If practice reports from the Columbia Tribune, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star are to be trusted, Morgan Steward is as physically impressive as any of the Missouri running backs since the school joined the SEC.

Since signing with the Tigers as a three-star member of the 2012 class, though, Steward has carried just 21 times, all in reserve action as a redshirt freshman.

Mizzou’s coaches thought Steward was ready to play a major role last fall, slotting him in front of Marcus Murphy on the depth chart at running back. Early in camp, weeks before the season, Steward suffered what the team thought to be a minor hip injury. The team called it a “minor hip strain,” labeling Steward day-to-day and revealing that an MRI showed no further damage.

Mizzou RB Morgan Steward’s hip injury not a concern,” we wrote as a headline. Boy, was everyone fooled on that one. Having already used a redshirt season for Steward, the Tigers tried to rehab his hip, waiting as long as they could. When it was apparent Steward wouldn’t improve enough to play in 2014, the team elected to perform surgery.

Steward hurt his hip when he fell to the turf in practice Aug. 8, a “non-contact” injury.

“It was a little bit of a chip in the bone, I think,” coach Gary Pinkel said, according to the Kansas City Star. “It had healed through the rehab, but from what I understand they just had to clean up some debris in there.”

Bigger than 1,000-yard rusher Russell Hansbrough, but reportedly just as fast — you can understand why Missouri has been enamored with his potential — the Columbia Tribune speculated Steward could enter 2015 as a “1A” starter in the backfield, with the senior sliding to “1B.”

Instead, the need for further rehab has cost Steward all of spring practice as well.

It’s a big domino for the Tigers offense. Last season, Mizzou intended to use Murphy more extensively in the slot and out wide as a receiver, but scrapped those plans to a large extent when it needed him in the backfield to account for Steward’s absence.

This season, players like Trevon Walters and Chase Abbington could fit a similar creative role as pass-catchers. Goodness knows Missouri needs to find some more of those this fall.

Steward reportedly will re-join team activities this summer and then practice this fall after a full year away from football. Will he be the same running back? At this point the Tigers can’t plan for that, so the team probably must stick with more conventional roles for its dynamic backup running backs.

The ailing Steward has not spoken to the media recently, at least that I’ve seen. But going from an injury the team doctors described as “day-to-day” to being out for virtually an entire year, he has to be thinking this is the longest rehab ever.

Hansbrough gives Mizzou an underrated first option, and a player who has the potential to be a Top 5 back in the SEC this fall — especially with seniors Evan Boehm and Connor McGovern clearing out space in front of him.

If Steward does return and can become a factor, the Tigers’ options at backup will get mighty crowded. Even though the team generally plays three running backs with regularity, players like Abbington, Walters and Ish Witter already will be scrapping for roles.

The best-case scenario is that Steward gets healthy by fall and eases his way onto the field, then enters his senior season ready to take over Hansbrough’s spot as the go-to guy. Whatever happens with Steward’s hip will continue to have a sizable affect on Mizzou’s offense in ’15 and beyond.