Crock­ett ex­pected to carry Mis­souri

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - BOB HOLT

HOOVER, Ala. — No col­lege fresh­man run­ning back gained more yards than Da­marea Crock­ett for Mis­souri last sea­son.

Crock­ett, a former Lit­tle Rock Chris­tian stand­out, had 153 car­ries for a Mis­souri fresh­man-record 1,062 yards. His av­er­ages of 96.6 yards per game and 6.9 per carry led fresh­man rush­ers na­tion­ally.

“Da­marea sur­prised me, I’m not go­ing to lie,” Tigers re­ceiver J’Mon Moore said at SEC me­dia days last week. “You don’t ex­pect a fresh­man to come into the SEC and do what he did.

“But he worked hard and watch­ing him in prac­tice as the sea­son went on, I knew he was ready to come on for us. Then he went out there and just made plays.”

Crock­ett had 2 car­ries for 4 yards in the opener against West Vir­ginia, but he grad­u­ally started to play a big­ger role.

His most im­pres­sive games came in the sec­ond half against Florida (14 car­ries for 145 yards), Mid­dle Ten­nessee State (29 for 156), South Carolina (13 for 82), Van­der­bilt (20 for 154) and Ten­nessee (24 for 225).

“Da­marea fig­ured out as the sea­son went on that his run­ning style had to change a lit­tle bit on what he thought he was com­ing in to play col­lege ball,” Mis­souri Coach Barry Odom said. “I mean, at Lit­tle Rock

Chris­tian he just ran away from every­body. He used his speed.

“That’s changed in this league specif­i­cally. You’ve got to know when to try to turn on the jets and when to put your foot in the ground and go north and south.

“So the un­der­stand­ing of how to play the po­si­tion was a pretty big learn­ing curve for him as a true fresh­man, but then when he got into the groove, he showed a tremen­dous skill set.”

Crock­ett could have put up big­ger num­bers, but he missed Mis­souri’s reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale against the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville be­cause of a dis­ci­plinary sus­pen­sion.

Odom sus­pended Crock­ett af­ter his ar­rest on mis­de­meanor sus­pi­cion of pos­ses­sion of less than 35 grams of mar­i­juana.

“He han­dled the end of the year

— with an in­ci­dent that hap­pened the week of the Arkansas game — very well, very ma­ture,” Odom said. “And he has learned lessons, as our team has, on some of the sit­u­a­tions that went down with that.

“We know that ev­ery de­ci­sion that we make is im­pact­ful, not only for your­self, but our en­tire foot­ball pro­gram.”

Crock­ett said last spring that it was rough hav­ing to watch Mis­souri play Arkansas with­out him — even though the Tigers ral­lied to win 28-24 — and that he learned the im­por­tance of mak­ing smarter de­ci­sions off the field.

“It made me a com­pletely dif­fer­ent per­son,” Crock­ett told the Columbia Mis­sourian. “I feel like it’s made me a way bet­ter per­son and a foot­ball player.

“It’s made my fo­cus that much more stronger, and it’s go­ing to make my come­back that much more stronger, too.”

Crock­ett was the first SEC fresh­man to rush for more than 1,00 yards in a sea­son since 2014 when Ge­or­gia’s Nick Chubb and LSU’s Leonard Four­nette did it.

“Crock­ett def­i­nitely fits well into Mis­souri’s of­fense,” Van­der­bilt line­backer Oren Burks said. “He’s a pretty ex­plo­sive guy. He’s got speed and vi­sion.”

The Tigers are count­ing

on Crock­ett to be even bet­ter as a sopho­more and help them im­prove on last sea­son’s 4-8 record.

“Da­marea is amaz­ing,” Mis­souri ju­nior quar­ter­back Drew Lock said. “You saw how good of a run­ner he is, but he also steps up and blocks and does a great job with that.

“This sea­son I think he could get a few more touches. We could split him out of the back­field and throw the ball to him as well.”

Crock­ett had five re­cep­tions for 14 yards last sea­son.

“We didn’t re­ally uti­lize him too much in the pass­ing game, but I think he has great hands and we could use him a lot more,” Lock said.

Moore said Crock­ett has worked out with the re­ceivers this sum­mer.

“Da­marea def­i­nitely has got­ten bet­ter in the pass­ing game with the ex­tra work he’s been putting in,” Moore said. “He’s do­ing well in our re­ceiver drills, so I can see him adding to his game this sea­son.

“I just think he’s go­ing to take a huge step in ev­ery­thing he does. That’s an an­i­mal right there.”

Odom said Crock­ett, 5-11, is up to about 230 pounds and added strength in the off­sea­son.

“He’s had a great sum­mer,” Odom said. “If we’ll do ev­ery­thing we get a chance to do of­fen­sively, he has a chance to be a real spe­cial player.

“We’ve got to find ways cre­atively to get him the ball be­cause I think he’s got a chance to be a game-chang­ing player. So his role will grow.”

Crock­ett

Odom

Lock

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