Position Preview: Offensive Line

Continuing in our preseason coverage of the 2009 Missouri Tigers football season, InsideMizzou.com will break down the Tiger team by position. We begin today with the offensive line, where football games are won. This first part will be a FREE READ!

With a team full of inexperience and question marks, the Tigers offensive line in 2009 may shed a ray of light on the offense. Mizzou brings back three starters from last years team, all of whom have received some sort of honors in their colligate careers.

We begin at left tackle with Elvis Fisher. Fisher, listed at 6-5, 300 lbs., will be trusted with the always important role of protecting the quarterbacks weak side throughout the season. The role becomes even more important when you consider that the Tigers quarterbacks have very little experience, going a combined 5 for 13 in their college careers, but we will cover that in the QB preview.

Luckily for the young quarterbacks, Fisher began his Tiger career last season as a stellar freshman. In 2008, Elvis successfully worked his way to the top of the depth chart by opening day, and was voted the team Freshman of the Year and started all fourteen games at left tackle. Fisher also earned 1st Team Freshman All-American honors from Sporting News.

Last year, three year starter Ryan Madison finished his career as a Tiger at left guard, leaving an opening for someone new to step into his spot. Fighting for the starting position will be Austin Wuebbels and Jayson Palmgren, both sophomores who saw extensive playing time last season. Wuebbels, 6-4, 300 lbs., sat at the top of the depth chart throughout the spring practices in 2009, and was able to hold his own in 08 backing up right guard Kurtis Gregory. Wuebbels appeared in ten games, and received 1st Team Academic All-Big XII honors.

Palmgren, 6-2, 305 lbs, also spent time on the field for ten of the Tigers fourteen games in 2008. As the primary backup for Ryan Madison, he proved that he deserves to be on the field. If things stay as they are, Jayson will most likely remain second on the depth chart, however he surly will see even more playing time than last year.

At center is another one of Mizzou's returning starters, Tim Barnes. In 2008, Barnes, 6-4, 305 lbs, was voted by to coaches of the Big XII as an Honorable Mention All-Big XII player. Tim started all fourteen in 2008, and is only the third different player to start at center for Gary Pinkel (A.J. Ricker 2001-03, Adam Spieker 2004-07). The junior will be looked at as one of the leaders of the offensive line.

Right guard is also going to be a strong point for the Tigers, as returning starter Kurtis Gregory will finish his senior season with the team. The 2008 graduate has been the most honored of the linemen receiving 2nd Team All Big-XII from the coaches in 08, and an honorable mention for the Big XII from the Associated Press in both 07 and 08. Gregory will be the leader of this group, having started 28 consecutive games at right guard. His consistency and health will both be incredibly important for the Tigers success this season.

Rounding out the group at right tackle will be another first time starter. The probable starter for Missouri will be sophomore Dan Hoch. In 2008, Hoch saw time in all fourteen games that the Tigers played, backing up Colin Brown and playing on special teams. Hoch's giant stature at 6-7, 315 lbs, will certainly help him win the position over redshirt freshman, Daniel Jenkins. Hoch did have knee surgery during the offseason, however it did not affect his play during spring ball.

This offensive line will be following a record setting season with a team that has much less experience than it did a year ago. The lines goal this season should be to try and match last years mark, only allowing 1.21 sacks per game (16th in the nation). Giving Missouri's new quarterback, whomever it turns out to be, plenty of time will be the primary objective. If the experience of the offensive linemen can help Gabbert settle in, then this could turn out to be another special season.

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