Hoover, Ala. (OzarksSportsZone.com) -- In SEC football, things begin at the line of scrimmage.
“The reason it is a great league is because I think it starts up front. It is a line of scrimmage league,” Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel said. “The best teams in the country, whether it is the SEC or not, are good up front. That is where you start. That is where you look at a team, offensive and defensive line.”
Last year Mizzou learned that the hard way after having its offensive line ravaged by injuries which led to many combinations on the line. Only one lineman (freshman Evan Boehm) started every game in 2012. The five projected starters on the line only made 23 out of a possible 60 starts at their designated position.
This became a reciepe for disaster for Mizzou in 2012 switching from the Big 12.
“Our O-Line went from blocking somewhat monsters to extreme monsters and then for the defensive line going against offensive linemen that are 330 pounds but move like they are 200 pounds,” senior quarterback James Franklin said. “As a whole the size of the guys and the speed was probably the biggest adjustment for all of us.”
Quarterbacks were sacked 29 times for a loss of 206 yards in 12 games in 2012. In 2011, Mizzou quarterbacks were sacked just 18 times for a loss of 117 yards in 13 games.
One silver lining for all the upheaval last year is that the Tigers bring back an experienced unit this year with four starters back that started 48 of a possible 60 games last season.
The experience from last season should turn the offensive line into a strength for the Tigers.
“This year we are pretty stacked on the offensive line position,” senior wide receiver L’Damian Washington said. “We had guys go down last year, which was unfortunate, but younger guys got good experience. I think that experience is going to finally pay off for us this year.”
Evan Boehm will spend his true sophomore season moving to center. He is expected to be an immediate success there.
“Evan Boehm is on the Rimington watch list and he hasn’t even played a snap at center,” Washington said. “He is just one of those guys that is just versatile.”
The Rimington Trophy is awarded each year to the nation’s top center.
The other starters along the line will be senior Justin Britt at left tackle, senior Max Copeland at left guard, sophomore Connor McGovern at right guard and junior Mitch Morse at right tackle.
Developing depth along the line will be key for the Tigers going forward to better weather injuries.
“They have looked great (the offensive line),” Washington said. “I think the injury bug is one of those things that you hope to ignore. I think that what makes the great teams great is that when you have a guy go down you have a guy that can step right in and you don’t miss a beat on offense.”
The Tigers will look to get back to their winning ways when they open with Murray State on Aug. 31. Mizzou’s first SEC game will be on Oct. 12 at Vanderbilt followed by another road game at Georgia the following week.
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