MU tailback takes step forward

? Kendial Lawrence, Missouri’s 5-foot-9 No. 2 tailback, can sing the advantages of being a little guy with the ball.

“It’s easier to get through holes or make people miss,” Lawrence said. “That’s an advantage of being short.”

Of course, another responsibility that falls to the tailback in Missouri’s spread offense is sometimes having to stay back to block, a reality that occasionally pits Lawrence up against a charging linebacker who may be six inches taller and 40 pounds heavier. Again, Lawrence thinks he has the edge.

“It’s pretty fun to go out there and block those guys,” he said. “Coach (Gary) Pinkel always says the low guy wins, so I get low and give him a great punch. That’s how it is.”

Despite being the smallest player on the team — outside a stray freshman or two who might not play — Lawrence figures to make a big impact on the Tigers this season, at least bigger than the one he made last year. He started fall camp as No. 3 on the tailback depth chart but has climbed over De’Vion Moore, who has been bothered by injuries, and looks to get a lot of chances to carry the ball, especially since senior projected starter Derrick Washington has been suspended indefinitely.

Last year, as a true freshman, Lawrence appeared in 11 games and carried the ball 52 times for 219 yards, an average of 4.2 yards per carry, with a long gain of 22 yards. That number figures to go up.

“I think he’s working his way up there,” Pinkel said. “You’ve got three experienced backs and three freshmen. We’ll see how that shakes out. The more experience you have, the more you do with the ball, the more you’re going to get it. All three of those top guys are going to play quite a bit.”

“I feel a lot more confident now,” Lawrence said. “I know the schemes and the playbook a lot more than I did last year. I’m just hungry for it. I thought (last year) went pretty good. I always want to do better.”