There has been a debate all week long on exactly how much Missouri's offense will suffer without Derrick Washington on Saturday (and for however long after that he is out). Initially, I had called it a major blow, and I still feel that way. The fact is, Washington was really good through spring ball and fall camp. He was the starter for a reason, that reason being that, presumably, the coaches thought he was better than the rest of the tailbacks.

So, I'm on the record as saying I think it's a big loss. But, maybe not as big as it was initially thought. I think a big reason the reaction was so strong was the simple shock value. Missouri lost a two-year starter on the last day of fall camp, ten days before the season kicked off. The simple timing of it made reactions a little bit stronger.

By sheer numbers, Missouri loses 403 carries for 2,085 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground from Washington. Over the last three seasons, he has also caught 65 passes for 503 yards and three more scores (numbers that would rank first, second and first among all active Missouri players for their careers).

But here's what people (myself included) are forgetting: Everybody has to start somewhere. Without Wally Pipp going down, there may have been no Lou Gehrig. At one point in his rookie season, Tom Brady was an unknown who had never started a game. I'm not saying Kendial Lawrence is necessarily one of the all-time greats. The odds are that he probably isn't. But he might be every bit as good as Washington. He might be better.  We simply don't know.

Lawrence carried 51 times for 216 yards as a true freshman. The numbers compare favorably to Washington's first season (36 carries for 184 yards). Had Tony Temple been forced to miss the Illinois game in 2007, maybe Washington would have had to start. And everybody probably would have panicked then as well. In 2008, Washington did make the first start of his career. He ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He went on that season to tie the single-season Missouri record with 19 touchdowns, run for more than 1,000 yards and garner second-team all-Big 12 honors.

Maybe the same is in store for Lawrence. Maybe it's not. And that's the issue. The simple fact is, fans fear the unknown. With Washington, Tiger fans would have felt like they knew what they were getting. They were getting a solid if not spectacular back who rarely fumbled and had a nose for the goal line.

With Lawrence, they just don't know. They haven't seen enough of him to know. Whether he's as good as Washington—or maybe even better—remains to be seen. The only certainty is Lawrence is what the Tigers have and that's all they can concern themselves with.

“I don't think that's real important,” Gary Pinkel said when asked what his team loses without Washington. “We move 'em over, move 'em up. That's what we do and there's no excuses.”

“I'm ready to pick up the slack and be there for my team in any way that I can,” Lawrence said. “It's unfortunate that it could happen like this, but we just have to go along with it”.

Brad Smith was an unknown before he played Illinois. So were Danario Alexander and Jeremy Maclin. Everybody has to start somewhere. And you never quite know what you're going to get. That's part of what makes it so fun.

Gabe DeArmond is the publisher of PowerMizzou.com, the Missouri site on the Rivals.com network. You can read his daily coverge of the Tigers online at http://missouri.rivals.com.

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