SEC: Kendial Lawrence

Lost in Missouri's offensive misery last fall was the absence of arguably the Tigers' best offensive weapon from 2011.

Running back Henry Josey spent all of 2012 sitting and watching after suffering a devastating knee injury against Texas in mid-November of 2011. Before Josey went down, he was the Big 12's top rusher (1,168 yards on 145 yards) and was coming off four straight 100-yard outings.

[+] EnlargeHenry Josey
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonRunning back Henry Josey appears to have returned to form this spring after missing all of 2012 with a major knee injury.
He was a slasher, a dasher and a pounder when he needed to be, and not having him in the offense last year really hurt the Tigers. I'm not taking anything way from Kendial Lawrence, who filled in admirably with his 1,025 yards, 12 touchdowns and 5.1 yards per carry, but he just wasn't as dynamic a player as Josey. Not a lot of backs are, really.

But every indication coming out of Mizzou's camp this spring is that Josey will be back to his old self this fall. He isn't there yet, but he's slowly getting there.

Coach Gary Pinkel said Josey was timed running the 40-yard dash in the 4.3s before spring practice got underway, but taking contact and cutting were two things everyone in Columbia, Mo., wanted to see. Apparently that hasn't been a problem, as he shed his knee brace and ran for 28 yards on eight carries in Saturday's scrimmage. He started things off by busting a 17-yard run on his first carry of the scrimmage.

Sure, it was just a scrimmage, but that's a great sight for the Tigers to see. There were moments when it looked like Josey, who underwent three separate surgeries, wasn't going to return to the football field as a player. Here's what he had to have repaired during his three surgeries:

  • ACL
  • MCL
  • Meniscus
  • Patellar tendon

He also had an arthroscopic cleanup.

Right now, Josey isn't where he was in 2011, but he's just now getting his football legs back, so that's to be expected. Still, it has to be very encouraging that the Tigers should get back one of their best playmakers. When healthy, Josey has proven to be a true game-changer and that's exactly what this offense needs.

Obviously, the Tigers' offense regressed because of injuries to the offensive line and quarterback James Franklin, but having a guy like Josey back in the offense will really open things up for the passing game and make this offense more of a threat.

People continue to talk about Franklin battling Maty Mauk and Corbin Berkstresser, but keep two eyes on Josey from here on out. He could be the real difference-maker in Mizzou's offense this fall.
We checked on the SEC's 3,000-yard passers from 2012 on Thursday, so we're taking a look at the running backs who hit the coveted 1,000-yard mark last fall.

Last summer, we looked at 10 running backs we thought could eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark. The SEC had four players reach 1,000 yards on the ground in 2011, and had nine, including Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, in 2012. I thought it was supposed to be the Year of the Quarterback?

Here's how the 10 running backs we looked at last year did in 2012:

1. Isaiah Crowell, Georgia: Well, maybe if he actually played a down for the Bulldogs this year he might have had a chance to reach 1,000 yards. Instead, Crowell was dismissed before the season and spent 2012 rushing for 842 yards and 15 touchdowns at Alabama State.

2. Knile Davis, Arkansas: Davis said he was 100 percent after missing all of 2011 with an ankle injury, but he never displayed the explosiveness and strength that made him a star in 2010. Davis was still hesitant at times and carried the ball only 112 times for 377 yards and two touchdowns.

3. James Franklin, Missouri: His laundry list of injuries and a banged-up offensive line didn't really help the dual-threat quarterback when it came to running the ball. A year removed from almost getting to 1,000 yards, Franklin rushed for just 122 yards and averaged 1.4 yards per carry in the process.

4. Eddie Lacy, Alabama: Real shocker that an Alabama running back bulldozed his way past 1,000 yards. Lacy overpowered defenders and left plenty looking silly with his patented spin move all year, finishing the season ranking third in the SEC with 1,322 yards and tying for second with 17 touchdowns. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry.

5. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: For the second straight year, Lattimore's pursuit of 1,000 yards was cut short by a devastating knee injury. He rushed for 662 yards and 11 touchdowns on 143 attempts before dislocating his right knee and tearing multiple ligaments against Tennessee on Oct. 27.

6. Christine Michael, Texas A&M: Like Lattimore, Michael was coming off of an ACL injury this fall, but he never seemed to really fit in the Aggies' new spread scheme. Eventually, he really wasn't Texas A&M's first option at running back and he finished the season with 417 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games of action.

7. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State: Perkins spent most of the year near the top of the SEC in all-purpose yards and was one of the toughest runners in the league. He averaged a stout 5 yards per carry and finished the year with 1,024 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

8. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt: For the second straight year, Stacy finished the season with more than 1,000 yards for the Commodores. Even with a few more weapons to use on the offensive side, Stacy rushed for 1,141 yards and 10 touchdowns on 207 carries.

9. Spencer Ware, LSU: Ware wasn't the same workhorse that he was for the Tigers in 2011. He played in 12 games, but only started four and carried the ball just 94 times for 367 yards (that's just 3.9 yards per carry). He finished fourth on the team in rushing and scored just one touchdown in 2012.

10. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama: Pretty good assumption last summer. Yeldon made sure he and Lacy were a migraine for defenses, as he pounded and darted his way to 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry and 74.1 yards in SEC games. Lacy packed the punch, while Yeldon showcased the moves last fall.

Who was overlooked:
  • Mike Gillislee, Florida: He proclaimed before the season that he'd rush for 1,500 yards and more than 20 touchdowns. He didn't get there, but he did become the first Gator to rush for 1,000 yards (1,152) since 2004. He basically was Florida's offense and added 10 touchdowns on the ground.
  • Todd Gurley, Georgia: We looked at the wrong Bulldog last summer. Gurley made more of an impact for Georgia as a freshman than Crowell did in 2011, finishing second in the SEC in rushing (first among running backs) with 1,385 yards and added 17 touchdowns to his 6.2 yards per carry.
  • Kendial Lawrence, Missouri: He was almost forgotten because of the year Henry Josey had for most of the 2011 season, but Lawrence was Mizzou's most consistent offensive weapon last fall, rushing for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
  • Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The Heisman winner was arguably the nation's most elusive player in the country when he took off running. He shredded defenses all season and led the SEC with 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also averaged 7 yards per carry.
  • Tre Mason, Auburn: There wasn't a lot to smile about on the Plains this past fall, but Mason was the best weapon the Tigers had, as he rushed for 1,002 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging an impressive 5.9 yards per carry.

