As the Missouri Tigers prepare for fall camp, ShowMeMizzou.com continues our Preseason Position Previews with a look at the offensive line.
The Tigers head into fall camp with five seniors among their top offensive linemen. All five seniors come into the 2015 season each having made multiple starts for Mizzou. So to begin with, there’s plenty of veteran experience along the offensive line.
Among those five seniors are starting center, Evan Boehm, and another sure starter along the offensive line for the Tigers, in Connor McGovern. There is some question heading into fall camp with respect to which position McGovern will play, whether it’ll be at guard or at tackle. But there’s no question that he’ll be in the starting line-up.
Of the remaining senior offensive linemen, it look like all three of them will be squarely in the mix for playing time, and it’s likely that two of the three might very well enter fall camp working with the first-team offense.
Entering fall camp, it’s likely that Mitch Hall will be working with the first-team offense at one of the guard spots. And to begin fall camp, I think Taylor Chappell and Brad McNulty will also be in the mix for a first-team guard spot.
Missouri always tries to identify their five best offensive linemen, and then the Tigers try to get those five guys on the field together. That’s probably some of the thought process that might have McGovern getting a look at left tackle, since at least three of the senior offensive linemen have mostly played at guard, and Boehm, of course, is the center.
At least to begin fall camp, it appears that the right tackle position will be manned by a sophomore, either Nate Crawford or Clay Rhodes. Since switching from defense to offense less than a year ago, Crawford has come on quickly. This spring, he was named Missouri’s Most-Improved Offensive Lineman. That right tackle job was a closely contested battle this spring, and it’s a competition that is likely to continue well into fall camp. There are also other candidates for that right tackle job, including among others, expected incoming junior college transfer, Tyler Howell.
On the left side, in addition to taking a look at McGovern, it’s expected that Malik Cuellar, a mid-year junior college transfer who quickly moved up the Depth Chart this spring, will mount a serious challenge for the starting job. He’s a high-level talent who has the ability to quickly develop into a quality left tackle.
Red-shirt freshman Kevin Pendleton will compete for playing time at guard. He spent the entirety of the spring working with the second-team offense, and he appears to be ready to challenge for a starting job.
I think there’s one other young player who will make a serious challenge for a spot on the two-deep this year, in true freshman A.J. Harris. Whether he starts out at center or guard, I expect that by the end of camp, Harris will be squarely in the mix.
In addition to red-shirt freshman Paul Adams, the Tigers also have the versatile Michael Fairchild, and the very talented true freshman, Tanner Owen, developing at tackle. Also, sophomore center Alec Abeln, the versatile and athletic red-shirt freshman Sam Bailey, sophomore walk-on Adam Ploudre, and red-shirt freshmen Andy Bauer, will each be continuing to develop and competing for the opportunity to move up on the Depth Chart.
With what appears to be about eight or nine starter-quality, or near starter-quality, offensive linemen, I think it’s fair to say that the Tigers have some quality depth along the offensive line. And it’s a solid mix of experienced veterans and young, talented, and developing players.
McGovern and Boehm are currently Missouri’s two best offensive linemen, and as such, they will be in the starting lineup. Beyond that, it appears that there are three starting jobs that will be, to varying degrees, contested in camp.
The potential is there for Missouri to have a much-improved offensive line this year, particularly if some of the younger guys continue to improve and are able to forge ahead in the competition for starting jobs. At the very least, the competition for jobs will make everyone better. Unlike this spring, when the Tigers moved offensive linemen around from position to position, I don’t think we’ll see nearly as much of that in fall camp. Besides taking a look at McGovern at left tackle, and maybe looking at some of the younger players at multiple spots, I think the major emphasis during camp will be to keep guys in one or two spots, and try to develop some continuity along the offensive line.
Here’s kind of what the Depth Chart might look like along the offensive line to begin fall camp:
60 Connor McGovern 6’4” 310 (S)
70 Malik Cuellar 6’5” 300 (J)
64 Paul Adams 6’6” 285 (RSF)
65 Tanner Owen 6’5” 280 (F)
62 Taylor Chappell 6’5” 300 (S)
63 Brad McNulty 6’4” 300 (S)
78 Andy Bauer 6’3” 300 (RSF)
52 Jordan Hill 6’2” 270 (So)
54 Nick Monaghan 6’2” 245 (S)
77 Evan Boehm 6’3” 315 (S)
57 Alec Abeln 6’3” 290 (So)
56 Sam Bailey 6’4” 270 (RSF)
69 A.J. Harris 6’3” 280 (F),/p>
73 Mitch L. Hall 6’5” 320 (S)
71 Kevin Pendleton 6’4” 302 (RSF)
66 Adam Ploudre 6’4” 295 (So)
61 Adam Roland 6’2” 295 (RSF)
55 Nate Crawford 6’5” 285 (So)
72 Clay Rhodes 6’5” 300 (So)
68 Michael Fairchild 6’5” 286 (RSF)
75 Tyler Howell 6’8” 300 (J)