Damarea Crockett, RB, Missouri Tigers
What an interesting twist of fate it was that in a season where running back appeared to be Mizzou’s biggest position of concern entering the season, a running back ended up being their most dynamic player. While Damarea Crockett was a four-star recruit, he wasn’t really considered an automatic “plug-and-play” recruit like Dorial-Beckham, Jr. and Terry Beckner, Jr. have been in recent seasons. The Tigers went into the season with incumbent Ish Witter and Oklahoma transfer Alex Ross as their top two backs, and Crockett was expected to contribute primarily through the return game.
After an injury suffered in Week 1 shut Ross down, though, Crockett seized his opportunity and never looked back. He received his first significant action from scrimmage in Week 2 against Eastern Michigan and scored his first collegiate touchdown while rushing 12 times for 68 yards. After asserting himself in a major way during the Tigers’ dominant 79-0 victory over Delaware State on September 24, scoring two touchdowns while rushing for 115 yards on 12 carries, Crockett received regular playing time for the rest of the season.
After that game, Crockett ran for over 100 yards in three of the remaining six SEC games that he participated in, and he also ran for 156 yards and four touchdowns on 29 attempts in the Tigers’ October 22 loss to Middle Tennessee State. He capped the season off with his best performance yet as the Tigers visited Tennessee, rushing for 225 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. That was the most single-game rushing yards ever by a freshman in Mizzou history and the sixth-highest single-game total in the history of the program.
Unfortunately, Crockett’s season ended on a bad note, as he was suspended for marijuana possession after being found in a car in a campus parking lot at 4:17 AM on the morning after the Tennessee game. He was suspended for the Tigers’ season finale against Arkansas, his home state school. He still finished the season with very impressive numbers, though, averaging 6.9 yards per carry on 153 attempts for a total of 1,062 yards and 10 touchdowns. Crockett became the Tigers’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2014 and had the highest average yards per carry by a full-time Mizzou running back since Henry Josey averaged 8.1 yards per attempt back in 2011.
If Crockett can keep his affairs in order off the field, he’ll almost certainly come into next season as the Tigers’ starting back and could develop into one of the SEC’s elite runners.