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 starter, junior Dan Hoch 6'7" 320 and sophomore Jack Meiners 6'6" 305. Meiners played some last season, mostly on PAT/FGs, and will likely line up on the left side during the spring, replacing the returning starter at left tackle, junior Elvis Fisher, who will miss spring ball while he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery. 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. I think we can expect to see these three returning stalwarts, Barnes, Fisher, and Hoch, retain their starting spots in the fall, and anchor Missouri's offensive line throughout the 2010 season. After working as the starter at left tackle throughout the spring, Meiners will either remain at tackle for 2010, as the third tackle, backing up both Hoch and Fisher, or he could work his way into a starting
role at guard.
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.
One of the candidates to begin spring practice as the starting RG is junior Jayson Palmgren 6'2" 305. Palmgren played in all 13 games last season, primarily substituting for Wuebbels, but has also worked at RG.
There are three other candidates to begin the spring as the starting RG. This includes RSF Justin Britt 6'6" 280, junior J.T. Beasley 6'4" 295 and sophomore Travis Ruth 6'3" 305. Last year, Beasley and Ruth alternated between guard and center. Now, Britt enters the mix in this center-guard milieu. One of these three could begin the spring as the starting RG, and one of them will certainly enter the spring as the back-up center. Britt worked at tackle last season, but will get a look at center and guard during the spring. 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, or to establish himself as Barnes' successor.
Additional candidates to begin the spring listed on the second team offensive line are RSF Mark Hill 6'6" 272, and two sophomores, Dan Jenkins 6'4" 305 and Taylor Davis 6'4" 295,. Hill will likely line up at one of the tackles, and Davis and Jenkins could see time at either guard or tackle. During the spring, we could even see senior walk-on Kirk Lakebrink 6'6" 320 lining up at tackle with the second unit, essentially holding Meiners' spot until fall camp, when Fisher returns.
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 have signed three offensive linemen out of high school, Nick Demien 6'6" 300, Mitch Morse 6'6" 282, and Anthony Gatti 6'6" 280, and at least two of them appear to be candidates to challenge for a spot on the two-deep in 2010.