Nate Strong will miss at least the beginning of spring practice after an unspecified violation of team rules.
Just as it’s been for most of the past two years, the Missouri Tigers’ running back depth will be at less than full strength as spring practice gets underway this week. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Ben Frederickson wrote following Tuesday’s practice, the first of Mizzou’s spring schedule, junior running back Nate Strong has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
Strong, who transferred from had 32 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns in his first season at Mizzou. A highly-regarded prospect when he originally committed to the Tigers out of high school in 2015, Strong broke out over the final two weeks of the 2016 season, rushing 25 times for 91 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee and Arkansas.
As Frederickson wrote, head coach Barry Odom clearly was displeased with Strong’s actions and isn’t willing to talk right now about when he might make a return to the field:
"“Regarding Nate, there are certain things we do in our program, some standards we have within our program, and right now he’s suspended for breaking the team policy,” Odom said. “I’ll address it again when it needs to be addressed.”"
He was particularly strong in the season finale, when he got an extended opportunity due to the suspension of standout freshman Damarea Crockett for a marijuana suspension arrest. Strong’s suspension is just the latest in a long line of hits to the Tigers’ running back depth over the past two years. Prior to Crockett’s arrest, the Tigers were forced to deal with an injury to Alex Ross, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma who was expected to be their primary starter in 2016, as well as an injury to Strong himself.
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The Tigers dealt with a series of injuries to their bell cow, senior Russell Hansbrough, in 2015, and they were left to fill the void with his eligibility used up after the season. That became much more of a challenge as they were faced with the retirements of Chase Abbington (who eventually decided to make a comeback at Southeast Missouri State) and Morgan Steward, the decision of Marquise Doherty to transfer, and the arrest and subsequent dismissal of Trevon Walters.
The Strong suspension is also the latest in a series of misfortunes for players from East St. Louis high school who have either committed to or ultimately become a part of the Mizzou program. Safety Greg Taylor angrily departed Mizzou, apparently over an argument with a coach and the subsequent fallout of that argument, in December. Quarterback Rey Estes committed to Mizzou in August, but eventually decided to reverse course in January and commit to Minnesota instead.
Two other ESL products, defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. and offensive lineman Tre’Vour Simms, remain on Mizzou’s active roster. While Beckner, a former five-star prospect, has flashed NFL-caliber talent when healthy, he’s dealt with two torn ACLs in two years and was suspended by the team last spring after being arrested for marijuana possession.