New Missouri football coach Barry Odom has brought plenty of changes since last season as some as some challenges.
It appears running back Ish Witter, the team’s leading rusher last fall, has responded to them as he transitions toward a possible bigger role with the Tigers as a junior in 2016.
“Just get better,” Witter said when asked about Odom’s expectations for him. “It’s not just me, it’s all the running backs. Get faster, strong. Get better every day and we’ll be fine.”
To that point, Witter appears to have gotten better after being challenged by the coaching staff to get in better shape.
Cornell Ford, the Tigers’ new running backs coach, said last week that Witter has worked hard to get there and the running back’s improvement has been noted. He’s quicker now and runs more physical.
“Just slimmed up a little bit,” Witter said. “More muscle than fat. I’ve been feeling good and quicker.”
That was on display during the Black & Gold Game on Saturday.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder from Tampa, Fla., gave the Tigers’ offense a spark during the team’s final scrimmage of the spring. He rushed for a team-high 43 yards on 13 carries and gained another 33 yards on three receptions.
Witter’s 76 total yards were the most among the Tigers in the offense’s three-touchdown performance against the defense.
One of the knocks on the tailback from this past season was his tendency to try to bounce runs to the outside to avoid contact rather than potentially hitting the hole through the trenches.
Witter didn’t say he agreed with that assessment on Saturday, but he addressed it.
“I just have to work harder,” he said. “I’m a No. 1 back now so there definitely has to be like a bigger change. Last year I’m not saying I was trying to avoid contact but I need to work on my balance, basically. That’s what I’ve been working on.”
Witter made it clear that he’s willing to be whatever kind of running back the reshuffled coaching staff asks him to be. He’d already shown that this spring with his work off and on the field.
“Whatever they want me to be I’ll try to be,” Witter said. “Whatever they ask I’ve got to do it. It’s their offense, so I’ve got to be the person they want me to be.”