It’s that time of year again! Football is coming back to Columbia, which means it’s time to dive into each position and preview what Mizzou is expected to put out on the field this year. Right here on KTGR.com and on The Big Show with Matt and Jeff everyday from 4-6, we have you covered. Today, we start with a preview of the Quarterback and Running Backs for the Tigers.
These are two positions where the starter is pretty clear for both. Junior Drew Lock is returning after showing signs of progress in his Sophomore campaign and Sophomore running back, Damarea Crockett is looking to build off of a very strong year one.
First, I expect the back up quarterback to be Jack Lowary, a RS Sophomore. From his film and the word around him, he has a BIG arm and should the Tigers need someone to step in for Drew Lock for whatever reason, Lowary seems to be fully capable to fill that roll.
The back up running back position is a little trickier. Mizzou has senior running back Ish Witter, who I believe can excel in a change of pace format. Witter has, what I believe, an unfair reputation as an incapable back. I think he is very capable, but not as an every-down player. He is a solid number two, but there is also Nate Strong looming somewhere in the backfield as well.
Strong was a highly rated recruit coming out of high school but had trouble qualifying academically. He is now, we think, with Mizzou and ready to go again after replacing the suspended Crockett and the injured Witter in the last game of the season Vs. Arkansas. It was then that we saw flashes of what many fans expected from him. I give the nod to Witter as the full time backup because he is the senior, but I still expect Strong to have meaningful contributions to this team at some point this season.
Now, to the starters. The running back position is in great hands. Crockett flew onto the scene last year and never looked back… until his suspension at the end of last year. In 153 rushing attempts last year, Crockett tallied 1,062 yard (6.9 ypc) and 10 touchdowns. His explosiveness and ability to read the defense and his blockers is what makes him the type of running back you need in the SEC. He had 5 games over 100 yards, one of those being a 225-yard game @ Tennessee. The hype around the Sophomore is real, but there is no reason to think he does not continue his success. If Crockett is running like he was last year, and the word is that he has gained even more strength, that will be a great compliment to Heupel’s high flying, up tempo offense. Here’s a take: with a full season, I believe Crockett will be a top 3 running back in the SEC this year. The sky is the limit, let’s just see how close to it he can get.
Enter Junior Quarterback Drew Lock. After being thrown into the flames his first year (4 TDs, 8 INTs), Lock enjoyed success under first year OC Josh Heupel. His completion percentage needs to be higher than 54%, but he demonstrated that he can make every throw on the field. Lock threw for 3,339 yards, 24 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions. That’s quite the jump from year one. Lock torched defenses that are not in the “elite” category, but had some struggles against top tier defense such as LSU and Florida. Both were road games, so there is an excuse, but coming into year three, to be the elite quarterback many expect him to be, those games can’t happen anymore. (Also, let’s just forget about the MTSU game, please).
Lock was second in the SEC in passing yards, but 12th in completion percentage and 8th in QBR, if you’re into that. BUT, with another year under his belt and another year to become stronger, work on his foot work, read progression and everything that is needed to be an elite quarterback, Lock should take another step forward. He has weapons around him and an OC that knows how to coach a quarterback and knows something about playing the position himself.
Overall, these two positions should take a few steps forward and build on the success they had last year. Lock and Crockett are the headliners, but Witter is someone who can help take the heat off of both. He is a change-of-pace back and a capable pass catcher out of the backfield, which will help Lock as well. Look for continued success and eye catching numbers from these positions this year, and hopefully, the wins come with them.
I will be back soon to preview the Wide Receivers for Mizzou heading into 2017. In the meantime, you can catch all KTGR content right here on KTGR.com, with Matt and Jeff on the @KTGRBigShow, and myself on twitter @Mhill_. See you soon.