After some amount of speculation, including by this site earlier today, coach Gary Pinkel told the gathered media Monday that running back and returner Marcus Murphy will spend the first portion of fall camp practicing at receiver.

Missouri has depth in the backfield, headlined by Russell Hansbrough. Though Murphy is a proven backup at running back, such extensive practice time at another position this close to the season — Pinkel indicated Murphy could practice at receiver for about a week — gives credence to the possibility that Morgan Steward or another running back could get a fair amount of carries in 2014.

In the meantime, Murphy, an open-field threat with double-digit catches last season, seems like an ideal candidate to take some pressure off a relatively inexperienced group of receivers.

“With our running back depth, two-thirds of the time, he’s on the sidelines. Or half, very close to. We’d rather have him on the field,” Pinkel said of Murphy, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

“It allows us to look at a lot of different things. There’s a lot of different ways to get your best players on the field and, at times, he’s one of our top players perimeter-wise.”

Murphy produced a team-best 1,425 all-purpose yards in 2013 and has scored touchdowns as a running back, kick returner, punt returner and receiver. It makes sense that Pinkel would try to get the ball in his hands more often on offense. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Murphy has averaged a tremendous 6.5 yards per carry in his Missouri career, but he seems best suited as a change-of-pace back.

Kudos to Missouri for recognizing Murphy’s strengths and working to develop his hands and route-running heading into 2014.

I think they just want to get me in open-field space, different ways to get me the ball in open space,” Murphy told the paper. “I think it’ll add a little element to our offense, open up lanes for our backs and create bigger plays for our other receivers.”

INJURIES: In other news, Braylon Webb (shoulder) and Connor McGovern (pectoral) did not participate in a portion of Monday’s practice. Pinkel said the injuries aren’t major.

Both players are upperclassmen and returning starters, so if they have to miss some time now in order to enter the season healthy, it shouldn’t be an issue. Webb in particular is one of the most important players on the defense, though, so his absence from full-contact drills should make Missouri fans at least uneasy, even though it seems like a non-issue.

ACADEMICS: Freshmen Tavon Ross and Walter Brady did not practice Monday and are waiting on the NCAA to clear them academically, though they both have a “significant chance” to join the team, Pinkel said.

NEW COACH: Offensive line coach A.J. Ricker made a good impression on his first day with the players in an official capacity.

Ricker, who replaced the retired Bruce Walker in July, knew all the offensive linemen by name.

“I was a big fan of Coach Ricker,” starting left tackle and team captain Mitch Morse said. “He’s an absolutely awesome dude, an awesome cat. He brings his own kind of personality to the table. No wasted time.”