Larry Roundtree III excited about versatility in Missouri’s backfield
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri continues to be successful with a balanced attack on offense and is one of the best in the SEC at running the ball.
The No. 22 Tigers are on a five-game win streak and opposing defenses have been struggling to keep their offense contained with so many weapons to worry about. Quarterback Kelly Bryant can do damage with his arm and legs, but he also has some talented rushers to hand the ball off to.
Junior Larry Roundtree III is one of the most productive running backs in the league, with 2,476 yards on the ground and 24 touchdowns over Missouri’s last 32 games. He’s fresh off a 126-yard rushing performance in the win over Ole Miss and fellow running backs Dawson Downing and Tyler Badie combined for 94.
Missouri’s offense is averaging nearly 200 yards on the ground per game and Roundtree loves how the backfield’s success keeps the pressure off of Bryant.
“I’ve been talking about versatility since spring, that’s been big,” Roundtree said. “They don’t know if we’re going to run, they don’t know if we’re going to throw, so they got to play us honest.”
The Tigers have had a 1,000-yard rusher for three-straight seasons under Barry Odom and Roundtree is well on his way to making it four. After all, he was the SEC’s leading returning rusher coming into the 2019 season.
Over Missouri’s last 19 games he has hit the century mark in rushing against Purdue, Memphis, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Southeast Missouri State and Ole Miss. Not to mention Roundtree’s 204-yard performance against Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl.
With nearly three seasons of SEC football under his belt Roundtree is the veteran in the Tigers’ backfield and embraces his leadership role. He credits all of Missouri’s success at running the ball to the big boys up front.
“Coach Odom talked about how the defensive line and offensive line set the tone of the game,” he said. “You kow those guys are in the trenches every play, that’s the dirty in your face every play and its starts with the defensive and offensive line.”
Missouri has scored over 31 or more points in every game this season. The only game Missouri has been tested in the second half during the win streak was against Ole Miss. However, the team responded well during adversity. Roundtree believes it was a team effort for the Tigers to put away the Rebels in the fourth quarter and he’s proud of their resiliency.
“It just shows that we don’t blink when anything happens we’re ready to score, only thing we talk about is the defense doing their job and the offense doing theirs,” Roundtree said. “We got to go out there and score points, if they score 50 we got to score 55 and our job is to go out there every drive and score.”
Roundtree likes that there’s no egos in Missouri’s backfield and everyone cheers each other on. He was jumping for joy when Dawson broke for a 54-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter in the win over the Rebels and he wants the backs to keep providing those big plays.
“It came out good, we all was in it,” he said. “I felt the juice flowing in the locker room and as we went out on the field then everything just transpired.”
Missouri is the only undefeated team in conference play from the SEC East and needs to keep the rushing production going with three-straight road games looming. Still, the Tigers have a ton of momentum and is arguably the hottest team in the division.