2011 Pre-Season Position Preview: O-Line

The Missouri Tigers will give new starting quarterback a veteran line to work behind heading into the 2011 season and ShowMeMizzou.com breaks the position down in detail.

Missouri's offensive line is an experienced group, and is one of the strengths of the team.  Four of the five starters from 2010 return for their senior seasons.  Senior starting LT Elvis Fisher  6'5"  295, an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention in each of the past two seasons, enters 2011 with a streak of 40 consecutive starts for Missouri. 

In addition to being Missouri's most experienced offensive lineman, Fisher is a tenacious blocker, with excellent feet, and is one of the more athletic big guys on the team.

Projected Missouri Pre-season Offensive Line Depth Chart

72 Elvis Fisher  6'5" 295 (S)
70 Anthony Gatti  6'6" 295 (RSF)
62 Taylor Chappell  6'6"  275  (F)
71 Jayson Palmgren  6'2" 305 (S)
68 Justin Britt  6'5" 295 (So)
61 Max Copeland  6'3" 270 (So) 
63 Brad McNulty  6'2"  300  (F)
53 Travis Ruth  6'3" 295 (J)
65 Mitch Morse  6'6" 290 (RSF)
56 Robert Luce  6'2"  295  (RSF)
60 Connor McGovern  6'4"  275  (F)
66 Austin Wuebbels  6'4" 295 (S)
75 Jack Meiners  6'6" 305 (J)
73 Mark Hill   6'6" 290 (So)
78 Nick Demien  6'6" 300 (RSF)
77 Dan Hoch  6'7" 315 (S)
74 Chris Freeman  6'8"  325  (RSF) 
67 Mike Boddie  6'6"  275  (F)
51 Stephen Carberry  6'4"  295 (RSF)

Senior starting RT Dan Hoch  6'7" 315, who in 2010 was a Second-Team All-Big 12 selection, has made 26 consecutive starts for Missouri, and has been named to the Pre-Season Watch List for the Outland Trophy Award.   Hoch is another athletic lineman, who uses his long arms to his advantage.  Each of Hoch and Fisher have next-level ability.

The Tigers best offensive lineman a year ago, senior RG Austin Wuebbels  6'4" 295, who was All-Big 12 Honorable Mention in 2010, and who has been named First-Team Academic All-Big 12 each of the past three seasons, has also started 26 consecutive games for Missouri.  One of the strongest Tigers, Wuebbels reportedly set a school record in the bench press this summer.  He's very athletic, knows his job, and gets it done. 

Fisher, Hoch, and Wuebbels are all-conference caliber players, and their starting jobs are secure.

The Tigers' fourth returning starter along the offensive line is senior LG Jayson Palmgren  6'2" 305.  Palmgren shows a mean streak, and he has continued to improve sufficiently to retain his starting position.  He's especially effective in the Tigers' run game.

The fifth starter, heading into fall camp, is junior center Travis Ruth  6'3" 295, who cemented his hold on the starting position this spring.  Ruth is another experienced player, a two-time First-Team Academic All-Big 12 selection, who has seen action at both center and guard over the two previous seasons.  Ruth is considered to be a very good technician.  He has enjoyed a run of good health over the last year or so that has enabled him to apply his blue-collar work ethic, and develop into a very solid performer.

Entering fall camp, the primary back-ups along the offensive line are sophomore Justin Britt  6'5" 295 and junior Jack Meiners  6'6" 305, each of whom has seen considerable game action prior to this season.  Britt and Meiners will enter fall camp listed at LG and RG respectively, but they have each demonstrated the ability to play on the outside, as well.  The athletic Britt, at left guard, would appear to be the most likely candidate to unseat one of the returning starters.  Meiners has seen quite a bit of practice time at both tackle spots, but made the move inside this spring, and really embraced the move, telling ShowMeMizzou.com at the time that he felt that, because he's more strong than fast, he's better suited to playing inside.

While the starters appear to be pretty well set, the focus of fall camp will be on the competition for spots on the second and third team offensive lines.  Britt or Meiners would likely be the first ones in should an injury occur at either guard or tackle, maybe Britt on the left side, and Meiners on the right side. 

Heading into camp, the second-string center is RSF Mitch Morse  6'6" 290, who earned that spot in the spring, and who appears likely to retain that position, at least through this season.   Since his arrival a year ago, Morse has impressed everyone with his athleticism, and with his work ethic.

That's the Tigers' top eight offensive linemen, and I think it's likely that those eight will be the ones who play this season when games are on the line.

Entering fall camp, the second-string offensive tackles are RSF Anthony Gatti  6'6" 295 and RSF Chris Freeman  6'8"  325, each of whom earned those spots this spring.  Their challenge this fall will be to solidify their hold on those positions, and to be ready when needed.  Each of these young tackles will be challenged by a pair of true freshmen, in LT Taylor Chappell  6'6"  275  and RT Mike Boddie  6'6"  275.  These four young players will compete for what will essentially be a leg up towards earning a starting spot in 2012 and beyond.  It appears to me that each of the four have what it takes to play on the outside along Missouri's offensive line, and watching their progress will be an interesting aspect of this fall camp.  

Since his arrival more than a year ago, Gatti has just continued to progress in his development, and with his play.  The same can be said for Freeman, as well.  He's dramatically reshaped his body since last summer, and looks ready to begin to contribute.  While it's unlikely that the freshmen will play this year, Gatti and Freeman will have their work cut out for them if they're going to stay ahead of Boddie and Chappell.

At the start of fall camp, sophomore Mark Hill  6'6"  290  is listed at the right guard position on the number three offense.  Completing the early picture on the third-team offensive line are a pair of walk-ons, in sophomore LG Max Copeland  6'3" 270  and RSF center Robert Luce  6'2"  295.   

Challenging the third-team offensive linemen are RSF Nick Demien  6'6" 300, who begins fall camp listed behind Hill at right guard, freshman LG Brad McNulty  6'2"  300, and  freshman center Connor McGovern  6'4"  275.  Any of these fourth-teamers could move up onto the third team during fall camp, and begin to challenge the two-deep.   Completing the depth chart is a returning walk-on, RSF Stephen Carberry  6'4"  295, who is listed at fourth-team right tackle. 

Pre Season Analysis:

The Missouri Tigers veteran offensive line will help make the transition for new QB James Franklin that much easier. He has the quality returning starters who he can count on for solid pass protection as well as opening holes for the running game which should also help take some pressure off the first year starter.

Hoch looks in the best shape since arriving at Missouri, and Fisher looks healthy again after missing the spring. They provide good leadership beside being experienced and talented.

Not only is the offensive line experienced, and one of the team's strengths, there is plenty of quality depth, too.  I don't recall the Tigers having this much talented depth up front.

I expect that we're going to see the Tigers run the ball this year.  The offensive guards had their hand on the ground in the spring, an attempt to help them stay low while coming off of the ball.  That's not to say that this group won't be able to pass block.   Pass-protection is their specialty.

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