The relative youth of Missouri's offensive line in 2009, combined with improved recruiting at this position in recent years, bodes well for this unit heading into 2010. Entering spring practice, returning senior C Tim Barnes 6'4" 305 provides this group's leadership, and is the team's most experienced returning offensive lineman, with 27 career starts.
The likely starting tackles entering spring ball are returning juniors Elvis Fisher 6'5" 300 and Dan Hoch 6'7" 320. Like Barnes, Fisher has been a two-year starter, and has started the Tigers' last 27 games at the LT position. Hoch started all 13 games at RT for the Tigers in 2009. Not only will these three returning stalwarts begin spring practice as the starters, but we can expect to see them retain their spots, and anchor Missouri's offensive line throughout the 2010 season.
At LG, the Tigers return junior Austin Wuebbels 6'4" 305, who started all 13 games in 2009. I expect that he will begin spring ball as the starter there, and will definitely be in the mix for a starting job heading into 2010. Beyond these four returning starters, the picture along the offensive line is a little less clear.
The two primary candidates to begin spring practice as the starting RG are junior Jayson Palmgren 6'2" 305 and sophomore Jack Meiners 6'6" 305. Palmgren played in all 13 games last season, primarily substituting for Wuebbels, but has also worked at RG. Meiners played some at RT in 2009, but could move inside this year.
Left tackle is the one spot on the second unit where I feel that I know who will line up there on the first day of spring ball. That will be RSF Justin Britt 6'6" 280. The Missouri staff likes him at LT. He could end up being the primary back-up at both offensive tackle spots if Meiners makes the anticipated move inside.
Junior J.T. Beasley 6'4" 295 and sophomore Travis Ruth 6'3" 305 have alternated between guard and center, and I expect them to begin spring ball listed on the second unit at those positions. Beasley is known for utilizing good blocking technique, but needs to get stronger. Ruth has missed quite a bit of time during his first two years at Missouri due to injury, but has a reputation as a weight room warrior. This could be his time to challenge for a top spot.
There are three returning scholarship offensive linemen who are candidates to begin spring practice listed at the final spot on the second unit. At the beginning of spring, either of two sophomores, Dan Jenkins 6'4" 305 or Taylor Davis 6'4" 295, could be lining up at a guard spot with the second unit. We could also see Davis playing offensive tackle, probably on the right side, if Meiners goes ahead and slides over to the right guard spot. The final candidate to begin the spring listed on the second team offensive line is RSF Mark Hill 6'6" 272. He too, could be lining up at right tackle, although he's worked primarily at the left tackle spot in his limited practice time since recovering from an Achilles injury that caused him to miss camp last fall.
We could see a situation where two players are listed at the same spot on either the first or second team along the offensive line, and those two would then begin spring ball alternating snaps with that unit. An example of this might be for Wuebbels and Palmgren to begin spring listed as co-starters at LG, or for Jenkins and Davis to both be listed as the RG on the second unit. Expect some of the younger guys, Britt and Hill especially, to have gotten bigger by the spring.
The Tigers are poised to sign three or four offensive linemen out of high school, and at least two of them appear to be candidates to challenge for a spot on the two-deep in 2010.