Heading into the spring, the Missouri Tigers faced the challenge of rebuilding an offensive line that was decimated by injuries a year ago. By the conclusion of Spring Football, the Tigers had taken a huge step forward in the direction of building a capable offensive line.
There were several major developments that contributed to making this spring very productive in terms of establishing a competent offensive line.
Very early in the spring, sophomore Evan Boehm made the move to center, a development which by the end of the spring appears to be well on the way to being very successful. By the end of the spring, Boehm had all but eliminated snapping concerns. Not only does Boehm bring the physical size, strength, and athleticism to the position, but he also brings natural leadership qualities to the position, and what Missouri Offensive Coordinator Josh Henson calls “command presence”.
In another major development, after the Tigers returned to spring practice following Spring Break, two of Missouri’s top three offensive tackles, Justin Britt and Taylor Chappell, each returned to the practice field following knee surgeries last fall. Having Britt and Chappell back on the field lent some clarity to the depth chart and some continuity up front for the offense.
In Missouri’s quest to identify their five best offensive linemen, it was expected that a healthy Britt (left tackle), Boehm, and Mitch Morse (right tackle) would anchor the Tigers’ starting offensive line.
In another major development, the Tigers emerged from the spring having identified a fourth member of their starting offensive line. Sophomore Connor McGovern took his game to a “whole other level” this spring, as he claimed the starting right guard position. Finally healthy, McGovern earned the spring’s Most Improved Award at his position, and he drew the praise of his coaches.
“Connor McGovern is a different player now than he was a year ago,” explained Coach Pinkel, following Spring Football.
“Connor McGovern is one of the most improved players on our team,” said Coach Henson.
With four of the five starting positions pretty well-established coming out of the spring, only the left guard spot remains hotly contested. Senior Max Copeland moved from right to left guard, and he held onto the starting job throughout the spring. But, he’s being challenged by a rapidly-improving sophomore, in Mitch Hall. Hall’s another one who could have been under consideration for most improved offensive lineman this spring. By the end of the spring, Hall and Copeland were splitting snaps with the first-team offense, and Hall was making steady improvement at the position.
By the end of the spring, the first-team offensive line was much-improved, and had begun to establish some continuity. As Coach Henson pointed out following the conclusion of Spring Football, the starters were giving the QBs some time to read the defense, and find receivers. And for what it’s worth, in the three spring scrimmages, Missouri's five scholarship TBs collectively averaged over 5.2 yards/carry.
Coming out of the spring, there’s still work to be done up front, especially identifying the next five (6-10) offensive linemen, and putting together a reliable second unit.
Coming out of the spring, the number five/six offensive lineman was being closely contested between Copeland and Hall. Two other linemen who are certainly in the mix for the seventh and eighth spots are Brad McNulty, who can play either center or guard, and Taylor Chappell, who is considered to be the Tigers’ number three offensive tackle. Once Chappell returns to his pre-injury form, he could very well claim that fifth starting spot, or at least be in competition as the Tigers' number six offensive lineman.
After Chappell and Britt returned to the field mid-spring, the Tigers moved junior Chris Freeman to left tackle behind junior Anthony Gatti. While Gatti and Freeman both played the best football of their careers this spring, a sentiment which was echoed on multiple occasions by Coach Henson, neither of them are playing at the required, or hoped for, level, so there’s still some work to do in improving depth at the tackle position.
Another development that began to take shape late in the spring was the emergence of RSF Jordan Williams. Early in the spring, Williams got back on the field for the first time following a string of injuries that had kept him sidelined for much of his time at Missouri. The staff looked at Williams at tackle, center, and guard, before inserting him into the mix at right guard behind McGovern. Late in the spring, Williams took reps at right guard with both the second and third units. He’s a talent, and he’s just going to continue to improve.
Junior walk-on Stephen Carberry spent most of the spring at second-team right guard, and at the conclusion of spring practice, he was still in the mix for a spot on the two-deep.
Heading into the fall, it’s going to be important for some of the young guys to continue to improve, and for everyone to remain healthy.
68 Justin Britt 6'6" 315 (S)
70 Anthony Gatti 6'6" 320 (J)
74 Chris Freeman 6'8" 335 (J)
LG 61 Max Copeland 6'3" 295 (S)
73 Mitch Hall 6’5” 320 (So)
78 Nick Demien 6'6" 300 (J)
59 Kyle Starke 6'4" 310 (So)
C 77 Evan Boehm 6'3" 315 (So)
63 Brad McNulty 6'4" 305 (So)
56 Robert Luce 6'2" 300 (J) 69 Mitch Hall 6’1” 285 (So)
60 Connor McGovern 6'4" 315 (So)
51 Stephen Carberry 6'4" 300 (J)
76 Jordan Williams 6'2" 275 (RSF)
54 Nick Monaghan 6’2” 245 (So)
RT 65 Mitch Morse 6'5" 305 (J) 62 Taylor Chappell 6'5" 320 (So)
67 Mike Boddie 6'6" 295 (So)
79 Adam Franklin 6’0” 265 (J)