Alec Abeln (6'3, 290, So.)
Fullback U: The backup center behind Evan Boehm, Alec Abeln will have huge shoes to step into if or when he's asked to start. I'm not sure he's ready yet, but he'll have two years of experience by 2016. He would be the first new center Maty Mauk has to take snaps from next year, so we'll see how they handle snaps. He's also in the conversation to start at left guard vs Taylor Chappell and Brad McNulty - read that however you wish.
The Beef: I know I mentioned him back in Evan Boehm’s portion, but I would not mind see Abeln getting some mop-up snaps this season when at all possible. If he does intend to become the next starting center, just getting him a few live snaps may help that transition this off-season.
AlaTiger: I don’t know if the coaches are ready to ordain Abeln the next as the next center given the way they move linemen around. Let’s hope he (and the other youngsters) get plenty of garbage time snaps early in the season.
Bill C.: It is certainly conceivable that Sam Bailey (currently the third-string center) or one of the young guards (Andy Bauer?) ends up as Mizzou's starting center next fall, but Abeln has a huge opportunity this year to stake his claim, even if it's just with second-string reps. As a recruit, Abeln was known as super-smart (a requisite for the position) but not incredibly athletic. We'll see how his strength and quickness have developed this coming spring.
Andy Bauer (6'3, 310, RSFr.)
Bill C.: Easily the most highly-touted recruit on this list, Bauer has been snake-bitten in the injury department. He suffered a pretty significant injury in high school and has been limited in 2015, too. If healthy, he offers talent and significant strength. But he has to be healthy.
Fullback U: If Morgan Steward can recover from an awful hip injury, you have to hope that Andy Bauer can. But the way he's been handled so far this year, I expect it'll be at least another year before he sniffs the field.
The Beef: Bauer finds himself third on the depth chart at left guard, but the two folks ahead of him are both seniors. Does this mean he will see the field as a sophomore starter next season? If healthy, I suppose it is possible. He had all the accolades one could want coming out of high school … and I think it would be a good thing for 2016 if he starts to prove that out in 2015.
AlaTiger: I’ve been very excited about Bauer since he signed. He’s been injury plagued the last two years and has been fighting a hip problem early in camp. With two seniors ahead of him, I don’t know if he gets much action this year. The future looks bright, though.
Kevin Pendleton (6'4, 315, RSFr.)
The Beef: You know, it took me until Kevin Pendleton to realize how ridiculously young our offensive line is likely to be next year. Pendleton is currently No. 2 at RG, so I certainly expect him to see some time, but he is behind a senior, just like Bauer is behind two of them and like Abeln is behind one.
That is not a lot of returning starts (much less snaps) for next season.
Anyway, now that my freak out is over ... Pendleton is a BIG boy, and I am interested to see how he fares in the offense and how folks run behind him.
AlaTiger: Where are all the junior linemen? The roster is pretty light on juniors overall, for that matter. There’s a reason the Tigers signed two JUCO OL in February [Malik Cuellar and Tyler Howell, the latter of whom did not qualify and is expected to join the team next semester]. Those two both play outside, so Pendleton definitely has a chance to contribute next year.
Fullback U: The backup right guard behind Mitch Hall, Kevin Pendleton has made huge strides according to the coaches, shedding "bad weight" and adding "good weight." He's very big, and I think another year of seasoning will set him up very well to become a starter next year. He'll probably see some snaps this year in preparation, and from that we'll get a better idea of his technique and athleticism.
I'm very high on his potential. I think he's also has the potential to move out to right tackle if Nate Crawford were to switch to left guard.
Bill C.: From the standpoint of sheer girth, Pendleton fits the bill as a prototype guard. But Missouri teaches you all positions and doesn't necessarily lean on the prototype (as made evident by the fact that 6'7 former star lineman Colin Brown spent time on the two-deep at both center and guard). Regardless, it's about experience more than position for Pendleton and most of the 2016 line. Wherever he lines up, he'll probably start next spring as a starter.
