One’s listed at 5 feet, 9 inches, 180 pounds. The other is listed at 5 feet, 10 inches, 190 pounds. They play the same position for the same team. They have similar running styles. They both hail from Texas. Their faces look a lot alike, too.
And now, after a week of practice under his belt, the comparisons of Russell Hansbrough to Henry Josey are becoming warranted.
Hansbrough, a freshman who has been dubbed “Little Josey” by redshirt senior tailback Jared McGriff-Culver, continued to show the parallelism between he and Josey beyond physical appearance Thursday morning during Missouri’s second scrimmage of fall camp.
The Arlington, Texas, native totaled 39 yards and one touchdown on six carries to go along with a seven-yard reception. Hansbrough was outgained on the ground by only sophomore backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser (43 yards).
Thursday’s performance was just another in a string of consecutive impressive practice performances turned in by Hansbrough, who has been eluding defenders in his first week of practice, after missing the first week and a half or so of camp due to an ankle injury.
Most of the snaps he’s taken have come against the third-string defense, but his effectiveness has turned more than a few heads.
“You can see him coming along,” offensive coordinator David Yost said. “He’s a guy we’re still evaluating, but he’s shown some glimpses of a guy who could get on the field this year”
Yost made sure to point out Hansbrough has “fresh legs” compared to his teammates after missing a chunk of practice time, but had high praise for the youngster’s aggressive running style.
“For not being the biggest guy, he’s a physical runner,” Yost said. “He runs with a low center of gravity and he brings a ‘whomp.’ He’s not afraid to throw it up in there.”
While not afraid to pack a punch, Hansbrough’s calling card has been his shiftiness in the open field. Yost referenced a play from earlier this week during run drills, in which he ran left and cut back right before spinning off a would-be tackler and backtracking to beat the defenders in pursuit around the edge. Yost said he couldn’t recall ever seeing someone spin all the way around that quickly.
Yost wasn’t the only one to notice.
“With his fastness and his shiftiness, you don’t really know where he’s going to be at or how he’s going to get there, but you know he’s going to get down the field because he’s that fast,” McGriff-Culver said.
The player Hansbrough is compared to likes what he’s seen also.
“He’s kind of grown on me,” said Josey, who broke out last season to become one of the nation’s leading rushers before being sidelined for the season with a knee injury. “At first I was like, ‘He doesn’t look like me, he doesn’t play like me’, but now I see him as a little brother and I’m out here telling him pretty much anything that I was messing up my freshman year. He’s looking great, he does remind me of myself a lot with the way he moves and I like that.”
Josey is currently sidelined rehabbing his knee. His status for later on this season remains unknown, but Josey says the progress he’s made of late is “crazy” and that he’s ahead of schedule.
In Josey’s absence, senior Kendial Lawrence and sophomore Marcus Murphy figure to see the majority of reps at tailback, but coach Gary Pinkel recently hinted the coaching staff would like to see one of the freshmen tailbacks (Miles Drummond, Hansbrough and Morgan Steward) earn their way into a spot in the rotation.
It would appear Hansbrough is on the right track to do just that.
During team stretches at Friday morning’s practice, Hansbrough lined up as the third running back, behind Lawrence and Murphy.
How quickly Hansbrough has become comfortable with his assignments has played a big role in his early successes, according to Yost.
“Each time he does it, he gets more and more comfortable with it,” Yost said. “Yesterday at practice there were a couple times he was getting pretty deep in the pistol formation just so he could see. Now today he was tighter.”
When Josey went down with his knee injury last season, he was the Big 12 Conference’s leading rusher. The sky was seemingly the limit for him. And while that’s currently on hold, that’s where Josey sees yet another parallel between himself and Hansbrough.
“He’s got it,” Josey said. “He’s going to be great while he’s here, the sky is the limit for him.”