Mizzou's Witter Ready For Bigger Role

Running back Ish Witter was the University of Missouri football team's leading rusher last season, but he could go into the 2016 campaign with an even bigger role.

Ish Witter says he’s ready to be the University of Missouri football team’s workhorse at running back if that’s what he’s asked to do next season. 

“Oh, definitely,” Witter said. “As a player you have to expect if it comes down to being that person then you have to step up and become that person. So if it happens, it happens and I’ll be ready.”

Witter was thrust into a big role during his sophomore season last fall because of Russell Hansbrough's injury issues. 

A 5-foot-10, 190-pounder from Tampa, Fla., Witter responded by leading the Tigers in rushing, gaining 518 yards on the ground and averaging 4.1 yards per carry. He also caught 15 passes for 143 yards. His 661 total yards were also a team high.

Still, the Missouri offense struggled throughout a 5-7 campaign and will need to be better in all areas — including a group of running backs that has lost Hansbrough and Tyler Hunt to graduation and also Morgan Steward (injury) and Chase Abbington (quit) this offseason. 

So there’s plenty of uncertainty this spring with the Tigers’ running backs, a group that is also without Marquise Doherty because of his commitment to play baseball for Missouri this season.

That has left new running backs coach Cornell Ford with four players to work with during spring practices: Witter, Trevon Walters, Ryan Williams and walk-on Shaun Conway. 

Only Walters has carried the football in a college game.

“We’ve all been making plays when we get the chance to,” Witter said of the running backs’ work this spring. “There’s not one running back, all of us have been making plays.”

What is Witter working on to get ready for the 2016 season?

“Just getting faster, basically,” he said. “Just getting ready for the season. Whatever we work on this summer you’ll see next season.”

Ford has seen Witter put in plenty of work this offseason.

“He’s running the ball a lot more physical than what I had seen in the fall,” Ford said. “His pad level is where it needs to go, with how you finish runs and things like that. I think he’s a lot quicker. He’s in better shape. He had to lose some body fat — we’ve been on him about his weight. He’s put in the work and gotten a lot done in that way. I think he’s improved in many ways.”

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com

 


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