Following Missouri’s 27-31 loss to Indiana, in which starting left guard Anthony Gatti was lost for the season with a knee injury, and in which, according to Missouri Offensive Coordinator Josh Henson, the Tigers failed to “move people” in their run game, and struggled with their “1-on-1 match-ups” in pass protection, the Missouri staff has decided to make some personnel changes along their offensive line. Juniors Taylor Chappell and Brad McNulty have been inserted into the starting line-up at right tackle and left guard, respectively, and Connor McGovern has moved from right tackle to right guard.
“Right now, we’re looking for performance,” explained Coach Henson. “We’re looking for guys that can get out on the field and step up and be that guy that can get the job done. We’ve told every guy, that even though we’ve made the switch, and we’re going with it this week, that it doesn’t necessarily mean that it sticks. As always, it’ll be (an ongoing competition).”
Coach Henson explained that Chappell and McNulty have been practicing well, and have been getting better. He also pointed out that junior Mitch Hall would likely see some action at right guard, as well, and that sophomore Jordan Williams would be the next guy in at left guard. He also suggested that McGovern could still see action at right tackle in addition to playing right guard.
“We’ve been impressed with how Taylor (Chappell) has been coming along,” explained Coach Henson. “We were impressed with how (Chappell) did at tackle in (fall) camp………………………………….... He’s been improving every week up to this point……………………………………. I think Taylor will respond great to (starting) and play well.”
Coach Henson said that McNulty “played well” after he replaced Gatti against Indiana. He called McNulty “unselfish” and a “team player”.
“I saw a different spark when Brad (McNulty) got in the game Saturday,” said Coach Henson. “He played really hard. And, he played really tough.”
McGovern has played well at right tackle after having played well at right guard a year ago. His versatility allows Missouri to slide him over to guard and to insert Chappell at tackle, the position with which he is familiar.
“I’m not worried about (moving inside),” said McGovern. “I’m not thinking about it. I mean, it’s different, but it’s not that different, especially after playing there last year.”
He talked about the realignment of personnel.
“It’s just something new,” said McGovern. “I mean, clearly what we had wasn’t perfect. We’re trying to get to that perfect (group). We’re just trying new things. Everyone that’s on the line is a capable player. I think it’ll be good for us……………………………………….. We’re going to try it out in practice, and if it benefits us, we’ll keep it. If it doesn’t, we’ll make another change.”
“I’ll play wherever the team needs me to play,” continued McGovern. “We’re going to try it all week, and try different combinations and stuff. Whatever works the best is what we’ll use. Everyone is confident in the position they play, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
McGovern said that he hopes that by playing at guard, he can help with some of the communication issues that they’ve experienced this season.
“Moving back to guard, maybe I can help a little bit more with making some of the calls,” said McGovern. “But I don’t know if that’s it. I think we just need to put our foot in the dirt and say we’re going to be a run team. We’ve put a lot of emphasis on it last week and this week. And, we’re going to work a lot at it. It’s just something we need to practice more. We’ve got to draw a line in the sand, and say we’re going to be a run team. It really helped us last year.”
Starting center Evan Boehm had his own struggles against Indiana, and he explained that he has identified and corrected his snapping issues. The coaching staff indicated that on Sunday, Boehm’s snaps were perfect. Boehm also talked about having two new guards in the game on either side of him.
“I think Connor’s athletic enough, and good enough, to play anywhere on the offensive line,” said Boehm. “He’s proved that to a lot of people and to himself…………………………………………….. We’re used to playing next to each other, like we played all of last year. Wherever Connor’s playing, he’s going to help the team out tremendously……………………………………………. Connor’s a smart kid. He’s an athletic kid. He played there all of last year. He knows what’s going on.”
“Brad’s a former center,” continued Boehm. “I mean, he knows everything about the offensive line. Brad’s a smart kid. He knows everything about what everybody’s doing.”
“We have to make sure that we’re enthusiastic during practice, and that we’re out there getting better every time we’re on that practice field,” said Boehm, who indicated that they practiced well on Sunday. “We have to make sure that we’re getting better, and working together, and coming together as a team.”