Season report card: Missouri

January, 22, 2013
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It's time to grade Missouri's first season in the SEC:

OFFENSE: The Tigers entered their first season in the SEC with one of the nation's most balanced offenses in 2011, and with most of the personnel returning, the Tigers weren't expected to have too much drop-off in 2012. However, injuries crippled this team from the start. Freshman Evan Boehm was the only offensive lineman who made it through the entire season. With seven offensive linemen suffering some sort of injury during either preseason or the regular season, the line never had very good continuity. Quarterback James Franklin dealt with two separate shoulder injuries and a knee injury that pretty much kept him hobbled all season. The Tigers ranked 11th in the SEC in total offense (356.4 yards per game) and averaged just 4.9 yards per play. Mizzou averaged 20 yards less in SEC play and scored just under 22 points per game in conference play. The Tigers ranked 11th or worse in the SEC in total offense, rushing offense and scoring offense and were no higher than 77th (passing offense) nationally in any of the four major offensive categories. Franklin, who threw for 2,800 yards and ran for another 981 in 2011, threw for just 1,562 yards and 10 touchdowns, adding 122 rushing yards (1.4 yards per carry) and zero rushing touchdowns. Marcus Lucas was Mizzou's top receiving weapon, catching 46 passes for 509 yards and three touchdowns. Freshman Dorial Green-Beckham came on toward the end of the year and finished with 28 catches for 395 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. Running back Kendial Lawrence was Mizzou's best offensive weapon, as he ranked seventh in the SEC with 1,025 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. GRADE: D

DEFENSE: Missouri's defense also had its own issues in its new league. In conference play, the Tigers ranked 11th in scoring defense (33) and total defense (408.2), ninth in rushing defense (171.1) and passing defense (237.1). Mizzou also surrendered a league-high 22 rushing touchdowns. The Tigers allowed 30-plus points in six games, including the last three games of the year. The defense gave up 500-plus yards four times, including the last three games of the season. Mizzou forced 21 fumbles on the year and placed second in the SEC with 16 recoveries. While the defense as a whole struggled for the most part, there were some bright individual spots. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson played himself into the first round of this year's NFL draft. He was one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the SEC and tied for second on the team with 75 tackles (39 solo) and four sacks. He tied for first with 10.5 tackles for loss and led the Tigers with seven quarterback hurries. He also forced three fumbles. Cornerback E.J. Gaines was one of the top cover corners, defending 11 passes and recording a team-high 58 solo tackles. Grade: D

OVERALL: Injuries really, really hurt the Tigers, but there was never any real creativity from the offense after the Georgia game in Week 2, and the defense found itself on the field for far too long. You could tell the defense wore down toward the end of the season, as it was picked apart late in a critical loss to Syracuse -- a game the Tigers desperately needed to qualify for bowl season. The Tigers lost two SEC games by 20 and two more by 30, but they gutted out a four-overtime win over Tennessee in Knoxville to stay alive for a bowl berth before gagging at home to Syracuse and being destroyed by Texas A&M. Grade: D

Past grades:

Lunchtime links

November, 2, 2012
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Checking out the SEC links on a Friday.

SEC power rankings: Week 10

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
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Our No. 1 continues to widen its lead, but the weekend brought some movement after that:

1. Alabama (8-0; last week: 1): A highly ranked Mississippi State team walked into Tuscaloosa, and it meant nothing to Alabama. The Crimson Tide dominated both sides of the ball and built such a nice lead in the first half that it seemed like Alabama was in cruise control in the second half. This team doesn't just continue to pull away from the rest of the SEC, it keeps pulling away from the rest of the country.

2. LSU (7-1; LW: 3): The Tigers were off and got a little more time to prepare for Game 3 with Alabama. LSU should have used the extra time to really work with its passing game. Zach Mettenberger will have his hands very full with Alabama's defense, so its important that he look much more comfortable in LSU's pocket. That defense has been great all year, and it might have the best chance of slowing Alabama's balanced attack.

3. Georgia (7-1; LW:4): I guess all that hot seat talk surrounding Mark Richt will temporarily die down after a huge win over Florida. The Bulldogs are now in control of the SEC East with two conference games remaining. The offense took a couple of steps back against the Gators, but the defense was tremendous. Players say that's the defense you should expect to see for the rest of the year, and if that's the case, the Dawgs will have no problem taking home the East title for the second straight season.

4. Florida (7-1; LW: 2): It's clear that Florida is in desperate need of offensive playmakers. Right now Jeff Driskel, Mike Gillislee and Jordan Reed need a lot of help, but if no one else has stepped up now, can it happen in November? The defense shouldn't hang its head after its performance against Georgia. This unit is still one of the best in the country, but it needs more support from the offense going forward.

5. South Carolina (7-2; LW: 6): The Gamecocks won a shootout with Tennessee over the weekend, but it came at a costly price, as running back Marcus Lattimore went down with a devastating knee injury. The diagnosis is that he hyperextended his knee and injured several ligaments. The hope is that he can make a return to the football field. Your heart really hurts for such a great player and person.

6. Texas A&M (6-2; LW: 7): The Aggies rebounded quite nicely against Auburn, running up 63 points and nearly 700 yards of offense. Johnny Manziel got back to looking like Johnny Football by churning out a ton of yards and scoring five total touchdowns. This team has been a pleasant surprise in the SEC, and it could take a bigger step forward with a good performance against a tough Mississippi State team this weekend. A&M has struggled against good defenses in the second halves of games, so this is a chance to get some redemption in that area.

7. Mississippi State (7-1; LW: 5): A lot of people are questioning just how good this team is after it was blown out of Tuscaloosa over the weekend. That softer early schedule is getting scrutinized even more now. But the Bulldogs still possess solid talent on both offense and defense, they just had to go through the buzz saw that is Alabama. Another tough challenge awaits with the Aggies visiting Starkville this weekend.

8. Ole Miss (5-3; LW: 8): After a very solid performance in their three-point win over Arkansas on the road, the Rebels are a win away from being bowl-eligible for the first time since 2009. They are also a win away from matching their win total over the past two years. It's clear that Ole Miss got it right with coach Hugh Freeze, who has completely transformed the culture at Ole Miss. We know this team can move the ball, but the defense is starting to look better each week and forced some big turnovers against the Hogs on Saturday.

