As Missouri readies for the beginning of Spring Football, ShowMeMizzou.com previews the Tigers offensive line.
Missouri returns five seniors along the offensive line, each of whom started multiple games a year ago. It seems likely that when spring practice begins, all five of those seniors will be lined up as the starters, although that will probably have one or two of them playing slightly out of position.
I think Taylor Chappell may begin the spring at left tackle, with Connor McGovern sliding out to right tackle, which opens up starting guard positions on either side of center Evan Boehm for each of Brad McNulty and Mitch Hall. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if that’s how the Tigers line up on the first day of Spring Football. But, I don’t expect it to remain that way into September.
Although he’ll start out near the back of the line, I think that newcomer Malik Cuellar, the junior-college offensive tackle from the redwood country of northern California, will emerge as the starting left tackle for Missouri. Besides Chappell and Cuellar, additional competition for that starting left tackle job this spring is likely to come from sophomore Nate Crawford and a pair of red-shirt freshmen, in Michael Fairchild and Paul Adams.
It seems likely to me that Chappell will end up competing for the starting right tackle job, although there will be plenty of competition for that starting job, as well. If possible, the Tigers always try to put their five best offensive linemen on the field together. With his experience of playing both right tackle and right guard, McGovern’s versatility will almost certainly allow Missouri to do just that. In addition to McGovern and Chappell, others who will likely challenge for the starting right tackle job are sophomore Clay Rhodes, or one of the aforementioned competitors for the left tackle job (Crawford, Fairchild, or Adams).
Fairchild could also very well enter into the competition for one of the starting jobs at guard. He looks like a guy who could play just about anywhere along the offensive line.
Connor McGovern will probably be the starting right guard this year, and Boehm will, of course, be the starting center. I’ve got McNulty and Hall beginning the spring at the two starting guard spots. I think they’ll both be pushed for those starting jobs by guys like Williams, Fairchild, Pendleton, and the overflow from the competition at offensive tackle, namely McGovern, and possibly Crawford.
Heading into the spring, the Tigers have a good many talented young offensive linemen from which the coaching staff will be looking for emerging starters.
In addition to the just-arrived Cuellar, there’s but one other junior along the offensive line, Jordan Williams. For all of the 2014 season, he was listed as the second-team left guard, although in reality, Mitch Hall was the primary back-up at that position. This spring, Williams will have a shot at winning a starting position. I’ve got him beginning the spring at second-team left guard, but he’ll likely take reps this spring at both guard positions.
Just as we’ll likely see McGovern take reps at right tackle this spring, we’ll also probably see McNulty taking reps at center, as he is very likely Boehm’s primary back-up this year, although I know the coaching staff would like to see sophomore Alec Abeln step up into that role.
Missouri Offensive Coordinator Josh Henson cited the importance of this spring in the continued development of the non-seniors along Missouri’s offensive line.
“Those are the guys who haven’t been on the field as much that have been here for a couple of years,” said Coach Henson. “It’s really time, you know, this is the time when guys in that position kind of take that next step forward and become real solid players…………………………….. And we’ve got a great class of five (red-shirt freshmen). I think all of those kids have a real shot.”
In addition to Fairchild and possibly Adams, another red-shirt freshman who could muscle his way into the two-deep competition this spring is Kevin Pendleton.
For the first time since Missouri joined the SEC, the Tigers have a chance this spring to begin to develop some real quality depth along the offensive line.
Here’s kind of what Missouri’s Depth Chart might look like along the offensive line on the first day of Spring Football.
LT 62 Taylor Chappell 6’5” 300 (S) 55 Nate Crawford 6’5” 285 (So) 64 Paul Adams 6’6” 285 (RSF) 70 Malik Cuellar 6’5” 300 (J) 65 Tanner Owen 6’5’ 276 (F)
LG 63 Brad McNulty 6’4” 300 (S) 76 Jordan Williams 6’3” 295 (J) 78 Andy Bauer 6’3” 300 (RSF)
C 77 Evan Boehm 6’3” 315 (S) 57 Alec Abeln 6’3” 290 (So) 61 Adam Roland 6’2” 295 (RSF) 54 Nick Monaghan 6’2” 245 (S)
RG 73 Mitch L. Hall 6’5” 320 (S) 68 Michael Fairchild 6’5” 286 (RSF) 67 Kevin Pendleton 6’4” 302 (RSF) 52 Jordan Hill 6’2” 270 (So)
RT 60 Connor McGovern 6’4” 310 (S) 72 Clay Rhodes 6’5” 300 (So) 56 Sam Bailey 6’4” 250 (RSF) 66 Adam Ploudre 6’4” 295 (So)