Red-shirt junior offensive lineman Anthony Gatti began the season listed as the back-up left tackle for Missouri. When starting left guard Max Copeland suffered an ankle sprain, Gatti moved over to play left guard, where he’s performed well. Last week, Copeland and Gatti rotated at left guard, and this week, Gatti and Copeland are listed as co-starters at the position.
“Sometimes opportunities come from necessity,” explained Coach Henson, referring to the injury to Max Copeland that presented Gatti with an opportunity to play. “Anthony got an opportunity, you know, much the same way Max did last year. And, you know, he stepped in and showed that he can do it, and earned trust, and earned confidence. Last game, both the guys played, and they both played pretty well. We feel like that helps us build depth as we go in our future.”
“(Coach Henson) came into practice the week before Indiana, and asked me if I’d ever considered playing left guard,” Gatti recalled earlier this week, when he spoke with ShowMeMizzou.com. “We had talked about it earlier in the year, but you know, I really enjoy tackle, and I never really thought about it. But, like he said, the opportunity arose. And, I wasn’t going to pass it up. I was very thankful to them for giving me the opportunity. And you know, I think I did it as best I could when I was out there. All that matters is we get the win, and we get better each week. I feel if I continue to progress and continue to keep practicing well, then I don’t see why they don’t keep me in.”
Earlier this week, Coach Pinkel said that Gatti will continue to rotate in at left guard.
“Anthony Gatti’s been playing well, so that’s very healthy for us,” explained Coach Pinkel. “So, he’d be a back-up tackle, and we’ll work on that during the week. And, he’ll also play and rotate in there at guard a little bit. So, I think it’s just real healthy for us from a depth standpoint.”
Coach Henson also said that Gatti will continue to work at left tackle, as well as left guard. In fact, it appears that Gatti is the primary back-up at both tackle and both guard positions. However, he’s putting himself in position to become one of Missouri’s top five offensive linemen.
“I think both of those guys are playing real well,” said Coach Henson, talking about the competition between Gatti and Copeland for playing time at left guard. “I think it’ll be great competition for them, and probably cause them both to become better players. And at the end of the day, it just builds some depth for us.”
In watching Gatti at left guard, his proficiency in pass protection stood out. With Gatti and Britt, two left tackles side by side, there wasn’t much leakage on the blind side.
I asked the 6’6” 309-pound Gatti how much practice time he’s gotten at guard?
“I don’t think I’ve taken one rep at left guard my whole college career,” said Gatti. “You know, I’ve been here three years. There’s a couple of plays here and there where the guard pulls, that you’ve got to get used to. It’s just like going from left tackle to right tackle, it’s the same play, but it’s the opposite. I don’t know, there’s a bit of a change, but it’s pretty easy for me to adjust to. It’s not too much different, but definitely the plays, it’s different. So, you’ve got to learn that.”
On the inside, Gatti’s blocking bigger people.
“Definitely bigger,” said Gatti, who’s personal best in the bench press is 26 reps at 225 pounds. “I’ve definitely learned to sit my hips down, and you know, working with Coach Henson and working with the guards, he’s taught me some new things, some key things that I can do, you know, just sit my hips down and punch my hands. You know, simple things to say, but hard to do out on the field. But, that’s our goal, is to get better at those things every week.”
Gatti talked about what he needs to do to get better.
“I like to stay humble,” explained Gatti. “I definitely pick out the things I can get better on. I’m always looking to get better on things, just different fundamentals, you know, just little things. When you’re going into SEC play, the little things matter so much. You want to take perfect steps, perfect punch, basically the dream world of football, which basically doesn’t happen all the time. But, you want it to, you think about it, and you think it’s going to happen every play. So you know you’ve got to go out there and practice, and get better each week.”
The rotation of Gatti and Copeland at left guard makes Missouri better.
“We don’t care about who’s playing, we just care about getting the win,” explained Gatti. “That’s what so awesome about (splitting reps) with Max. He’s not selfish and worrying about his spot. He’s willing to give it up for the team, which is awesome! And, it’s a hard thing to do, you know, because everybody wants to start. Everybody wants to play. But he’s willing to do what’s best for the team, which shows his character.”