9. Vanderbilt (4-4; LW: 10): The Commodores took care of business with a blowout win over hapless Massachusetts and are now two wins away from being bowl-eligible for the second straight year. Running back Zac Stacy went down with an injury in the first quarter Saturday, but coach James Franklin said the injury wasn't too serious. The offense was extremely balanced and very explosive over the weekend. The hope is that kind of play translates to the month of November.

10. Missouri (4-4; LW: 12): After a very rough start to their SEC career, the Tigers finally got their first conference victory with a 33-10 win over Kentucky. Outside of a solid day from running back Kendial Lawrence, the offense continued to really struggle, but the defense helped a lot with three forced fumbles. A bowl is still in reach for Mizzou, but it has a tough November, starting with a trip to Gainesville to face the Gators.

11. Arkansas (3-5; LW: 9): Any bowl hopes the Razorbacks had are likely gone now after that tough loss to Ole Miss. With the November the Hogs have lined up, Saturday was a must-win. It's been a very trying season for this program, and right when it seemed like the Hogs were gaining momentum, they fell right back down with a crushing loss to the Rebels. We'll really see how much pride this team has in the coming weeks.

12. Tennessee (3-5; LW: 11): Another shootout results in another loss for the Vols. This defense has just been picked apart and gutted all year, and it was the same case against a South Carolina team that was eaten up by Florida's defense the week before. The Vols made a nice comeback late, but a fumble by Tyler Bray deep in South Carolina territory ruined the chance of a comeback win. Things are at a boiling point in Knoxville when it comes to Derek Dooley's job, and you can expect to hear a ton of chatter surrounding him and his job.

13. Auburn (1-7; LW: 13): Well, the good news from the Tigers' 40-point loss to Texas A&M is that Auburn might have finally found its quarterback in true freshman Jonathan Wallace. He completed six of his nine pass attempts for 122 yards and two touchdowns. But that really was the only real good news from the weekend. The fans really made a strong statement on the Plains by leaving the stadium pretty bare. Like Dooley, Gene Chizik is feeling a lot of heat surrounding his job, and that pregame message to fans and students from president Jay Gogue only amplified that.

14. Kentucky (1-8; LW: 14): The defense made things tough on Missouri on Saturday, but the offense just continued to sputter along with only 179 total yards. The young working parts are getting a ton of experience this season, but they are finding out just how tough it is to play in this league. Joker Phillips is feeling the heat when it comes to his job, but he has had to deal with a laundry list of injuries and a ton of young players in his third year as the Wildcats' head coach.

Midseason report: Missouri

October, 16, 2012
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MISSOURI

Record: 3-4 (0-4 SEC)

It’s been a very, very rough start for Missouri in its new home. The Tigers are starting to realize just how physical things are in the nation’s toughest conference, and the confidence they came in with has slowly washed away with the Tigers getting outscored by 78 points in SEC play.

Making matters worse is that this team has been stuck in the infirmary. The starting five on the offensive line that Missouri entered preseason camp with looked vastly different from the lines that have gone out each week because of injuries across the board. Travis Ruth has yet to play this season, while Jack Meiners has played some, but recently had knee surgery that will keep him out a few weeks.

Adding to the Tigers’ pain is the fact that quarterback James Franklin can’t stay healthy. First, it was his shoulder, now he’s dealing with a knee injury that will keep him out a few weeks. This offense just hasn’t found any sort of continuity with Franklin being in and out of the lineup, as Mizzou is 12th in the SEC in total offense (323.7 yards per game) and 11th in scoring (23.1).

The defense has held its own for the most part, but not getting much help from the offense has worn it out. The biggest bright spot might be punt returner Marcus Murphy, who leads the nation with three touchdowns and is third nationally in return average (18.9).

Offensive MVP: RB Kendial Lawrence: He’s been Missouri’s most consistent offensive player this season. The Tigers might not get much out of their passing game, but Lawrence has been a true workhorse for this team, rushing for 524 yards and five touchdowns. He’s averaging 5.5 yards per carry so far.

Defensive MVP: DT Sheldon Richardson: He might be Mizzou’s best overall player. Richardson has been a beast up front for the Tigers, leading Mizzou with 52 tackles, 7.5 for loss and four sacks. He’s been one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the entire conference this season, and had career-high 14 tackles against Alabama.

SEC power rankings: Week 6

October, 1, 2012
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Separation Saturday is approaching in the SEC ... but here are where our power rankings look to start the week:

1. Alabama (5-0; LW: 1): The Crimson Tide's offense didn't look great against Ole Miss and the defense actually gave up two touchdowns, but Alabama left the weekend with a 19-point win. Alabama looked a little lethargic out on the field, but the Rebels put up a better fight than most expected. This team has talked about cleaning up execution issues on offense and will get an extra week to do that with the bye here.

2. LSU (5-0; LW: 2): The Tigers are skating on thin ice in our power rankings. The previous week's sluggish win over Auburn was one thing, but the Tigers really struggled against Towson. What was most surprising about LSU's performance was how poorly the Tigers defended the run, as Towson gained 188 yards on the ground. One positive was that we finally saw more of a downfield passing game from Zach Mettenberger, and Odell Beckham Jr. stepped up in a big way at receiver.

3. Georgia (5-0; LW: 3): The Bulldogs could be considered 2b after the way LSU played, but Georgia's defense really struggled against Tennessee. We all knew the Vols had the potential to hurt this group, but Georgia's defense was absolutely gutted for 478 yards and gave up 37 of the Vols' 44 points. Things have to be cleaned up, but with the way that offense is playing, it's going to be tough for teams to keep up in a shootout with the Dawgs.

4. South Carolina (5-0; LW: 4): The Gamecocks gave their fans a bit of a scare after being down 10 to Kentucky at the half Saturday. All was forgiven after a dominating second half during which South Carolina outscored the Wildcats 31-0. Connor Shaw continues to throw the ball with splendid accuracy, while Marcus Lattimore is looking stronger and stronger out there. However, the Gamecocks can't afford a sluggish start against Georgia this weekend.

5. Florida (4-0; LW: 5): The Gators were off this weekend, so players got some much-needed rest and time to heal. It also gave Florida a little extra time to scout No. 4 LSU, which travels to the Swamp on Saturday. Florida has to feel a little more confident about this weekend after watching another ugly win by LSU. But expect the intensity to be way up for the Tigers. Saturday should be pretty fun to watch.

6. Mississippi State (4-0; LW: 6): The Bulldogs were on their bye over the weekend. Quietly, the Bulldogs have had a very impressive start to the season. Their past two games should have been won by bigger margins, but this team is still undefeated and has the potential to be a 6-1 or 7-0 team heading into the last weekend of the month. On the season, only five teams have trailed for less time than Mississippi State.

7. Texas A&M (3-1; LW: 8): The Aggies just keep pounding away on offense. Johnny Manziel and his crew walked all over Arkansas' defense, racking up 716 yards of offense and 58 points in their blowout win against the reeling Razorbacks. We know that Texas A&M can score points and generate a lot of yards, but we saw a little too much bend out of A&M's defense against the Hogs, as they surrendered 515 yards to Arkansas.

8. Tennessee (3-2; LW: 7): We saw a lot more fight out of Tennessee when Georgia went up 17 in the second quarter. The Vols had a couple of real chances to win in Athens, Ga., over the weekend, but late turnovers doomed them. Cue the questions surrounding Tyler Bray in big games. The defense looked overwhelmed and lost at times, but this team can take solace in one thing: It appears Tennessee has found a real SEC running back in Rajion Neal.

9. Missouri (3-2; LW: 9): James Franklin was better throwing the ball on Saturday, but this team has some offensive issues. The Tigers converted just 1 of 11 third downs and were outgained 395-346 against UCF on Saturday. Kendial Lawrence rushed for 104 yards, but Mizzou finished the day with a total of 89 rushing yards, thanks to Franklin's minus-18 yards on the ground. There are just too many athletes on this offense for the Tigers not to be explosive. Right now, they are hurting to find consistent firepower.

10. Ole Miss (3-2; LW: 10): Yes, the Rebels lost, but it's clear this team is more invested and tougher than the past two teams Ole Miss has thrown out there. The Rebels gave Alabama a little bit of a challenge and made it to the end zone twice against Alabama's vaunted defense. This team has to clean up a lot on defense, but that offense has the ability to carry this team to a few more wins this season ... maybe even a bowl berth.

11. Auburn (1-3; LW: 11): The good news for the Tigers is that they got to rest this weekend. The hope is that Auburn's defense takes the momentum it gained from its performance against LSU into this weekend's key game against Arkansas. Arkansas can move the ball, and Auburn's defense struggled mightily for most of September. This is a must-win for both teams and with the way Arkansas' defense has played, Auburn has to feel more comfortable with what its struggling offense can do.

12. Vanderbilt (1-3; LW: 13): The Commodores were off as well, and extra time had to be devoted to tweaking some of the offense. Vandy enters its game at Missouri with the SEC's No. 11 offense and we haven't seen the kind of explosion we saw last year. It doesn't help that there's a quarterback controversy in Nashville. Despite what happened in the Georgia game, the Commodores still own one of the league's top defensive units and provide a tough matchup for Missouri this weekend.

13. Arkansas (1-4; LW: 12): Things just get worse and worse for the Razorbacks. If Tyler Wilson thought his team quit against Alabama, you have to wonder how he feels after the way his Hogs were run out of College Station, Texas, over the weekend. That defense is dreadful and this team is just lost. The offense put up a lot of yards against Texas A&M, but couldn't finish drives and never developed any consistency running the ball. Losing to Auburn this weekend would pretty much end any ounce of hope for a bowl game this year.

14. Kentucky (1-4; LW: 14): For two quarters, Kentucky was on top of the world. Then, things fell apart, and South Carolina scored 31 straight points on the Wildcats. Things just aren't clicking for the Wildcats, and quarterback Maxwell Smith is injured again. This time, he has an ankle injury. This offense just can't do much unless he's in, and he can't stay healthy. The defense has to get tougher, as well. Joker Phillips' hot seat in Kentucky isn't cooling off one bit.

Missouri finds a way to survive

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
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Missouri still doesn’t look SEC-ready, but the Tigers found a way to grind one out Saturday on the road in a game they absolutely had to have to keep this season afloat.

After trailing at the half, Missouri made just enough plays to slip past UCF 21-16 and generate a little momentum heading into a critical stretch.

The Tigers (3-2, 0-2) return home for back-to-back games against Vanderbilt and Alabama the next two weeks, and then get a bye before traveling to Kentucky.

After giving up a total of 72 points in its two SEC losses this season, Missouri relied on big plays in all three phases of the game to escape with one of those wins that will probably look a lot better a month and a half from now.

Prized freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckham scored his first touchdown of the season on an 80-yard reception. Marcus Murphy returned his third punt of the season for a touchdown, this one a 66-yarder to put Missouri ahead 14-10 in the third quarter.

Kendial Lawrence also had a huge 33-yard run when it looked like he might be tackled in the backfield. He followed that up with a 10-yard touchdown run to make it a 21-10 game, and Tigers’ defense sealed the win later in the final quarter when Sheldon Richardson pounced on a UCF fumble.

It was the 23rd consecutive game that Missouri had forced a turnover, and couldn’t have come at a better time for the Tigers.
Missouri quarterback James Franklin doesn’t mind doing a little bit of everything, but he also knows he doesn’t have to do everything.

He has plenty of help.

And if the Tigers’ season opener is any indication, that help will come from a lot of different places this season.

“We have a lot of playmakers on this team, and I’m talking about defense and special teams, too,” Franklin said. “That takes a lot of pressure off the offense. Any time you can change a game with one play, that’s a huge help in getting the momentum flowing your way.”

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Spruce Derden/US PresswireMissouri QB James Franklin said he will continue to run despite having to regularly face rugged defenses in the SEC.
Franklin made quite a name for himself as a playmaker a year ago in the Big 12. In his first season as the starter, Franklin made a run at 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing. He ended the season with 2,865 passing yards and 21 touchdowns, also rushing for 981 yards and a team-leading 15 touchdowns.

“He’s one of those guys that, the more you watch him play, the more he impresses you with everything he can do,” said Missouri senior receiver T.J. Moe, the Tigers’ leading receiver last season. “He can beat you a number of different ways.”

Franklin, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior, thinks the same can be said for this entire team.

“It’s a huge comfort level for me, that I have the playmakers around me who are capable of getting so much done,” Franklin said. “It’s really nice as a quarterback knowing that you don’t have to make the perfect throw or the perfect read on every play. With the guys I have around me, you hand it off or throw it 5 or 10 yards and they’re going to turn it into a big play.”

Franklin wasn’t called on to do much in the 62-10 season-opening rout of Southeastern Louisiana. He threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Moe to open the Tigers’ scoring but was done by the midway point of the third quarter.

Missouri scored four non-offensive touchdowns in the game, including punt returns of 72 and 70 yards by sophomore tailback Marcus Murphy. Senior tailback Kendial Lawrence, who was slowed by a cracked fibula early last season, also had a 76-yard touchdown run.

Defensively, the Tigers aren’t very big, but they’re fast and added an interception return and fumble return for touchdowns last week.

“There are always going to be those times when you have a tough couple of drives on offense, but nothing gets a team going like a kick return for a touchdown or a touchdown on defense,” Franklin said. “I don’t think you’ve seen the last of that from this team.”

For Franklin’s part, he wants to be more consistent this season, and he knows that will have to start this weekend against No. 7 Georgia. The Bulldogs were hard on opposing quarterbacks last season and had a stretch when they knocked several out of games.

“I want to be smarter with the ball and do the little things to get the ball in my playmakers’ hands,” said Franklin, who threw 11 interceptions last season. “I just want to be more consistent as a player and not have as many ups and downs.”

And, yes, he still plans to run when the situation calls for it – even against SEC defenses.

Franklin said somebody on Twitter tagged him after South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw was injured running the ball against Vanderbilt in the opener.

“They said something like, ‘I hope James Franklin is watching this game, that quarterbacks don’t run in the SEC,’” recounted Franklin, who said he hasn’t had any problems out of his surgically repaired right (throwing) shoulder.

“I thought it was funny but didn’t let it get under my skin. It’s not going to affect the way I play the game. Maybe it motivates you, and maybe you work harder, but none of us are focused on what other people are saying.

“We’re a lot more grounded than that.”

Weekend SEC scrimmage notes

August, 13, 2012
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A handful of SEC teams took to the practice field to conduct scrimmages over the weekend. Here are some notes from some of the scrimmages:

ALABAMA

  • Junior quarterback Aj McCarron led the way for the offense, completing 19 of 29 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. Running back Eddie Lacy led all rushers with 57 yards on eight carries, and caught a scrimmage-best five passes for 25 yards. Jalston Fowler ran seven times for 34 yards and a score, and T.J. Yeldon had 24 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Kevin Norwood led all receivers with 61 yards on two catches, and freshman linebacker Trey DePriest stood out on defense with five tackles and an interception.
  • For more on Alabama's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.
ARKANSAS

  • Quarterback Tyler Wilson had another solid performance, completing 21 of 39 passes for 288 yards, with four touchdowns and the interception. However, it was Arkansas' defense that commanded most of the attention. Arkansas' defense racked up 12 sacks, 27 tackles for losses and forced two turnovers.
  • Arkansas' offense scored touchdowns on just five of its 12 possessions, but quarterback-turned-wide receiver Brandon Mitchell was a major part of the offense, catching nine passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
  • You can find more on Arkansas' scrimmage here.
LSU

  • Quarterback Zach Mettenberger had a solid outing during the Tigers' first fall scrimmage. He led all passers with 190 yards and two touchdowns on 15 of 30 passing. He connected with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for a 55-yard touchdown pass, and hit James Wright for a 31-yard touchdown.
  • Beckham Jr. led all receivers with four catches for 101 yards, and Wright caught four passes for 57 yards. Freshman running back Jeremy Hill was the team's top rusher, with 71 yards on just nine carries.
  • Junior cornerback Tharold Simon stood out on defense with two tackles, one sack and an interception.
  • For more on LSU's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.
MISSOURI

  • It seems as though quarterback James Franklin is healing well after shoulder surgery this spring. During Mizzou's first scrimmage, he completed 18 of 22 passes for 228 yards. He completed his first nine passes for 111 yards before throwing his first incompletion. Freshman Maty Mauk added 152 yards on 25 of 36 passing.
  • Running back Kendial Lawrence had the lone touchdown of the day when he ended a 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Lawrence also carried 11 times for a team-high 37 yards, and caught six passes for 50 yards. Jimmie Hunt led all receivers with 68 yards on six catches.
  • For more on Missouri's practice, check out the school's official website.
OLE MISS

  • The Rebels' quarterbacks struggled during Ole Miss' scrimmage. Both completed fewer than 50 percent of their passes, with Bo Wallace passing for 145 yards and Barry Brunetti passing for 94 yards. Brunetti also threw two interceptions.
  • The running game was much more productive, as I'Tavius Mathers ran for 47 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, and Jaylen Walton rushed for 30 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.
  • For more on Ole Miss' scrimmage, check here and here.
SOUTH CAROLINA

  • A lot is expected from freshman wide receiver Shaq Roland, and he had a pretty solid debut for the Gamecocks. He led all receivers with 59 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
  • Running back Brandon Wilds was the top rusher of the day, getting 40 yards on three carries, and Marcus Lattimore, who is coming back from his season-ending knee injury, carried the ball four times for 25 yards.
  • Quarterback Connor Shaw threw for 108 yards and a touchdown, but backup Andrew Clifford led the quarterbacks with 122 yards and two scores.
  • For more on South Carolina's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.
TENNESSEE

  • Quarterback Tyler Bray had no problem finding his favorite receiving targets during the Vols' scrimmage. He hit Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter 13 times, with Rogers grabbing six passes for a team-high 105 yards. Hunter caught seven passes for 47 yards.
  • Tennessee' offense also did well running the ball. The Vols' totaled 295 rushing yards, with 134 coming from junior running back Rajion Neal.
  • For more on Tennessee's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.
TEXAS A&M

  • Freshman running back Trey Williams had a solid debut Saturday, rushing for 125 yards and two touchdowns on six carries during the first half of the Aggies' scrimmage. His highlight of the day came on a 76-yard touchdown run.
  • The Aggies showcased a tremendous pass rush last season, and continued that trend during the scrimmage, registering four sacks in the first half, including two from defensive end Damontre Moore.
  • For more on Texas A&M's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.
VANDERBILT

  • It was all about offense for the Commodores on Saturday night. Vandy's offense scored eight touchdowns in the 105-play scrimmage.
  • Running back Zac Stacy got it going again during the third-down situation portion of the scrimmage with a 40-yard run on the first play. The offense finished the third-down situations 8 of 14.
  • Freshman Brian Kimbrow had a solid debut, leading rushers with 112 yards. Stacy racked up 98 rushing yards, and quarterback Jordan Rodgers passed for 153 yards and a touchdown.
  • For more on Vandy's scrimmage, check out the school's official website.

