Mizzou football: Running backs looks like a strong position

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 11: Running back Larry Rountree III
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 11: Running back Larry Rountree III /

With Kelly Bryant, Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie in the backfield, yards could be tallying quite high on the ground this season.

The Missouri Tigers lost junior running back Damarea Crockett as an early draft entrant this past winter.

Crockett’s decision came as a bit of a surprise to some, and though he went undrafted, it may be a good decision in the end as he tries to compete for a spot with the Houston Texans.

The loss of Crockett left the Tigers with four returning backs, including their top rusher in Larry Rountree III and No. 3 guy Tyler Badie.

While the loss of a guy like Crockett, who could be counted on Sundays as early as his rookie year, is a tough one, the Tigers have positioned themselves for much success this season.

Mizzou has a thing with taking three-star recruits and making them quality backs from the get-go.

Remember Crockett’s freshman season? Rountree’s wasn’t as good, nobody has had a better start, but you could see signs of a future star coming out of Columbia. His second year proved that.

Coming off a solid freshman campaign, Rountree took it another step his sophomore season. Last year, Rountree tallied 1,216 yards on 225 attempts.

His 1,919 rushing yards through two years is the most ever by a Mizzou running back to start out. And it could be even better this season.

With Kelly Bryant behind center, that should open up lanes in a read-option. Mizzou is expected to be more run-heavy, and with the talent the Tigers have, especially in Rountree, that should not be a surprise.

Tyler Badie was an All-Freshman pick by the coaches, and it was well-deserved.

The shifty running back tallied 437 yards on 89 carries for an average of nearly 5 yards a carry. He added 12 receptions for another 130 yards, which led all Tigers running backs.

Baide was the third back coming in to help the Tigers last season, but he will get more snaps as he steps into the second role on the team. The three-star recruit out of Tennessee showed plenty of speed last season, and if he takes it to the next level, the Tigers could have the best 1-2-3 combo in the division with Bryant, Rountree and Badie.

Mizzou actually had two freshmen running backs step on the field last year. Simi Bakare showed some flashes last season of what he could be. He played in the Tigers final eight games, and scored a touchdown in the Tigers’ blowout victory against Tennessee.

The sophomore will be asked to step up into the role Badie had last season. That likely means he will be tabbed the No. 3 running back.

Dawson Downing is one of the top special teams guys on the roster, but he could carry the ball in a pinch. He is a tough, between-the-tackles running back, a nice change of pace if the Tigers need that. For his career, he has 28 attempts and gained 135 yards.

Jerney Jones played in four games last year on special teams. The final back on the roster is Anthony Watkins, who was a four-star recruit out of Texas.

If Watkins shows the talent coaches are raving about, he won’t redshirt, and it’s possible he will move up to the No. 3 back before the end of the season.