During the 2010 season, the Missouri Tigers fielded one of the better offensive lines in the Big 12, a unit that included just one senior, in 1st-Team All-Big 12 center Tim Barnes 6'4" 300. Barnes, who made his 40th straight start for Missouri in the Insight Bowl, was the anchor for a unit that allowed just 22 sacks on the season, while paving the way for a rushing attack that yielded 4.63 yards/rushing attempt. Barnes provided leadership for the team, and for his fellow offensive linemen, and was responsible for making the calls at the line of scrimmage.
Identify the starting center for next season will be one of the more critical undertakings when the Tigers head into spring ball.
Missouri's four other starting offensive linemen in 2010 were all juniors. Left tackle Elvis Fisher 6'5" 300 and right tackle Dan Hoch 6'7" 315 are also very experienced players. The Insight Bowl was the 40th straight start for Fisher, who was named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention in 2010. Hoch made his 26th straight start for Missouri in the Insight Bowl, and was named 2nd-Team All-Big 12, and First-Team Academic All-Big 12 in 2010. Another Missouri lineman, who was also named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention in 2010, is Austin Wuebbels 6'4" 300. Wuebbels has also made 26 straight starts for Missouri, and was also named First-Team Academic All-Big 12 in 2010. The fourth junior on Missouri's starting offensive line is Jayson Palmgren 6'2" 305.
These four will all return in 2011, for their senior seasons, and will form four-fifths of what should be a real strength of the Missouri football team. Three of the four have received All-Conference recognition, and will return with at least two full seasons of starting experience.
The primary candidates for the starting center position are a couple of guys, each of whom saw considerable playing time in 2010. Sophomore C/G Travis Ruth 6'3" 305 enjoyed a very productive 2010 season, and will be very much in the mix for a starting job in 2010, either at Barnes' vacated center spot, or at guard. The other primary candidate for a starting position next season, is RSF C/G Justin Britt 6'5" 300, who saw considerable playing time in 2010 at guard, and who has been practicing at the center position for months. Ruth started at left guard in the Insight Bowl, in place of Palmgren, who was suspended for the bowl game, but it was Britt who saw most of the action, and performed very well, against Iowa. I've heard Coach Pinkel say that Britt is the most athletic offensive lineman that he's had at Missouri.
Whether Britt, or Ruth, earns the starting job at center, the other one will likely join sophomore OT Jack Meiners 6'6" 305 as the primary back-ups. For the second straight season, Meiners served as the Tigers' primary back-up offensive tackle, and played considerably, in 2010. He has shown himself to be quite capable, at either right, or left, tackle.
A couple of other offensive linemen saw limited playing time in 2010, including a senior walk-on, in Kirk Lakebrink 6'6" 320, and a RSF, in Mark Hill 6'6" 276. Hill will return to compete for playing time at one of the tackle spots, and will likely enter spring ball listed on the second unit, opposite Meiners.