Washington's absence provides opportunity

Barring a suddenly dropped sexual assault charge, Missouri will take the field on Saturday without one of its team captains and its leading rusher for the past two seasons, running back Derrick Washington.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was "embarrassed" by the development, in conjunction with three DWI arrests in a month for the program.

Running backs De'Vion Moore and Kendial Lawrence won't have time to be embarrassed. Somebody's got to carry the ball. And in Saturday's season opener against Illinois, that somebody will be them.

Pinkel complimented both Moore and Lawrence, who saw spot duty in 2009 when Lawrence was a freshman and Moore a sophomore. Moore carried the ball 63 times for 258 yards and a touchdown. Lawrence ran the ball 52 times for 219 yards and will be looking for his first career touchdown against the Illini in a game that, for Missouri, is more about getting to 1-0 against the limping Illini and avoiding further embarrassment.

Washington's suspension also means Missouri won't redshirt a pair of freshman running backs, Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy. Both are under 180 pounds and are 5-foot-10 and 5-foot-9, respectively. Both fit the mold of shifty scatback, as do Moore and Lawrence ahead of them on the depth chart, unlike the 215-pound suspended starter.

"We’ll move them over and move them up," Pinkel said of his running backs. "They’re excited about the opportunity."

Illinois will be without two starters in the secondary, cornerback Terry Hawthorne (foot stress fracture) and strong safety Supo Sanni (ruptured Achilles tendon), giving way to what could be a big day for quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

But Pinkel knows what he wants to see from his running backs for them to do the same.

"You’re always just looking for mastery of the game plan and great work ethic, trying to improve and get better," Pinkel said. " But the consistency of their play, they’ve been doing that all throughout two-a-days, so they’ll be ready to go."