Injuries decimated the Mizzou Tigers’ offensive line in 2012. Among the fallen was former Lebanon Yellowjacket Justin Britt.
This season, the Tigers are counting on a full recovery from Britt in order to protect the quarterback’s blind side.
At the MU spring game last Saturday, Britt returned to action for the first time since last November.
"I don't think we expected me to be out here this spring, but things went well." Britt said of his rehab. "You know, we kind of went with the flow.”
The 6-foot-6, 320-pound lineman suffered a season-ending knee injury in Mizzou’s loss at Florida on Nov. 3. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.
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Tigers coach Gary Pinkel says that Britt’s recovery is still a work in progress.
“Justin’s not 100 percent, he’s a hundred percent health-wise, but he’s not a hundred percent movement-wise,” Pinkel said. “He’s not the Britt he was before he was hurt, but like (Henry) Josey, he’ll be back 100 percent ready to go when we get going for the fall.”
During his time at MU, Britt has bounced around the offensive line.
He was a redshirt in 2009, a reserve guard in 2010, then started all 13 games at left tackle in 2011 for the injured Elvis Fisher. Last year, Britt started six games at right tackle and three more at left tackle before his season-ending injury.
He’s currently listed No. 1 at left tackle on the team’s depth chart.
One part of Britt’s offseason rehab and training has been becoming more outspoken on the offensive line, following the likes of former linemen Fisher and Tim Barnes.
"They were real vocal and led the team pretty good," Britt said. "I've taken after them and (tried) to be the voice, along with (redshirt senior lineman) Max Copeland.
“(Pinkel) has been harping on us about vocal leadership.”
Whether it’s blocking for the returning Josey, who missed all of last season while recovering from a severe knee injury suffered late in the 2011 season, Britt keeps his focus the same.
"I don't turn my back and see who's back there," Britt said. "I trust whoever's back there at running - a walk-on, to Henry Josey and Marcus Muprhy."
After a disappointing losing season in 2012, Britt says the Tigers have a goal of qualifying for a bowl game. To do so, they’ll have to navigate through the always-tough SEC slate.
“There’s a lot more speed in the SEC (than the Big 12),” Britt said. “The competition is tough here, we know that. We’re on a mission, gotta go bowling, and then defend the ‘ZOU.’ We don’t wanna lose here.”
Highlights from Mizzou's Spring Game: