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Mizzou Football Season Review: Running Backs

Final grade?

At the beginning of the season, running back was one of the biggest question mark positions on the Mizzou roster. Henry Josey, projected to be the starter, missed the entire season with injuries sustained at the end of the 2011 college football season. With Josey taking a medical redshirt, it opened up the starting running back position for the rest of the roster. Four candidates emerged to take over the duties at running back and all four earned playing time throughout the season.

Kendial Lawrence: When Henry Josey went down with his injuries, fans expected Kendial Lawrence to take over the starting running back spot. A senior, Lawrence had been a part of a running back rotation the previous two seasons and was the most experienced player in the backfield. Lawrence proved why he was named the starter, consistently performing for the Tigers week after week.

In an offense that struggled all season, Lawrence was one of the bright spots, reaching 1,025 yards rushing, going over the illustrious 1,000 yard mark. Add 12 touchdowns to those stats, and Lawrence filled in quite nicely as a starting running back.

Marcus Murphy: While Marcus Murphy was primarily used as a special teams ace this season, he played some as the second running back on offense.

Murphy played pretty well as a change of pace back, rushing for 251 yards and a touchdown on only 46 carries.

Injuries limited Murphy to just a return man in a couple of games, but the dynamic running back made the most of limited opportunities.

Russell Hansbrough: Russell Hansbrough emerged as a surprise contributor to the running game, as the true freshman forewent a redshirt to play right away at Missouri. Hansbrough didn't carry the ball too often but he showed promise for the future, totaling 139 yards on 37 carries.

Unfortunately, Hansbrough, a small back, got beat up a lot this season as evidenced by this play against Alabama.

Jared McGriff-Culver: A walk-on, McGriff-Culver was used primarily as a blocking back this season. The big bruiser had a couple of catches out of the backfield, but was primarily used on special teams and for strictly blocking situations.

Final Grade: A- Anytime a team has a 1,000 yard rusher, you have to consider the running game successful. Behind an offensive line battered by injuries, Lawrence and Murphy were consistently gaining yards on the ground. The top two runners averaged over 5 yards per carry and Hansbrough, the third running back, averaged just under 4. Play calling was an issue, as the team often strayed away from the running game, but you can't fault the backfield for that. The running backs were a bright spot for the team this year and might have been the best overall position.

Next Season Outlook: Henry Josey will return from his injuries next season and will most definitely be the starting running back. Josey practiced at the end of this year and was finally cleared for full contact. Trainers said Josey could have suited up for some teams in the fall, but they were careful with him. He will be full go in spring practices. Kendial Lawrence and Jared McGriff-Culver are departing seniors, but Murphy and Hansbrough will be returning as the second and third backs. Morgan Steward redshirted as a freshman this season and might warrant some carries.