ShowMeMizzou.com continues to preview the Missouri Tigers position by position with a look at the offensive line.
After returning three starters along the offensive line from their 12-win 2013 season, the Missouri Tigers made it through the spring with their starting offensive line intact, and it appears that the Tigers will head into fall camp with the same number one unit.
Without question, that unit is led by junior center Evan Boehm, who anchored that position all of last season, and who has developed a tremendous rapport with his good friend and the Missouri starting QB, Maty Mauk. Boehm doesn't just lead the offensive line. He and Mauk are team leaders, as well.
Last year’s starting right tackle, Mitch Morse, is now the starting left tackle, and this spring, he looked much improved from a year ago. It’s obvious that the senior is more comfortable playing on the left side, and he appears to be a half-step quicker on the left side.
Last year’s starting right guard, Connor McGovern, Missouri’s resident strong man, is now the starting right tackle, and this spring, his response to the move was simply to significantly outperform everyone’s expectations. The trio of Boehm, Morse, and McGovern gives the Tigers a strong framework up front around which new offensive line coach, A.J. Ricker, can build a quality unit.
Throughout the spring and heading into fall camp, senior Anthony Gatti and junior Mitch Hall are the starters at left guard and right guard, respectively. This spring, Missouri’s starting offensive line was very good, and at times, approached being dominant, particularly in the run game.
And while Gatti and Hall are each certainly capable of retaining their starting jobs throughout the season, and completing a quality unit, it’s primarily at those guard positions where there’s going to be competition for starting jobs. Gatti and Hall will have to fend off challenges, primarily from sophomore Jordan Williams, and possibly from red-shirt freshman Nate Crawford, who moved to offensive line from defensive line after the Spring Game. Crawford will have to learn the position and master the technique, but he does possess the physical ability to challenge for a spot on the two-deep, or possibly even a starting job. Williams is a serious contender for a starting job, and he is likely to see considerably playing time this season.
At center, Boehm is backed up by junior Brad McNulty, who will be challenged for that back-up job by red-shirt freshman Alec Abeln. Abeln is a talent, and it's just a matter of time before he earns a promotion. Of course, either of the back-up centers are also in the mix for the competition at the guard positions.
The competition during camp for the second-string tackle positions will be closely contested, with junior Taylor Chappell, red-shirt freshman Clay Rhodes, and true freshman Michael Fairchild the leading candidates. But the real back-up tackle could end up being Gatti, as the fifth-year senior has played both tackle positions during his Missouri career.
Camp will also provide an initial opportunity for a quartet of true freshmen offensive linemen who arrived in June, including the slimmed-down Kevin Pendleton, Andy Bauer, Paul Adams, and Sam Bailey. In addition to Fairchild, who impressed after his arrival in January, it would appear that Pendleton, and possibly Bauer, are the other true freshmen who have the best chance of landing a spot on the two-deep Depth Chart.
With the addition of five true freshmen offensive linemen, and the move of Crawford from defense to offense, the Tigers have in the span of six months gone from being very thin along the offensive line to a situation where, although much of it is very young, they have the makings of some quality depth.
Here’s kind of what the Depth Chart might look like along the offensive line to begin Fall Camp:
65 Mitch Morse 6’6” 305 (S)
62 Taylor Chappell 6’5” 300 (J)
66 Adam Ploudre 6’4” 295 (RSF)
64 Paul Adams 6’6” 285 (F)
56 Sam Bailey 6’4” 250 (F)
70 Anthony Gatti 6’6” 315 (S)
76 Jordan Williams 6’3” 295 (So)
59 Kyle Starke 6’4” 310 (J)
78 Andy Bauer 6’3” 300 (F)
77 Evan Boehm 6’3” 315 (J)
63 Brad McNulty 6’4” 300 (J)
57 Alec Abeln 6’3” 290 (RSF)
69 Mitch H. Hall 6’2” 290 (J)
58 John Reid 6’3” 280 (RSF)
73 Mitch L. Hall 6’5” 310 (J)
51 Stephen Carberry 6’5” 300 (S)
55 Nate Crawford 6’5” 285 (RSF)
64 Will Johnson 6’2” 280 (So)
67 Kevin Pendleton 6’4” 302 (F)
60 Connor McGovern 6’4” 310 (J)
72 Clay Rhodes 6’5” 300 (RSF)
68 Michael Fairchild 6’5” 286 (F)
54 Nick Monaghan 6’2” 245 (J)
52 Jordan Hill 6’2” 270 (RSF)