Three scrimmages came and went without Missouri’s offense firing on all cylinders, but the run game has proven to be a bit more steady and reliable as preseason camp wraps up.
“Consistency of execution, it certainly feels like it,” Tigers offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “That’s something we’ve got to improve on.”
Still, at least the run game continues to show signs of life.
Junior tailback Russell Hansbrough rattled off another long run early in Thursday’s scrimmage at Memorial Stadium, the third and final one before Missouri enters game week ahead of the season opener Aug. 30 against South Dakota State.
Hansbrough scampered 55 yards for a touchdown during the first-team offense’s first set of plays.
During the first two scrimmages, in situational work backed up against the goal line, he had runs of 17 and 24 yards on the Tigers’ first possessions.
“I’d say our ground game is going to be pretty good,” said sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk, who completed only four of 11 passes for 28 yards on Thursday in limited action.
Hansbrough finished second behind Eagles running back Henry Josey with 685 yards rushing last season. He averaged 6.0 yards on 114 carries and scored four touchdowns.
Now, he’s going to be expected to carry the load, especially with senior Marcus Murphy playing some at slot receiver and sophomore Morgan Steward nursing a hip injury that has sidelined him since Aug. 8.
“Russ is ready to go,” junior center Evan Boehm said. “You can tell that in his eyes. I’m excited to see him when Saturday hits just taking the ball and scoring. You guys got a little glimpse of that today when he hit that edge and took off. That was special.”
During the training camp scrimmages, Hansbrough racked up 17 carries for 174 yards with three touchdowns.
“Since Henry left, I know there’s some big shoes to fill, so I know I’m going to have to come in and make plays,” Hansbrough said.
Even Missouri’s defense praised Hansbrough.
“The kid is explosive, he’s powerful, he’s downhill and he can make you miss,” junior defensive end Shane Ray said. “Once he gets to the open field, it’s real tough to catch him. I think he’s going to be real explosive this year and he’s going to shock a lot of defenses.”
Still, the Tigers need balance and that requires more consistency from the passing game. Mauk completed 16 of 24 for 191 yards with a touchdown and interception in the first scrimmage, but he’s only 12 of 31 for 131 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions in the final two scrimmages.
“We’ve got to do both,” Henson said. “If you lean one way or the other, you better be really good at that one way or it’s going to get taken away from you. Right now, we’re still too inconsistent and it’s frustrating, a week before the game, that we’re calling base plays we’ve been running for three weeks and base protections and the consistency are not there.”
With fewer than 10 days before the first game, the Tigers still aren’t panicking.
“I’m not worried about their production this year,” said Ray, a Bishop Miege graduate. “I think they’re going to do just fine and be a high-powered offense. I’m ready for those guys to show what they can do. I know there’s a lot of concerns about different positions and receivers and stuff, but I think there’s a lot of guys who are going to step up. Our offense is still going to be high-powered and explosive.”
Freshman Trevon Walters also scored on a 1-yard run, and redshirt freshman linebacker Eric Beisel scored on a 52-yard fumble return when Mauk misfired on a backwards pass to Hansbrough on the first series.
All-SEC coaches’ team
The SEC released its coaches’ preseason all-conference team Thursday, and three Missouri players were honored.
Center Evan Boehm and defensive lineman Markus Golden were on the second team, and place-kicker Andrew Baggett was on the third team.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @todpalmer.