Heading into the spring, the Missouri Tigers are facing the challenge of rebuilding an offensive line that was decimated with injuries a year ago. Missouri needs this unit to rebound from a season in which they underachieved, and to become a team strength. There’s lots of work to be done, and it’s a unit that will be well worth watching during the spring.
Missouri’s most experienced offensive lineman is senior Justin Britt, who is recovering from knee surgery and is expected to miss at least the first half of spring football. Britt is a versatile offensive lineman who is probably best suited to playing guard. But, until Missouri develops two better tackles, once Britt is healthy, it’s likely that he’ll line up at tackle. If he were healthy, he’d begin the spring as the starter at left tackle.
But since Britt isn’t healthy, I expect to see junior Anthony Gatti begin the spring as the starting left tackle, with sophomore Taylor Chappell, who is also recovering from a knee injury, in close pursuit of a starting job. Before he was injured, Chappell was deemed ready to play as a red-shirt freshman. Once he’s fully recovered, he should be a major factor in the competition for playing time at tackle. Gatti has seen some game action, and he came on at the end of last season. Like so many of Missouri’s offensive linemen, Gatti has spent much of his career battling injuries.
Sophomore Mitch Hall, who transferred in last summer, will be eligible to play this year, and he figures into this competition, as well. Hall is also a candidate to move inside to play guard, a consideration which is true of most of Missouri’s tackles.
Sophomore Evan Boehm started every game last season at left guard, and he enters the spring as the incumbent at that position. Boehm is supposed to get some work at center for the Tigers, and if he does well enough in that experiment, that’s probably the only way that he’s not a starter at guard for Missouri this year.
At least initially, it’s likely that Boehm will be backed up by sophomore Mike Boddie. Boddie showed improvement last year, and it will be interesting to see if that continues this spring.
Spring practice will likely begin with sophomore Brad McNulty listed as the starting center. It’s not a given that he’ll hold onto that job, as the Tigers will want to put their five best offensive linemen in those starting positions. McNulty did gain valuable experience a year ago, and one of the things that he learned is that he needs to be a lot stronger.
At least initially, I expect to see sophomore Connor McGovern playing behind McNulty. I’m also expecting to see a healthy McGovern make a move up the depth chart for the Tigers, whether it’s at center or at guard.
Senior Max Copeland played extensively at right guard last season, and I expect to see him listed as the starter there when spring practice begins. For much of last season, Copeland was backed up by junior Nick Demien. I think we could see some shuffling of personnel this spring that may change the look of the two-deep at the right guard position.
Another player who is coming off of an injury is red-shirt freshman Jordan Williams. Like Gatti, McGovern, Chappell, and others along Missouri’s offensive line, Williams has been slowed in his development by injuries. It will be interesting to see where he is in his development, and whether he’ll be ready to compete with the older players for those coveted spots on the two-deep.
Missouri will look to identify their five best offensive linemen, and try to move them around to create a starting unit. As we enter spring ball, I can say with some sense of certainty that if they’re healthy, Britt, Boehm, and Morse are among Missouri’s top five. Britt’s absence from the line-up for at least the first half of spring ball provides an opportunity for one of the remaining competitors to work with the number one unit.
The competition between the likes of Gatti, Chappell, McGovern, McNulty, Freeman, Hall, Coleman, Boddie, Demien, and Williams for those top spots will be interesting, as well as revealing. The theme of spring ball, as it relates to this position group, may very well be movement, as I expect that we’ll see players moving around up front, playing multiple positions, as well as moving up and down within the depth chart. And, those who show the ability to move on the field, as well as the requisite strength, are the ones who are likely to experience the most upward mobility.
70 Anthony Gatti 6'6" 320 (J)
62 Taylor Chappell 6'5" 320 (So)
76 Jordan Williams 6'2" 275 (RSF)
68 Justin Britt 6’6” 315 (S) (injured)
LG 77 Evan Boehm 6'3" 315 (So)
67 Mike Boddie 6'6" 295 (So)
59 Kyle Starke 6'4" 310 (So)
71 Justin Grava 6’3” 260 (RSF)
C 63 Brad McNulty 6'4" 305 (So) 60 Connor McGovern 6'4" 315 (So)
56 Robert Luce 6'2" 300 (J) 79 Adam Franklin 6’0” 265 (J)
RG 61 Max Copeland 6'3" 295 (S)
78 Nick Demien 6'6" 300 (J)
51 Stephen Carberry 6'4" 300 (J)
69 Mitch Hall 6’1” 285 (So)
RT 65 Mitch Morse 6'5" 305 (J) 74 Chris Freeman 6'8" 335 (J)
73 Mitch Hall 6’6” 320 (So)
54 Nick Monaghan 6’2” 245 (So)