Hesitation describes the outlook Barry Odom had for the Missouri offense prior to the season’s open.
“I thought we had a shot at being able to do some of the things we’re doing,” Odom said Monday, “but I needed to see it with the lights on.”
Through three games, the Tigers’ offense has amassed 1,580 yards, which ranks second in the Southeastern Conference, behind Texas A&M, and 13th in the nation. Of that total, though, 1,135 has come from the passing game, which ranks fourth in the nation, and 445 yards have come on the ground, which ranks 80th.
Although Odom referred to the youth of sophomore quarterback Drew Lock in the “long ways to go” category, much emphasis came on those Lock shares the backfield with. Running backs coach Cornell Ford agreed.
“I still think it could get better,” Ford said. “I still think we can run more physical. I thought there were some gaps that we missed that we didn’t do good reads, but then there were some other times that we did hit it well (Saturday), so we just have to be more consistent.”
Last Saturday, against Georgia, the bulk of the work on the ground came from junior running back Ish Witter, who ran for 76 yards on 25 carries, and who leads the Tigers this year with 169 yards on 48 carries and a touchdown.
Although true freshman running back Damarea Crockett added 23 yards on eight carries against Georgia and has a touchdown and 95 yards on 22 carries this year, Witter’s production has been a necessity.
Since the first quarter of Missouri’s second game against Eastern Michigan, Oklahoma graduate-transfer running back Alex Ross has been sidelined because of an ankle injury.
Against West Virginia in week one, Ross ran 18 times — the most of any Missouri running back that week — for 67 yards. Then, against Eastern Michigan, Ross ran twice on the opening drive for five yards but was then hurt.
On Tuesday, Ford spoke of Ross’s importance saying, “it’d be nice to have him.”
“He’s still getting healthy at this point,” Ford said. “It’s a day-to-day situation with him, so today was one step and I think it was a little bit better than where it was last week, but he’s still got a ways to go.
“He’s a big, athletic kid and it’s nice when you have those bigger bodies in there that you can switch up with all the other guys that we have and I just want to get him healthy, get him back and get him going.”
On Wednesday’s SEC teleconference, Odom reiterated Ford’s comments saying Ross took more reps than last week, but regardless, Odom says there are the team can do to have more rushing success.
“Creatively, we’ve got to make sure that we’re putting our guys in position that it can be successful,” Odom said. “We’ve got to do enough that, at the point of attack blocking, we can get some movement. There’s also some things that we can do out on the perimeter that can help us. And then, the running back has to be able to make a guy miss. But, I will tell you, you line up and run the ball and it’s second-and-6, that’s OK.”
That is OK, but for the “prolific” offense that offensive lineman Kevin Pendleton said he “knows” his team has, the running game will have to be better than that.
“We know for us to be the dominant offense that we want to be, our passing offense is up there, but we’ve got to bring the run game along with it,” Pendleton said. “We are working each week to make sure that our running game is just as potent.”
Alec Lewis: @alec_lewis