One good reason: Missouri

July, 27, 2012
7/27/12
4:30
PM ET
Our "One good reason" series continues with one of the SEC's new members -- the Missouri Tigers.

Good reasons:
Let's see what might be in store for the Tigers in their first year in the SEC:

Missouri will have the SEC's East's best offense: The Tigers have solid balance, talent and experience.

Sure, the Tigers are coming into the SEC sporting one of those flashy spread offenses. It's an offense that had been quite successful in the Big 12, but these defenses are a different breed in SEC country. Well, Missouri isn't too worried about all of that talk. The Tigers aren't bringing their offense over without some experience to go with it. Quarterback James Franklin might be the league's best dual-theat quarterback and the coaching staff is very excited about the weapons he'll be throwing to, starting with reliable senior T.J. Moe and junior deep threats Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington. Oh, and there's that true freshman Dorial Green-Beckham, who should be pretty decent as well. So Missouri's offensive line might be a little undersized for the SEC's liking and three starters from last year are gone. To the Tigers those two things mean very little because they technically return an entire line that has starting experience and they are very comfortable with the weight their linemen are at. This line wasn't much bigger last year, and Missouri was still first in the Big 12 in rushing and 12th nationally in total offense. Running back Henry Josey might not be back this season, but Kendial Lawrence and Marcus Murphy appear more than ready to fill in.

Missouri is facing new defenses, yes, but the SEC East will have to adjust to the Tigers as well. The spread has worked before in the SEC, just look at Florida under Urban Meyer -- minus 2010. And the other offenses in the SEC still have questions. Georgia's running game is filled with questions now that Isaiah Crowell is gone. Florida's is loaded with unproven players, and South Carolina still has to see if Connor Shaw will truly be a pass-first quarterback and if running back Marcus Lattimore will be 100 percent. Tennessee will likely have the division's best passing game, but what about the running game? It was awful last year.

The Tigers insist they know what they're getting out of their offense because there is good experience across the board and the talent isn't too shabby.

Why it won't: There are some pretty good defenses in the East.

While the Tigers are very confident about their offense, they'll have to tangle with some pretty good defenses this fall. South Carolina, Georgia and Florida all ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense last year, while Vanderbilt ranked 18th and Tennessee ranked 27th. Vandy might have the toughest time duplicating last year's production, as the Commodores are replacing some key defensive starters, but the other units are expected to be better this fall, and that has to be a little of a concerning for the Tigers.

For all of the speed that Missouri says it has on offense, the defenses the Tigers will face in the East might be just as fast. Georgia and Florida both return 10 defensive starters, Tennessee returns nine, Vanderbilt returns seven, and South Carolina returns six. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel says he doesn't want to change much about his offense, but it wouldn't be a surprise if the Tigers have to go under center more or attach one of those tight ends to the line in order to give Franklin and that backfield more time.
We continue our position rankings by looking at some of the hardest working players in the league. Running backs are very important in the SEC and more is always better around these parts.

Past rankings:
On to the running backs:

[+] EnlargeSpencer Ware
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesThe powerful Spencer Ware should be a key part of LSU's running back depth this upcoming season.
1. LSU: The Tigers claim the top spot thanks to depth, talent and more depth. They have five guys back there who could start for a lot of teams. Michael Ford is the speed guy. Spencer Ware is a bruiser who also has great cutting ability, Alfred Blue is extremely versatile and strong, and Kenny Hilliard is an even bigger bruiser. This group combined for 2,338 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns last fall. Keep an eye out for freshman Jeremy Hill, too.

2. South Carolina: Marcus Lattimore alone would warrant the Gamecocks being near the top. All reports coming out of Columbia are that he’s healthy and ready to pick up where he left off when he hurt his knee. Sophomore Brandon Wilds was excellent in filling in for Lattimore last season, veteran Kenny Miles has said he will be back for his senior season and the talented Shon Carson should be back after his ACL injury.

3. Arkansas: It was a close call between the Hogs and the Gamecocks. Similar to Lattimore, Knile Davis insists he’s as good as new after missing all of last season with a fractured ankle. Dennis Johnson can do a little bit of everything and certainly won’t be forgotten about in the Hogs’ offense, while Ronnie Wingo Jr. returns for his senior season.

4. Alabama: Eddie Lacy gets his shot to be the Crimson Tide’s feature back now that Trent Richardson is gone, but Nick Saban prefers to share the wealth. Who wouldn’t when you’ve got a true freshman on campus as talented as T.J. Yeldon? Don’t forget about Dee Hart, either. Hart would have played some last season had he not been injured. And Jalston Fowler adds another big, bruising body to Bama's backfield.

5. Texas A&M: If the NCAA rules that Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams is eligible this season, the Aggies may move up this list. Williams was sensational this spring, and Christine Michael also returns after rushing for 899 yards last season prior to tearing his ACL. In addition, incoming freshman Trey Williams was one of the premier running back prospects in the country.

6. Vanderbilt: We're still not sure what Warren Norman can do, as he returns from his knee injury. Jerron Seymour is a do-it-all guy. The centerpiece of the Commodores’ offense will again be Zac Stacy, who set a school record last season with 1,193 rushing yards. He’s the leading returning rusher in the SEC. Highly-touted freshman Brian Kimbrow could also be used at running back.

7. Mississippi State: The competition this preseason at running back ought to be fierce at Mississippi State. Speedy LaDarius Perkins is the likely starter, but the Bulldogs’ coaches can’t wait to see what a healthy Nick Griffin can do. There are two talented redshirt freshmen -- Josh Robinson and Derek Milton -- who’ve also been waiting their turn.

