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms said. “(They’re) ‘speed’ and ‘power.’ You’ve got two different types of backs.”
As Dooley showed throughout last season, he’s comfortable having a third guy in the rotation.
Missouri has some young backs who can step into Badie’s former role, including freshman Anthony Watkins and sophomore Simi Bakare. Watkins, in particular, has received positive reviews from his unit, but Rountree said he can see any of the running backs making a case for playing time.
“At the end of the day, we need everybody in the room. Everybody can bring different categories to this offense, so it’s great because the past couple years we had injuries, it was next guy up mentality,” Rountree said. “... Anthony (Watkins), all those guys in the running back room, Dawson (Downing), all of them can play.”
Whether Dooley turns the duo into a trio once again remains to be seen, but with Rountree and Badie leading the way, expect the Tigers to remain in the top-tier of SEC offenses.
Highlights from first scrimmage
Missouri played its first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday, but it was a bit lukewarm as quarterbacks couldn’t be hit, punts weren’t returned and kickoffs were nonexistent.
Still, Saturday helped paint an image of what the depth chart might look like come Week 1 and which players are ready to step up during the season. Head coach Barry Odom was excited to get his players in an in-game situation, though he kept a “vanilla” offensive game plan.
The offense didn’t perform all that well — probably because of the limited amount of play calls and the absences of starters Albert Okwuegbunam and Johnathon Johnson — but it still showed the potential to be the high-powered offense Missouri fans have grown accustomed to seeing.
Here are some highlights from Saturday:
— Receiver Maurice Massey “Mossed” a cornerback on a pass from Lindsey Scott Jr. down the right sideline before landing on his back — barely in bounds — to get the offense into the red zone.
— Quarterback Kelly Bryant wasn’t quite as sharp as he would’ve liked, but on one play he scrambled to his right and hit receiver Dominic Gicinto deep for a 46-yard gain.
— Receiver Kam Scott and quarterback Taylor Powell connected on a pass off a skinny post for a 34-yard touchdown.
— Although quarterbacks couldn’t be hit, defensive tackle Kobie Whiteside broke through the line and tagged Bryant for a sack.
— Cornerback Jarvis Ware broke up two of Bryant’s passes, though he could’ve intercepted both as well.
“Typical first scrimmage, just getting a good feel for it,” Bryant said. “Defense did a really good job. It was challenging. Those guys played their butts off, so it was a little bit up and down. But that’s just part of getting a starting point from that standpoint.”
If you sell it, fans will come
On Friday, MU announced that it would begin selling beer and wine at Missouri football games for the upcoming season.
The process to draft a policy began in May when the SEC decided to allow member schools to make their own decisions regarding selling alcohol, and a number of groups tied to MU worked over the summer to get alcohol sales approved. Now that the policy is in place, MU officials are excited about the prospects of not only boosting revenue but also fan attendance.
Attendance at Memorial Stadium has dwindled, falling roughly 21% since 2015 — though the South End Zone Project did inflate last year’s drop. Different factors have played into the decline, but in Missouri’s attempt to reverse the numbers, the ending of the ban on alcohol might be the school’s life-preserver. With alcohol sales and the new south end zone complex, Memorial Stadium will have a different atmosphere that could attract more fans.
But as Odom pointed out, it’ll all be moot if he can’t put a competitive team on the field.
“(The school) made a very educated decision once they got all the information and data that they needed and I’m very supportive of that, and it’s my job to coach this team to provide an atmosphere that folks want to come support,” Odom said. “We’ve galvanized in a lot of areas, and I know that our fans are going to show up and support this team.”