While much attention around the Missouri Tigers will be paid to quarterback James Franklin the most impactful player could be the man who Franklin hands the ball off to, running back Marcus Murphy. Murphy is expected to take over the starting tailback job after Kendial Lawrence was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Lawrence had 1025 yards rushing last season and averaged 5.1 yards per carry but Murphy might be even more dynamic.
In 2011, Murphy was redshirted due to a shoulder injury. However, in 2012 he was named to the 2nd-Team All-American and 1st-Team All-SEC as a returner. He ranked second in the SEC and 10th in Division I with a 13.8 punt return average while ranking fifth in SEC and 42nd in the nation with a 24.1 kickoff return average. He also set a school record for most kicks returned for touchdowns in a season, four (three punts and one kickoff). The kickoff returned for a touchdown was a 98-yard touchdown against Alabama.
As a running back, Murphy carried the ball 46 times for a total of 251 yards and one touchdown. There is no doubt that Murphy is a very exciting player capable of taking the ball into the end zone every time he touches the ball. However, if Missouri wants to have a successful year and reverse their 5-7 record from last season, they will need Murphy to stay healthy. At five-foot-nine, 195 pounds, Murphy is built a lot like Maurice Jones-Drew only slightly smaller but is faster than Jones-Drew.
Murphy could be helped by a stronger passing game that prevents opposing defenses from cheating against the run and Franklin will need to show that he is capable of leading the offense especially with three of his top receivers returning from last season. If the passing game can show some consistency then Murphy might have plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents.
The Tigers should benefit from a more balanced attack this season with Murphy leading the rushing attack and Franklin showing more of his 2011 self than 2012.