Heading into the spring, ShowMeMizzou.com takes a look at Missouri's tailback position, which with the early departure of the Tigers' leading ground gainer from 2013, Henry Josey, is for now a little thin.
In 2013, Hansbrough played in all 14 games and finished the season with 114 carries for 685 yards and 4 TDs (6.0 yards/carry) on the ground, and with 2 receptions for 11 yards.
Likewise, during the 2013 season, Murphy had 92 carries from the line of scrimmage for 601 yards and 9 TDs (6.5 yards/carry) on the ground, in addition to 11 receptions for 79 yards and 1 TD. And, as Mizzou's primary return man, the multi-purpose back also returned 21 punts for 146 yards (7.0 yards/punt return) and 27 kick-offs for 599 yards (22.2 yards/kick return).
The third scholarship back on the roster this spring is sophomore Morgan Steward, who in 2013 played in 12 games for the Tigers, as he was a regular on special teams, where he made 4 tackles and forced a fumble. He also carried the football 21 times for 84 yards and 1 TD. Steward showed considerable promise, and he came on near mid-season. He was doing a good job of running the football in the second half of the season, when some of Missouri's leading backs were banged up. But a fumble at Kentucky was his final carry of the season.
Steward will need to bounce back and regain the career momentum he had established prior to that fumble. His progress and development this spring, and heading into the 2014 season, is very important for Missouri, and will be closely monitored.
Sharing second-team reps with Steward this spring will be junior Tyler Hunt, who last season saw regular action on special teams. Hunt's earned the opportunity to get those second-team reps this spring while the Tigers await the arrival of a pair of recently signed 2014 TBs, each of whom Coach Pinkel has already specifically told to be ready to compete for playing time as freshmen.
In recent years, Missouri has typically utilized two backs with each offensive unit, so the top two backs share the first-team reps, and the next two backs typically share the second-team reps, and so on. So, in that sense, Hansbrough and Murphy each enter the spring as first-team backs, and Steward and Hunt begin the spring as the second-team backs.
32 Russell Hansbrough 5'9" 190 (J)
6 Marcus Murphy 5'9" 195 (S)
36 Morgan Steward 6'0" 210 (So)
35 Tyler Hunt 5'11" 215 (J)
9 Miles Drummond 5'11" 215 (So)
34 Jordan Wade 5'9" 195 (S)
40 Andrew Stevens 5'9" 195 (So)
46 Stephen Blakely 5'11" 225 (RSF)
I don't necessarily expect to see a lot of movement on the Depth Chart at TB this spring. Hansbrough and Murphy are pretty much known quantities as experienced and very productive backs. The key this spring is the opportunity afforded the very talented Steward. It's his time to solidify himself as part of a 3-man TB rotation heading into the 2014 season. And, the Tigers need for him to do just that.
There's also an opportunity for one or more of the walk-ons to stake a claim to some serious consideration for inclusion in Missouri's offensive plans this year.