Inconsistency was the consistent theme of the Missouri offense during 2014, and the inconsistent performance was on display from nearly every position group on the offensive side of the football. Certainly, the offensive line was inconsistent. Yet, the guys up front played well enough to carry the Tigers to 11 wins, an SEC East Division title, and a Citrus Bowl Championship.
At times, the Missouri offensive line was dominant, although rarely for more than a quarter or two. At times, they couldn’t get out of their own way, with pre-snap and post-snap penalties too numerous to count. The pre-snap penalties were particularly frustrating for the coaching staff, and particularly debilitating for the offense. In addition, the Missouri offensive linemen seemed to take turns missing assignments, and losing their one-on-one match-ups.
The season began with senior Mitch Morse at left tackle, senior Anthony Gatti at left guard, junior Evan Boehm at center, junior Mitch Hall at right guard, and junior Connor McGovern at right tackle. That group had remained intact throughout the spring and through fall camp. I thought that once the season got underway, that this group underperformed. They were, at times, reasonably effective. But, they certainly weren’t consistently dominant. At times, Missouri’s run game sputtered. And at times, this group would get it going. Consistency in pass protection was a problem too, although that was a little more difficult to assess, since the QB tended to flee the pocket prematurely.
In the 1st quarter of the season’s fourth game, Gatti suffered a torn ACL, and he was lost for the remainder of the season. It’s not like Gatti had been consistently dominant, so replacing him wasn’t an insurmountable task. Right guard Hall had continued to struggle, and he too, was replaced in the starting line-up, as McGovern shifted back inside to right guard, junior Brad McNulty moved into the starting left guard position, and junior Taylor Chappell was inserted into the starting line-up at right tackle.
That’s the alignment that the Tigers utilized for the final 77% of the season. Morse, who was named second-team All-SEC by the league’s coaches, held down the left tackle position for the entire season. He had his struggles with consistency, but overall, he was one of Missouri’s better offensive linemen, and it was his play on the left edge that supplied some stability to that side of the line.
Boehm played every snap at center, and he too struggled with consistency, especially early in the season. But Boehm was better during the second half of the season.
With an improving Boehm at center, and with McGovern at right guard, the Tigers had solid line play from those two side-by-side inside positions, along with solid play from the left tackle position. I think McGovern was the best of Missouri’s offensive linemen during 2014, although except for bouts of inconsistency, the trio of McGovern, Morse, and Boehm played well.
Mitch Hall worked his way back into sharing some playing time at left guard with McNulty, except for the 2nd half of the Arkansas game, when Chappell had to come out of the game, and Hall played right guard, while McGovern moved back out to right tackle. The Missouri offensive line dominated the Razorbacks during the 4th quarter.
Overall, McNulty played fairly well. Against some of the bigger, better athletes, he was more likely to be over-matched. But overall, he held up fairly well. He had more than his share of pre-snap penalties, and he lost more than his share of one-on-ones match-ups. But overall, he played fairly well. Always technically solid and fundamentally sound, when he wasn’t physically over-matched, McNulty played more consistently well.
Hall struggled enough with consistency that he lost his starting job. There were times that Hall was nearly dominant. Yet overall, he was about as inconsistent as any of the Missouri offensive linemen. He had more than his share of pre-snap penalties, and he missed more of his assignments, or failed to win his one-on-one battles more often, than just about any of the offensive linemen who played for the Tigers this season.
If not Hall, then Missouri’s most inconsistent offensive lineman was right tackle Taylor Chappell. He too, had more than his share of pre-snap penalties, maybe more than anyone. And, he probably lost more one-on-one battles than any of the Missouri offensive linemen, perhaps cause for his often jumping the gun.
But even with the struggles with inconsistent play, the Tigers managed to rank in the middle of the conference both in terms of the efficiency of running the football, as well as providing protection for the quarterback.
And there were times when the Missouri offensive line was able to dominate many of their opponents, at least for a quarter or two.
Here’s what the Depth Chart looked like along the offensive line for most of the season:
C 77 Evan Boehm 6’3” 315 (J) 57 Alec Abeln 6’3” 290 (RSF) 51 Stephen Carberry 6’5” 300 (S) 69 Mitch H. Hall 6’2” 290 (J) 61 Adam Roland 6’2” 295 (F)
RG 60 Connor McGovern 6’4” 310 (J) 73 Mitch L. Hall 6’5” 320 (J) 67 Kevin Pendleton 6’4” 302 (F) 52 Jordan Hill 6’2” 270 (RSF)