The Maneater

Crockett, Rountree not providing spark needed through two games

After a slow start, running backs Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree are looking to give Mizzou a more consistent rushing attack.

Sophomore running back Larry Rountree III stretches out before a fall camp practice at the Missouri Athletics Training Center on August 13, 2018.

Larry Rountree III knows what he needs to do. It’s just a matter of doing it.

The Missouri running game that he helps spearhead has been off to a quiet start to 2018, but that hasn’t stopped his focus or determination. In a span of 90 seconds after practice on Tuesday, he said some variation of “go get it” four times while talking to reporters.

“We’ve just gotta go get it when there’s nothing to go get,” he said. “When there’s nothing there we just still gotta get it.”

The “it” to which Rountree refers isn’t a tangible object, but just making plays and contributing as much as possible to the offense.

“It’s just every chance that me or Damarea [Crockett] or [Tyler] Badie get or Dawson [Downing] gets,” Rountree said. “You know, we’ve gotta make a play for the team.”

Through the first two games of the season, Rountree and his fellow primary running back, Damarea Crockett, have averaged just 3.8 and 3.7 yards per carry, respectively. Their lack of production hasn’t hurt the Tigers so far, but with teams far better than UT-Martin and Wyoming looming on the schedule, they know they need more.

As Derek Dooley put it Tuesday after practice, they have made the “efficient” runs when they’ve needed to on short-gain necessities; but the “explosiveness” is what’s missing.

“I’m a pretty honest guy, and no disrespect to anyone,” Crockett prefaced, “but it hasn’t been what it should be and me and Larry know that. We’re working hard every day in practice to come out and do what we can do but until then it’s gonna be that.”

The coaching staff echoed the sentiments of the backs but also offered some positive takeaways from the last two weeks.

“We have to run the ball better,” Dooley said bluntly. “We’ve gotta finish blocks better, we’ve gotta make defensive backs miss when we’re 1-on-1s in space, and gotta get us in the right checks.”

Dooley did, however, defend the low number of yards per attempt with that “efficiency” argument.

“We have been efficient in the run game,” he said. “Efficient meaning, if it’s second-and-2 and we get a 3-yard gain for a first down, that’s an efficient run.”

Coach Barry Odom expressed confidence in the unit despite the slow start.

“I think really all three of our backs [Crockett, Rountree and Badie] will have a vital role in either the number of snaps or the number of touches that we target them with,” he said. “I think all three have ability to help our team and help our offense in the way that we’re calling the game.”

That idea that the running backs are better than what they’ve shown so far was a common theme around practice Tuesday.

“Obviously guys are pushing the run game, but in my mind I don’t have a doubt every time I show up,” said Crockett, who was on pace for his second consecutive 1,000 yard rushing season last year before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. “I’m not really gonna stress about it or nothing. I’m just gonna keep coming, working hard every day, staying grounded and bringing it.”

If they keep bringing it, “efficient” won’t be enough. As SEC play approaches, it’s time to match the descriptor for Drew Lock’s passing game. It’s time to get explosive.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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