Missouri running back Larry Rountree is sometimes a better impersonator of a bulldozer than a football player.
Rountree, a 5-foot-10 freshman, has made an early reputation seven games into his career as a running back who prefers to run through players rather than around them.
In Saturday’s 68-21 win over Idaho, the Vandals defense learned the hard way.
Rountree had a run at the end of the first quarter in which he took off an opposing player’s helmet while shaking off his tackle for a 53-yard gain.
“The first guy is not going to be able to take him down,” Tigers quarterback Drew Lock said. “It’s going to take at least two.”
Rountree started the season as the team’s No. 3 running back and one of a number of freshmen to skip a redshirt year. He has rushed for 226 yards and a touchdown and is expected to see a jump in playing time with top running back Damarea Crockett sidelined because of a shoulder injury.
Rountree disagrees with his teammates’ notion that he runs “angry,” because he believes a mindset like that makes a player worry about his opponent more than what they’re doing with the ball.
“If a person is in my face, and I’ve got nothing to do, I’ll run them over, but I can still get a little saucy,” he said. “There’s been times where I’ve run the ball with someone in my face, and I’ve got no choice but to go through them.”
When he was at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, N.C., Rountree got barely any looks from Power Five schools. He said the main schools he heard from prior to Missouri were Boston College, Miami (Ohio), Appalachian State and FCS power James Madison.
Cornell Ford, Rountree’s lead recruiter and the team’s running backs coach, said the freshman strikes the identity of a throwback Missouri recruit under Gary Pinkel. Pinkel made a living off of finding two-star recruits such as Charles Harris and Sean Weatherspoon and turning them into first-round NFL Draft picks.
“I was shocked,” Ford said. “When I went in and watched him play he was probably the best back in North Carolina. For him to not have any offers was a gift for Missouri.”
Ford said Rountree plays with a chip on his shoulder because in-state powers North Carolina, Duke and North Carolina State never looked at him.
After rushing for 97 yards against Idaho, Ford said opposing defenses likely will start keying on Rountree. Mizzou coach Barry Odom said Monday that Rountree might not be trying to seek as much contact now that he’ll be getting more carries.
Ford said Missouri’s biggest advantage is Rountree has only taken a handful of snaps prior to Saturday.
“I think you haven’t seen that much of him, although it’s kind of out now that he’s a pretty good talent,” he said. “Certainly they haven’t seen that much of him so it’s a different mix of him between him, Ish and Damarea since they’re all different backs.”
Tigers offensive tackle Paul Adams said Rountree has done everything the offense has asked of him so far and hasn’t seen him arrive late for anything.
With an increased role and Missouri’s bowl chances still being in reach, he’ll have to do even more over the next five games.
Adams doesn’t think that will be a problem.
“He’s very impressive,” he said. “The ceiling is so high for him. He hasn’t even touched his potential yet.”
As Odom tries to rebuild Missouri’s program, it appears he’s already found his bulldozer.