Position Preview: Tailback

Continuing in our preseason coverage of the 2009 Missouri Tigers football season, InsideMizzou.com will break down the Tiger team by position. Part two will take a look at the backfield, featuring standout junior Derrick Washington.

Originally, Derrick Washington was to wear a redshirt for his freshman year in 2007. By game three, Gary Pinkel had changed his mind, and Derrick appeared in each of the final 12 games during that season. While his primary role was to play second string to Tony Temple, Washington gained plenty of experience. He finished that season with 184 yards and one touchdown, including a season high 66 yards against Texas Tech while Temple was injured.

Like many of the positions this year, tailback was a question mark entering the 2008 season. Fans knew that Derrick had some ability, but no one expected what was to come. 1300 plus yards later, everyone knew what we had.

Washington became the standout at tailback in a system that focused on passing. for an offense that finished the season ranked 4th in the NCAA in passing yards and 10th in passing efficiency, Washington was able to prove that he was just as valuable as either Maclin or Daniel.

Early on, Derrick was a scoring machine, recording 12 touchdowns in the first five games. Finishing the year with 17 rushing touchdowns and 2 scores through the air, Washington tied a single season record of 19 touchdowns held by Brad Smith.

This season, a huge weight will be placed on the shoulders of the junior running back with all of the changes in the offense. With a new quarterback and the loss of the Tigers top two wide receivers and tight end, we can expect a greater emphasis to be placed on the running game. In 2008, Derrick totaled 177 rushes for 1036 yards and 17 touchdowns. This season, Missouri will need all of those numbers to go up in order to be successful.

Washington has a great combination of both speed and size that will fit into Missouri's system perfectly. He has the power to break through tackles, and the ability to make sharp cuts, which eventually results in large gains.

Derrick had a knack for the big play in 2008, tallying a rush of 30 yards or greater in at least five different games. His season long was a 59 yard sprint for one of his two touchdowns recorded against Nevada.

In an offense that focuses so heavily on the pass, your team needs a tailback that can handle making receptions. Washington has proved that he is the man for the job, with 29 receptions for 277 yards in 2008. Against SE Missouri, Derrick recorded a season long 28 yard catch. In that same game, Derrick said that he had injured his knee, and played through the pain for the rest of the season.

Once the offseason came, Washington went under the knife and had work done on his meniscus. This injury opened the door for sophomore DeVion Moore to take all of the reps with the first team during spring practices. Moore seized the opportunity and came through with an extremely impressive spring outing.

Moore is a 5-9, 200 lb, force who played very well during the spring. Even though it seems like Washington has the starting role sealed up now that his knee is back to 100 percent, Moore definitely earned some playing time during the spring. His explosive ability was proven last season during the blowout of Colorado, when he blew up for 64 yards on 4 carries. During that game, he had a 55 yard run to score the final touchdown.

I would expect Moore to get many more touches than he did in 2008, based on his wonderful spring session as well as his ability as a receiver out of the backfield. If Washington needs to come out for a breather or injury, Moore has proven to be strong enough to step on to the playing field often.

Further down the depth chart is Parkway Central product, Shawn Scott. The senior is a transfer from Central Missouri State, and last year carried the ball 4 times for 22 yards. Following Scott is Junior Matt Davis, who was a walk-on defensive back moved to tailback. Davis has not seen any playing time as a Tiger.

With opening kickoff just over a month away, Washington is back to full strength, and is the expected starter. A new quarterback and receiving corps will undoubtably put more pressure on the tailback position. Having fumbled only once in 177 touches last season, Derrick's consistency will become a key asset to the team. Washington told InsideMizzou during the spring that he is excited to play alongside Moore in 2009, and thought very highly of his ability. If the two can work together and take the pressure off of the new QB, things would begin to look good for the Tiger offense.

*Statistical side note: In 2008, Washington accumulated over 100 all purpose yards in seven different games, including three with 100 rushing yards. In those seven games, the Tigers went 7-0.

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