COLUMBIA, MO. • Kendial Lawrence, Mizzou's 5-foot-9 No. 2 tailback, can sing the advantages of being a little guy with the ball.
"It's easier to get through holes or make people miss," Lawrence said. "That's an advantage of being short."
Of course, another responsibility that falls to the tailback in Mizzou's spread offense is sometimes having to stay back to block, a reality that occasionally pits Lawrence up against a charging linebacker who may be six inches taller and 40 pounds heavier. Again, Lawrence thinks he has the edge.
"It's pretty fun to go out there and block those guys," he said. "Coach (Gary) Pinkel always says the low guy wins, so I get low and give him a great punch. That's how it is."
Despite being the smallest player on the team — outside a stray freshman or two who might not play — Lawrence figures to make a big impact on the Tigers this season, at least bigger than the one he made last year. He started fall camp as No. 3 on the tailback depth chart but has climbed over De'Vion Moore, who has been bothered by injuries, and looks to get a lot of chances to carry the ball this season behind senior Derrick Washington.
Last year, as a true freshman, Lawrence appeared in 11 games and carried the ball 52 times for 219 yards, an average of 4.2 yards per carry, with a long gain of 22 yards. That number figures to go up.
"I think he's working his way up there," Pinkel said. "You've got three experienced backs and three freshmen. We'll see how that shakes out. The more experience you have, the more you do with the ball, the more you're going to get it. All three of those top guys are going to play quite a bit."
"I feel a lot more confident now," Lawrence said. "I know the schemes and the playbook a lot more than I did last year. I'm just hungry for it. I thought (last year) went pretty good. I always want to do better."
As a senior at Rockwall-Heath High in Rockwall, Texas, in 2008, Lawrence rushed for 2,681 yards, so needless to say, the passing game wasn't much of a concern to him. But at Mizzou, if you're not catching the ball, you're not part of the offense, so along with working on his strength and speed, he worked on his pass catching. (He had three catches for 49 yards last season.) "We've got to do a lot of different things in the catching game," he said, "run, catch, block. I learned how to get to the ball as fast as I can and coming downhill on the ball. It's been pretty helpful."
There's another change for Lawrence from last season. After wearing No. 30 as a freshman, he's now wearing No. 4. He was hoping to get his high school number, 32, but it wasn't available, so he went for a single digit, and 4 was the one that was available.
"New number. New year," he said. And a bright outlook.
• Jerrell Jackson, who had the most receptions last season of any returning player, is still out with a broken left hand. The hand is still in a cast, but he took part in some drills on Tuesday and Pinkel said there is now a remote possibility Jackson could play against Illinois. "I've seen athletes play with a cast on their hand if they're gifted," Pinkel said. "We'll see. It's encouraging. He's certainly a question mark, and he wasn't even going to be that. It was news to us yesterday that it's even possible. We've got to be prepared for both." Jackson seemed less optimistic about the possibility, though he noted he would love to play. Mizzou will begin game preparation for Illinois on Saturday, which is the point where the coaching staff would likely make a call on whether or not Jackson could play.
• Freshman receiver Jimmie Hunt from Cahokia High, who stood out in early practices, didn't practice again on Tuesday because of an ankle injury, and Pinkel said it was likely he would be redshirted. "He just missed the detailed work that you need," Pinkel said. "He was right in the hunt, no pun intended." ... Also sitting out Tuesday's practice was running back De'Vion Moore, who has ankle and toe injuries.
• The second revision of the depth chart came out Tuesday, the team's first practice after two days off, and there were only a few changes, none involving starters. Ashton Glaser has moved to third at quarterback and Jimmy Costello and Tyler Gabbert are now listed as even for the No. 4 spot. (James Franklin remains the backup to Blaine Gabbert.) Sophomore Gahn McGaffie has pulled even with true freshman Bud Sasser as the backup at one of the receiver spots. Will Ebner, who was still wearing the red jersey denoting an injury on Tuesday, fell to No. 3 at middle linebacker behind Jeff Gettys. Ebner was back at practice after being arrested early Sunday on suspicion of DWI. Anthony Gatti, a freshman from Parkway North, is listed as even with Kirk Lakebrink as the backup to left tackle Elvis Fisher.