Breaking in a new quarterback is not an easy task. In this regard, Missouri fans have been spoiled in recent history as Brad Smith and Chase Daniel both hit the ground running from day one as a starter.
For this trend to continue, Mizzou will need solid play from a young, yet experienced offensive line in 2009.
With the loss of former walk-on Colin Brown, the starting tackle spots seem destined to be manned by redshirt sophomore Elvis Fisher (6'5", 290) and sophomore Dan Hoch (6'7", 295). Where the tackle spot gets interesting is deciding who starts on the left side. Fisher held that spot for the entirety of 2008, but struggled to handle quick pass-rushers at times.
While Fisher was starting and gaining experience protecting Chase Daniel's blindside, Hoch saw time at both tackle spots in mop-up duty last season.
In the middle of the line, the Tigers return junior-to-be center Tim Barnes (6'4", 305). Many Mizzou fans remember just a few years ago when shotgun snaps were a roller coaster and numerous plays were affected by errant snaps.
It is a tribute to Barnes' play that I do not remember a handful of plays being affected by bad snaps in 2008.
On Barnes' right side, the Tigers return two-year starter Kurtis Gregory (6'5", 305). Gregory was possibly the best Missouri linemen in 2008 and should team with Fisher or Hoch to form a powerful right side for Mizzou.
The left guard position is the only spot that seems truly up for grabs heading into spring ball. Towards the end of last season, Coach Pinkel began to rotate starter Ryan Madison with redshirt freshman Austin Wuebbles (6'4", 285).
Wuebbles is extremely athletic for a guard and if he can continue to add weight and strength to his frame, he could be a force to be reckoned with along the Missouri frontline.
Also battling for the starting spot vacated by Madison will be redshirt sophomore Jayson Palmgren (6'3", 305). Palmgren is more of a mauler than Wuebbles and would bring a slightly different style to the position than Madison or Wuebbles.
Regardless of who wins the starting spots, the Tiger offensive line will be vital to sustaining a consistent running game and taking some of the pressure off the first-year starting quarterback.
InsideMizzou's Prediction: Wuebbles beats out Palmgren for the left guard spot and lines up next to Fisher as he holds onto his left tackle position. This leaves Barnes starting at center with Gregory and Hoch on his right.
In the battle for back-up spots, redshirt freshman Taylor Davis (6'5", 270) and junior Mike Prince (6'4", 300) hold off incoming freshman Jack Meiners (6'6", 310) at the tackle spots. Palmgren is the primary back-up at guard and redshirt sophomore J.T. Beasley (6'4", 285) backs up Barnes.
Publisher Note: These predictions and opinions are those of the author of the story. We will do an in-depth post spring camp analysis of all the positions at a later date. This is an early look at the possibilities.