8. Georgia: Losing Isaiah Crowell was a real blow for the Bulldogs, but they’re not lacking in talent. We won’t have to wait long to see if true freshman Keith Marshall is the real deal, but he's at his best when he's in space or used in the passing game. Ken Malcome had a very good spring and was a co-starter heading into summer. Incoming freshman Todd Gurley will be called upon this fall as well.

9. Auburn: Onterio McCalebb remains one of the top breakaway threats in the league, but he's going to need help. Tre Mason could emerge as the Tigers' every-down back. Transfers Mike Blakely and Corey Grant also impressed this spring and will add good depth. Either way, losing a player the caliber of Michael Dyer always stings.

10. Missouri: People forget that Kendial Lawrence was the starter before he went down with an injury last year. He regrouped well and was even better this spring. Marcus Murphy was out last season with a shoulder injury, but will be back and adds explosion to the backfield. Big-bodied rising senior Jared McGriff-Culver returns and should get carries along with redshirt sophomore Greg White. It still looks as though leading rusher Henry Josey won't be healthy enough for the fall.

11. Florida: Mike Gillislee has been inconsistent during his career, but is perhaps the key to the team and is the first downhill runner Florida has had since Tim Tebow. The Gators also hope this is the year finally Mack Brown comes on. Hunter Joyer might be best true fullback in the league and Trey Burton will also play a role as an H-back/fullback.

12. Tennessee: The Vols will be searching this preseason for their go-to back. Junior Rajion Neal has gotten bigger and stronger and may be the most explosive back. He left spring practice tied with an improved Marlin Lane and Devrin Young for the starting spot. Tennessee's rushing game has to improve greatly, as it ranked 116th nationally last year.

13. Kentucky: All four top rushers are back, but none eclipsed the 500-yard mark last year. The Wildcats hope Josh Clemons can recover from a knee injury that cut short his promising freshman season. CoShik Williams was Kentucky's leading rusher last year (486) and is one of the Wildcats' more elusive backs. Jonathan George will be in the mix again, while Raymond Sanders figures to be healthier this fall.

14. Ole Miss: The Rebels can’t afford to lose top back Jeff Scott, whose academics are still being monitored. Seniors Devin Thomas and H.R. Greer provide depth, but have combined for 125 career rushing yards. Redshirt sophomore Nicholas Parker has dealt with shape issues and has yet to see any game action, while Tobias Singleton moved from receiver to running back this spring. The Rebels will have to turn to their incoming freshmen for help here.

Missouri spring wrap

May, 15, 2012
5/15/12
8:30
AM ET
2011 record: 8-5
2011 conference record: 5-4

Returning starters

Offense: 6; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

OT Elvis Fisher, RB Henry Josey (injured), QB James Franklin, OT Justin Britt, WR T.J. Moe, DE Brad Madison, LB Andrew Wilson, CB E.J. Gaines, CB Kip Edwards, LB Will Ebner, LB Zaviar Gooden

Key losses

OG Austin Wuebbels, OT Dan Hoch, OG Jayson Palmgren, TE Michael Egnew, WR Wes Kemp, NG Dominique Hamilton, DE Jacquies Smith, S Kenji Jackson, LB Luke Lambert

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Henry Josey* (1,168 Yards)
Passing: James Franklin* (2,865 yards)
Receiving: T.J. Moe* (649 yards)
Tackles: Andrew Wilson* (98)
Sacks: Jacquies Smith (5)
Interceptions: Kenji Jackson (3)

Spring answers

1. Lucas' development: Missouri entered the spring looking for a downfield receiving threat at wide receiver and left feeling much better about the situation. T.J. Moe returns as the most productive receiver, but he's not a deep-play threat. The coaches are hoping Marcus Lucas can be that guy. He had a very solid spring in Columbia and was much more consistent in practices. He got over some of his lazy tendencies and showed off more explosiveness in Missouri's vertical passing game. With L'Damian Washington banged up, Lucas took full advantage of getting more reps.

2. Running back depth: Kendial Lawrence picked up where he left off last season. With Henry Josey's status still doubtful for the fall, Lawrence is the unquestioned leader of the group. Behind him, offensive coordinator David Yost was impressed by redshirt sophomore Marcus Murphy, who missed 2011 with a shoulder injury. Murphy showed the big-play ability that the coaches coveted his freshman year. The big Jared McGriff-Culver will be used at running back, a blocker and an H-back, while redshirt sophomore Greg White showed a lot of improvement this spring and is in line for carries this fall.

3. Mizzou's confidence: All this SEC talk is getting to Missouri. It's not that the Tigers aren't excited about their move. They're just tired of hearing about how tough it will be, and they're tired of answering adjustment questions. Yost and his players made it clear that the offense isn't changing a whole lot to their spread attack. That's what this team wants and it doesn't matter what others think. Gary Pinkel is the eighth-winningest active coach in the FBS, with his 158 wins, so he knows how to win. He's done plenty of it at Mizzou and intends to continue that in the SEC. He and his players know it won't be easy, but they have the right attitude and confidence entering the league's toughest football conference.

Fall questions

1. Defensive tackle: The depth at defensive tackle is a concern for the Tigers entering the summer, as Missouri is looking to replace both starters up front. With Sheldon Richardson rehabbing from shoulder surgery this spring and Marvin Foster, who was expected to be No. 2 at defensive tackle, tearing his ACL before spring, Missouri entered the spring with four tackles having six combined starts. All of them are from rising senior Jimmy Burge. Strides were made by Lucas Vincent, and former tight end-turned-tackle Matt Hoch, but there's no doubt that coaches are worried about depth.

2. Offensive line: Missouri's coaches insist there is more experience than meets the eye on the offensive line, but with Anthony Gatti, Mark Hill and Connor McGovern banged up, the offensive line had holes to work around this spring. Sixth-year senior Elvis Fisher will be back, but even he was limited this spring as he recovered from the knee injury he suffered last offseason. When this unit is healthy, there is experience to be found, but Mizzou still has to replace three quality linemen and there's also that issue of being a much lighter unit than most lines in the league.

3. Size: Both of Missouri's lines are lacking in the size department, but it doesn't look like the coaches are ready to change that anytime soon. Yost said he's happy with an offensive line that averages roughly 295 pounds. The defensive line comes in at about 262 pounds as well. While SEC linemen get a lot of credit for their athleticism, they also pack a little more girth than what Mizzou has. The coaches say it won't be a problem, and they say players will combat size with strength, making offseason workouts even more critical. This is something to monitor on as the season progresses. If these lines wear down it will be a long first year for the Tigers.

