The Tigers were a couple seconds away from taking the field last Saturday at Florida when Crockett, the Tigers’ freshman running back, got the news from running backs coach Cornell Ford that he would be starting.
“It was honestly a game-time decision,” Crockett said on Monday. “I was just on the sideline and he told me come up.”
Crockett’s reaction to the big news?
“I was ready,” He said. “It wasn’t like a surprise or anything. I was just ready to get in the game. Let’s get it done.”
The 5-foot-11, 220-pound freshman was ready.
After a slow first half — he rushed three times for 11 yards — Crockett turned it on in the second half. He finished with 145 yards rushing on 14 carries — both career highs — and was one of the bright spots in an otherwise forgettable 40-14 loss to the host Gators.
“He’s continuing to improve,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “I think he’s learned, over the course of getting some reps and getting some game reps, on how to play the position when you have to make checks, you have to be able to block, there’s times that the protection changes and you’ve got to change with that.
“So his experience has helped. His knowledge and the way that Coach (Cornell) Ford has coached him throughout the process here on getting better each week. You can see that happen. Then also he’s understood that he’s not going to run away from a lot of guys. He’s got to be able to go North and South and get behind his pads and use the physical skill set that he has to become that back that he is right now. I’m hopeful that he gets a lot better here the next six weeks.”
Crockett’s performance at Florida made him the first true freshman at Missouri with two 100-yard rushing games since Brock Olivo in 1994.
Through the first six games, Crockett has rushed 54 times for 390 yards, an average of 7.2 yards per carry, and three touchdowns — he leads the Tigers in rushing yards, average per carry and is tied with Ish Witter for the team lead in rushing touchdowns.
Crockett has proven he can be an effective weapon for a Missouri offense that lacked in legitimate playmakers a year ago. He’s also proven to the coaching staff that he can be counted on, something that has helped him work his way up the depth chart while competing with Witter, Oklahoma transfer Alex Ross and junior college transfer Nate Strong.
“I feel like if you work hard every day, do everything full speed, do everything 100 percent and you’ll see the field more,” Crockett said. “I feel like the coaches, when it comes to getting on the field, it’s all about who they can trust. So it’s all about building that trust.”
Crockett was a late addition to Odom’s first recruiting class after switching from Boise State to Missouri — freshman quarterback Micah Wilson also made the same decision — and has turned into one of top Tigers’ newcomers if not the best so far this season.
“We thought he had a chance to come in and if he did the things right over the summer that he would be in position to help us and he has,” Odom said. “He’s going to have a really good future here.”
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