Crockett expected to carry Missouri
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.”