Sam Bailey (6'4, 270, RSFr.)
The Beef: Looks like Bailey has been moved all the way inside and will start the season backing up Boehm and Alec Abeln at center. Coming from a small high school program in Missouri known for a wacky offense, crazy stats and multiple state titles, Bailey evidently impressed in his redshirt campaign with his athleticism. The building of his body will continue, but he may still yet be a name we see further up the depth chart in another year or two.
AlaTiger: Another twenty pounds of muscle, and Bailey will be in the mix.
Fullback U: Bailey needs to add a lot more "good" weight. Despite being listed as a center, I'm not sure where coaches project him. I wouldn't be surprised he ends up being a product of Pat Ivey's Muscle Emporium and turns into a senior starter.
Bill C.: If I recall correctly, Bailey was at least a part-time tight end in high school and weighed only about 245 pounds when he committed. He's clearly a long-term prospect, as Ivey continues to lay some bulk on him. By 2016, I would expect he's in the 285 or 295 range, and if his strength matches his athleticism, he could be a keeper.
Paul Adams (6'6, 290, RSFr.)
The Beef: I still think of Paul Adams as one of the better recruiters we had from a couple of years ago after he committed to play here. Right now, he is slotted in at left tackle, either second or third on the depth chart depending on whether JUCO transfer Malik Cuellar ends up at RT or LT.
I don’t think we need to see Adams in the mix this season, but him getting up the depth chart next year and getting some work behind a presumptive senior in Cuellar may make any transition in 2017 (because I am looking out that far) a little easier.
Bill C.: Or, if Cuellar or Nate Crawford ends up on the interior, Adams might have a shot even sooner.
AlaTiger: You never really know how younger lineman will pan out, but Adams shows a lot of promise.
Fullback U: Although he is very young, Paul Adams has good size, both vertically and horizontally, and as of this writing is sitting just behind Connor McGovern at left tackle. That can obviously change, but the coaches must be high on him.
Mike Fairchild (6'5, 295, RSFr.)
The Beef: Boy howdy, there were a lot of folks who spoke very highly of Fairchild last season during his redshirt year, so it will be interesting to see how he ascends this year. Right now he's either third or fourth at RT, again depending on Cuellar's placement.
I think he benefited tremendously from his January 2014 enrollment, which allowed him to not only get acclimated but impress and put his talent on display before the rest of his classmates (Adams, Bailey et al) could get to campus. If the improvement arc has continued, Rhodes could eventually have a battle on his hands for #2.
AlaTiger: Maybe Fairchild works into the mix, but I think he has a bit of a hill to climb.
Fullback U: Currently behind Paul Adams on the depth chart.
Tanner Owen (6'5, 275, Fr.)
The Beef: The next unheralded recruit who comes to impress in/around 2017-2018? See you in a few years, Tanner
AlaTiger: Put him in the OL incubator and see what hatches in a couple years.
Fullback U: What AlaTiger said. Also, two first names ... c'mon, man. :)
Bill C.: Owen camped with Mizzou last summer, scored an offer, and committed virtually on the spot. Like Bailey, Justin Britt, etc., he's a small-town Missouri kid (Kearney), and he's having to put on a little bit of weight. He should report in spring at 285 or more, I would imagine.
A.J. Harris (6'4, 285, Fr.)
The Beef: Big and mean and highly rated. Not a bad trio of traits that Harris will carry into what has to likely be a redshirt season. Will he be in the mix next year?
Bill C.: Quite mean. That was the first characteristic that stood out in his high school highlight film. He loves being a lineman, and after a redshirt year, he should have the requisite size to start pushing people around. A four-star recruit according to Rivals, Harris will have a chance to impress next March.
AlaTiger: It’s the rare Evan Boehm-quality lineman who plays as a true freshman. Harris is headed for a scout team season in all likelihood.
Fullback U: AJ Harris is the fourth-string center but I think he is prime to rapidly move up the depth chart next year.