Heading into 2009, the running back position does not look to offer a lot of drama at the University of Missouri. As a first year starter in 2008, sophomore Derrick Washington stepped into Tony Temple's old role admirably by rushing for over 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns while averaging nearly six yards per carry. Through the air, Washington added 277 yards and two touchdowns receiving.
Departing from the 2008 Tigers will be back-up Jimmy Jackson. Jackson served as a very useful short-yardage back for Mizzou with his north-south style and quickness to the hole.
When spring football rolls around in 2009, the Tigers will have only two running backs on scholarship looking to replace Jackson, redshirt sophomore De'Vion Moore and redshirt freshman Drew Temple. And while the Tigers will likely add at least one running back this year on the recruiting trail, the early race to back-up Washington will be between the two scholarship backs on campus.
Moore brings a lot of the same attributes to the table as Jackson. He is quick to the hole and he is not an overly big back. Moore also brings some added big-play ability to the table as he showcased with his 55-yard touchdown run in last season's 58-0 blowout of Colorado.
Drew Temple, the younger brother of Tony, will look to make his presence felt in 2009 after redshirting the 2008 season in part due to clearinghouse issues. In high school, Drew helped lead Rockhurt High School to the state championship as a senior by rushing for over 1,500 yards and 22 touchdowns. Listed near the same size as Moore at 5'10", 190 lbs., Temple showed solid receiving skills throughout his high school career.
Regardless of who wins the back-up spot, the Tigers will need added production from the rushing attack in 2009 with a first-year starter at quarterback. In Missouri's four losses last year, Washington averaged a meager nine carries and 28 yards per game. While that lack of production does not fall solely on the shoulders of the running backs, this group's success in 2009 will be judged on how they fare against the likes of Texas, Oklahoma State and Kansas.
InsideMizzou's Prediction: No big surprises here unless a true freshman commits and enters the mix during the fall. Washington should remain the starter and receive an increased workload with a first-year starter at quarterback. Given Moore's solid play in 2008, I give him the advantage in the battle for the back-up spot, but fully expect Temple to receive some touches.
Publisher Note: These predictions and opinions are those of the author of the story. We will do an in-depth post spring camp analysis of all the positions at a later date. This is an early look at the possibilities.