Top performer: Running back

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
10:00
AM ET
Our look at the SEC's most productive returning players in 2012 continues with the running backs.

Past producers:
Just five of the top 10 statistical rushers return in 2012. The league's top two rushers from last year -- Trent Richardson and Michael Dyer -- are gone, leaving the race wide open for the title as the SEC's best running back this fall.

Here is the conference's top returning producer at running back:

Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt: He ranked third in the SEC in rushing with 1,193 yards and was second only to Richardson with 14 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry and 5.7 yards per carry in SEC games, while scoring seven of his rushing touchdowns in those contests. In four of Stacy's last seven games, he rushed for more than 100 yards an outing. In those games, he averaged 161.3 yards. Twelve of his 14 rushing touchdowns came in the last seven games of the season. Stacy isn't the biggest back in the league, but he can be quite elusive and has great vision. His speed gives him the ability to break long runs if the right hole opens up.

The SEC returns four more of the top 10 statistical rushers from a year ago:
  • Isaiah Crowell, Georgia: He rushed for 850 yards, five touchdowns and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
  • Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: In barely seven games, he rushed for 818 yards, 10 touchdowns and averaged 5 yards per carry.
  • Michael Ford, LSU: He rushed for 756 yards, seven touchdowns and averaged 6 yards per carry.
  • Spencer Ware, LSU: He rushed for 707 yards, eight touchdowns and averaged 4 yards per carry.

Lattimore would have been much more productive and probably would have challenged Richardson as the SEC's best back if not for his ACL injury halfway through the season. A totally healthy Lattimore is arguably the nation's top running back in 2012.

But don't forget about Arkansas' Knile Davis. Davis burst onto the scene back in 2010, after he rushed for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns. However, he missed all of the 2011 season with a broken ankle. He didn't go through contact this spring, but Arkansas' coaches expect him to be 100 percent this fall. He probably isn't as powerful as Lattimore between the tackles, but he's faster and more agile. He'll be extremely fun to watch this fall.

Eddie Lacy just missed the cut because he finished the year ranked 11th in the SEC in rushing and now takes over for Richardson. He'll have a couple of other players to work with, but Lacy will be in charge of Alabama's running game and if he can overcome some nagging injuries, he'll be tough to stop this fall.

Newcomers Kendial Lawrence at Missouri or Texas A&M's Christine Michael will challenge for top dog, too. Even though Michael shared carries with Cyrus Gray and tore his ACL against Oklahoma halfway through the year, he ranked eighth in the Big 12 in rushing (899 yards). He was ahead of schedule this spring with his rehab.

Lawrence finished with 566 yards last year, after starter Henry Josey went down with a devastating knee injury. He took the majority of the reps this spring and while he isn't the biggest guy, he'll make defenders work to bring him down.

There are a host of talented players flying under the radar as well, so don't be shocked if some unheralded guys make some noise this fall.
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri is bringing some unconventional offensive looks to the SEC, but there is one part of the Tigers’ offense that coach Gary Pinkel is sure will fit right in -- there's plenty to work with in his running game.

“The depth at that position is always critical,” Pinkel said. “That means you probably need four guys ready to go (in a game).”

If you can’t run the ball in the SEC you won’t get very far. Last season, six SEC teams -- LSU, Alabama, South Carolina Auburn, Mississippi State and Georgia -- ranked in the top 40 nationally in rushing. But none ranked higher than Missouri, which was 11th, averaging 244 yards per game.

As Missouri gets ready for the offseason, it does so with a lot of confidence in its running game yet again.

Missouri will likely be without last year’s leading rusher in Henry Josey, who suffered a devastating knee injury against Texas last year but was still second in the Big 12 in rushing. However, it’s not like Missouri will have a stranger taking over.

Before anyone had even really heard of Josey, Kendial Lawrence was Missouri’s starting running back. He broke his fibula during the second practice week of the season and missed three games, paving the way for Josey. Lawrence then returned against Texas, rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown. He went on to average 93 yards in the last four games of the season – all wins – and score three touchdowns.

“There’s no question Kendial Lawrence can be our lead back and we can win games with him,” offensive coordinator David Yost said.

For the 5-foot-9, 195-pound Lawrence, this spring was about slowing down what he saw in order to speed his game up on the field. Even when Lawrence was the undisputed starter, he admits he rushed a lot of what he did and wasn’t patient, which stunted his development.

This spring, Lawrence changed his approach. He studied film more to find better holes on tape. Once Lawrence could focus and trust in his line, he was able to make bigger and better plays because he could play both outside and in between the tackles.

“I just hit it when I get it,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence won’t be alone. Big-bodied rising senior Jared McGriff-Culver, who rushed for 111 yards last season is back and will be used as both a running back, a blocking back and an H-back. Redshirt sophomore Greg White improved a lot this spring and redshirt sophomore Marcus Murphy returned after missing the 2011 season with a shoulder injury.

Murphy made a few big plays in practice this spring and is in line to get a good amount of carries this fall.

Yost also said he can throw receivers into the backfield for direct snaps, use the read option and jet sweeps in his run attack.

“We can also put those wrinkles in and try to give people different looks and try to stretch people in different ways because we’re not just going to line up with a tight end and two backs in the backfield and say, ‘Hey, see if you can stop us running the power,’” Yost said. “That’s not what we do and it’s not what we’re going to hang our hat on.”

What Missouri can hang its hat on is the fact its quarterback can run too. James Franklin was second on the team in rushing, and sixth in the Big 12 last season with 981 yards and 15 touchdowns.

While Franklin would like to be more of a pass-first player this fall, his coaches understand they’ll need his feet just as much this fall.

“It’s easy to fall in love with running the quarterback because that’s the guy a lot of defenses have the hardest time defending,” Yost said.

That’s because a running quarterback opens things up the passing game and takes defensive attention away from running backs.

Lawrence respects Franklin’s ability, but he wants the running backs to be the reason SEC defenses have a hard time stopping Mizzou. Franklin can do a lot, Lawrence said, but a group of running backs can help to pound opposing defenses and create more balance.

“It’s real important because you don’t want to be one dimensional,” he said said. “You want to give the defense different looks every time in running and passing and different situations that will put them in a bind.”

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