2012 Year In Review: Offensive Line

In the continuing series of wrapping up 2012 as it winds down, ShowMeMizzou.com reviews the Missouri offensive line, which was a team weakness all season after being decimated due to injuries.

Following a disappointing 2012 season, ShowMeMizzou.com reviews the Missouri offensive line, which was a team weakness all season after being decimated due to injuries.

Again, a recounting of the injuries that Missouri experienced among their offensive linemen is in order.  Several offensive linemen missed time during spring practice while recovering from various injuries and surgeries.

Following spring ball, it was learned that the medical staff had determined that junior Mark Hill's playing days were over.   Hill had been projected to enter fall camp as a strong candidate for a spot on the two-deep.

Early in fall camp, senior Travis Ruth, a returning starter, suffered a torn triceps injury, and he was lost for the season, which effectively ended his football career.

During camp, red-shirt freshman Taylor Chappell was lost for the season, and senior starter Jack Meiners was injured.  Meiners' injuries ended up causing him to miss more than half the season, and he made just three starts in 2012.

Senior Elvis Fisher was injured in game two, and missed three starts, and junior Justin Britt missed the season's final three-plus games.

The Tigers began the season with Fisher and Britt on the outside, and an interior line made up of three players who had never started a game in college, including Evan Boehm, the first true freshman offensive linemen to ever start a game for a Gary Pinkel-coached team, and junior Max Copeland, a former walk-on.   Boehm started all 12 games for Mizzou, and overall he made improvement as he gained experience.  Copeland played in all 12 games and made 11 starts.  He's a fierce competitor, but he struggled throughout the season against bigger, stronger, and more talented players.

Sophomore Mitch Morse was a back-up guard in 2011, and in the spring of 2012, Morse took over the starting job at center.  Morse had big trouble with snapping the football in games, and ended up moving out to right tackle when Britt was lost for the remainder of the season. 

Morse's move to tackle precipitated the use of red-shirt freshman Brad McNulty at center.  In all, McNulty played in 11 games, and made 4 starts.   In general, McNulty did a better job of snapping the football, but he was often man-handled by bigger, stronger players, even more so than was Copeland.

With so much inexperience up front, and with a couple of guys who played extensively being regularly man-handled at the line of scrimmage, the offensive line struggled mightily.  At times, there was little or no running room inside, and opponents routinely made contact with Missouri's QBs and TBs in the backfield.  Add in problems picking up the blitz and the never completely resolved problem of errant snaps, and you have a picture of an offensive line that just simply wasn't getting it done.  No wonder Missouri's offense struggled so much, particularly when James Franklin was not in the game to help with making the line-of-scrimmage calls for the inexperienced offensive linemen.  Too often, there was inadequate time for the QBs, little running room for the TBs, and chaos in the backfield, with errant snaps throwing off the timing of plays or worse, and defenders running free or relatively unhindered in the back field.

Coach Pinkel kept talking about how this group was "battling", and he kept pointing out that his young offensive linemen were getting better.  They did play well enough at times, and in his post-season press conference, Coach Pinkel pointed out that some young players had gained significant experience under duress.   

For the season's final three-plus games, after having lost three starters, and five of their projected top ten offensive linemen for the remainder of the season, the Tigers second team offensive line included sophomores Anthony Gatti, Nick Demien, and Chris Freeman, and red-shirt freshmen Connor McGovern and Michael Boddie.  All five of these youngsters saw the field this season.   Gatti and McGovern played in ten and nine games respectively, while Boddie, Demien, and Freeman each played in two games.

Going forward, the Tigers lose three seniors, but only one who played more than half of the 2012 season, and they expect to have Britt and Chappell back from injury.


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