He didn’t average 100 yards a game on the ground last season. He didn’t even lead his team in carries in 2016.

In the 2017 preseason All-SEC selections, he wasn’t a part of the first team. Or the second team. Or the third team.

And he plays in an offense with a quarterback who threw for nearly 3,400 yards last season.

So why will Missouri sophomore running back Damarea Crockett be this season’s leading rusher in the SEC?

Here are a few of reasons to support such a prediction:


It could be said any momentum accumulated by Crockett last season was wiped away after he was suspended for the season finale against Arkansas for marijuana possession. However, Crockett showed in the second half of the season that he grasped offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s system.

Over his final six games, Crockett averaged 136.2 rushing yards per game. That average would have been good enough to lead the SEC in 19 of the past 21 seasons, the only exceptions coming in 2015 (Leonard Fournette 162.8 YPG, Derrick Henry 147.9 YPG) and 2007 (Darren McFadden 140.8 YPG).

In his final two games, Crockett rushed for 154 yards against Vanderbilt and 225 against Tennessee.


Last season, the SEC had two teams ranked in the top 15 nationally in rushing defense: Alabama and LSU. Missouri will avoid both in the regular season this year.

Missouri does have to play three opponents that ranked in the top 40 in rushing defense last season — Auburn, Georgia and Florida. At least Mizzou gets to play the Tigers and Gators at home.

In addition, five of Missouri’s opponents ranked 90th or worse nationally in rushing defense in 2016: South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Purdue. Add in an FCS opponent that ranked 77th in rushing defense (Missouri State), and the opportunity is there for Crockett to rack up yards.


Missouri returns 10 starters from a team that led the SEC in total offense (500.5 YPG). Among those returning are all five starters on the offensive line, three wide receivers and quarterback Drew Lock, who was second in the SEC in passing yards (3,399).

The offense should be even more high-octane than last season in Heupel’s system. Crockett could perhaps benefit the most, as teams will no doubt be looking to contain Lock’s passing attack.

Crockett could wind up splitting time in the backfield with senior running back Ish Witter. Witter led the Tigers in rushing two seasons ago, and was receiving the majority of carries early in the season last year. But by the end of the season it was Crockett who became the feature back. Expect more of the same in 2017.