Missouri RB Henry Josey finally back on the field

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Henry Josey doesn’t know what to expect when he trots onto Faurot Field on Saturday.

There
will likely be the familiar feelings of joy and nervousness that
typically accompany the start of a new season. But there may also be
some tears, though the Missouri running back says he’ll do his best to
hide them.

Josey will be playing in his first game in nearly two
years after being sidelined since Nov. 12, 2011, when he sustained a
gruesome injury that tore his left anterior cruciate ligament, medial
collateral ligament and patellar tendon.

“A blessing,” he said about his return. “A very crazy blessing.”

Tens
of thousands — including his 2-year-old son, Henry Jr. — will cheer
him on, but Josey says the key to keeping his emotions in check is
staying within himself. He talks to himself daily, offering reminders to
focus on the task at hand. After more than a year of painstaking rehab,
it’s some of the best therapy he has. Simply running out of the locker
room pales in comparison to the surgeries.

“The first time he runs the ball in the game, it certainly will be a moment we’ve all been waiting for,” coach Gary Pinkel said.

Whatever
happens, Josey says he won’t be worrying about his knee. He can’t if he
wants to replicate his All-Big 12 season in 2011. The 5-foot-10,
190-pound junior from Angleton, Texas, relied on misdirection and raw
speed to amass 1,168 yards, good for third in the conference despite
playing in only 10 games. His 8.1 yards per carry ranked first.

Those
numbers have coaches hopeful after Missouri’s rushing output dropped
last year in its first season as part of the Southeastern Conference.
The Tigers finished tied for 12th in the SEC with 138.5 yards per game
on the ground, and tied for last at 3.7 yards per carry. With Josey the
year before, the team was first in the Big 12 with 244 yards per game
and 5.4 per attempt.

Josey will start the season against Murray
State atop the depth chart, unlike two years ago when injuries to the
two players ahead of him forced him onto the stage. He earned the spot
during spring camp in April.

“You have the same pressure on you”
as a starter, Josey said. “I have two great guys behind me who can also
do the same thing and I’ve got to make sure I start the day off right
for them.”

Those two guys are sophomore Russell Hansbrough and
junior Marcus Murphy, who both have the ability to provide a bit of pop.
Both are 5-9 and weigh 185 pounds, and they backed up 1,025-yard rusher
Kendial Lawrence, who graduated. The duo combined for only 83 carries
for 390 yards, though Murphy did return three punts and a kickoff for
touchdowns.

The threesome’s lack of size could leave the Tigers
vulnerable in short-yardage situations in the SEC, but junior Greg White
(6-1, 215) and 215-pound freshman Morgan Steward are available for some
added brawn.

Whoever’s in the backfield, he’ll benefit from a
healthy offensive line in front and a healthy James Franklin next to
him. Injuries to both the line and Franklin limited Missouri’s offense
and made the team a bit “gun-shy” during its 5-7 season in 2012,
according to quarterbacks coach Andy Hill.

Now fully healthy, the
Tigers are ready to move on from their first-year struggles in their
new conference, just as Josey is with his injuries.

“I’ve been
excited for a long time for this moment to come,” Josey said. “And then
finally it’s here. I just can’t wait for it to start.”