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Missouri Spring Practice: Glen Elarbee, "We're kind of short on the depth side"

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News and Notes from Missouri's fifth spring practice. Media were able to meet with Odom, OL coach Glen Elarbee, CB coach Greg Brown, Aarion Penton, Logan Cheadle, Alec Abeln and Paul Adams.

Glen Elarbee
Glen Elarbee

Not all players were available after practice today because there was a letterman ceremony happening across campus.

Injury News:

  • Nate Crawford was notably out wearing a red jersey and observing from the sidelines. Crawford, a redshirt junior, had back surgery last summer and it sounded like he was being held out to give his back a rest. Barry Odom: "I’m not concerned about it. Nate’s had a lot of reps. We’ll get him back when he’s ready."
  • Clay Rhodes, a redshirt junior, was not at practice Thursday. Odom said about Rhodes, "He's still here dealing with a couple personal issues. I talked to him last night. Going through a couple things that, I expect him to ... we'll meet again in the morning. He's got things he's kind of working through."
  • Jonathan Johnson and Ray Wingo were still out of practice Thursday while I saw free safety Cam Hilton and receiver Emanual Hall back on the field. As I've stated before, Tavon Ross and Terry Beckner remain out, likely until the Spring Game.

Offensive Line news and notes:

Odom had to cut short his post-practice address to the media, but he did praise the offensive line saying of Glen Elarbee's group,

"From day one to day five today I would say that group, the way he’s coached them, I’ve been most impressed with them. From where they started on day one to where they were today, he deserves credit for the work he’s done through five practices. He won’t take a compliment. He’s going to keep working and we’re going to find the right five to put out there."

Glen Elarbee

On JUCO transfer Tyler Howell,

"He's really come on. It took a little bit to kind of get his body back into a position where he had the strength and the core and all that kind of stuff. Now that we've put pads on he's really started to make some strides."

Elarbee on redshirt junior center Alec Abeln,

"He's a really smart guy, get's us lined up. Does a really nice job making all the calls."

On where redshirt freshman AJ Harris is getting the most reps,

"Mostly guard but a little center. We're a little short on numbers so guys are having to play multiple positions which is good because we're kind of learning to do different things."

On red-shirt sophomore Tyrell Jacobs making the switch from defensive line to offensive line,

"He's built like an offensive lineman. Has some athletic ability. I think in a few years he can really help us. We're kind of short on the depth side and they've got some horses over there so I decided to get one of them suckers over on my side."

On Malik Cuellar getting reps at guard,

"We kind of have some tackles, at least tackle bodies. Don't have as many big inside guys and again we needed some help there so he bounced in and helped us out and done a really nice job."

Alec Abeln

On Samson Bailey,

"Sam has been playing center for a while now, he's a smart kid, he's been picking it up. Like all of us he's got stuff he's got to work on, but he's coming out here and doing a good job everyday, trying to get better."

On he and Nate Crawford being the most experienced guys,

"Nate and I feel like the old guys. Losing five guys is definitely a void in leadership. There's some personality changes in the room where it just feels different. Not necessarily a bad thing it's just something Nate and I really having to figure out on the fly and step up."

On the young offensive line,

"I think there's a lot of young guys who wanted to play last year and are hungry for that chance."

On overcoming last year's line struggles,

"I came in during 2013 which was after a 5-7 year and saw how hungry those guys were during the summer and I think this spring is just an extension of that. It's never a good feeling coming off a year like last year and I know personally I would have liked to play a lot better. That definitely sticks with you as you're working in the off-season. I think as a whole it makes you hungry, I think having a new coaching staff is a different vibe and kind of keeps things fresh."

Observations:
  • Missouri's offensive line is looking pretty thin. The departure of Michael Fairchild and the retirement of Andy Bauer means there are only 10 scholarship lineman on campus right now. With Nate Crawford and Clay Rhodes out of practice yesterday, Glen Elarbee was down to 8 guys, 9 if you count Tyrell Jacobs who moved over to practicing with the offensive line.
  • When asked about playing freshman, Elarbee sounded pretty genuine that anyone could come in and compete, which means either 2016 signees Tre'Vour Simms or Trystan Castillo might find themselves playing this fall. Simms has specifically mentioned a few times wanting to be a Freshman All-American.
  • The part of practice I got to watch I saw Elarbee focusing on the tackles, primarily Tyler Howell and Paul Adams but also coaching up Jacobs and Tanner Owens on pass protection form. It looked like Malik Cuellar stepped inside to left guard due to the absence of Nate Crawford.
  • The coaches might deny it but the right side of the line seems pretty locked down with Alec Abeln at center, Kevin Pendleton at right guard and Paul Adams at right tackle. It sounds like AJ Harris is getting the most reps at right guard.
  • We'll see next week what happens with Cuellar when Crawford gets healthy. Elarbee spoke about looking at player's body type and it would seem to me Cuellar has bulked up a bit and looks more natural as a guard than a tackle.
  • Speaking of body types. I thought it was telling, especially with the most recent commitment of 6'7, 315 pound offensive tackle Hyrin White, that Elarbee seems to have specific molds for positions on the offensive line. Big maulers on the inside, tall athletes on the outside. Nate Crawford and now Tyrell Jacobs both switched from playing defense and that's somewhat indicative of a national trend where the best big athletes gravitate toward the defensive line.
  • Players reiterated the emphasis on tempo for the offensive line. There's certainly an urgency during practice to get set, hike the ball, run the play and get re-set for the next rep. Maximizing practice time is obviously something the coaching staff feels is necessary with installing a new offensive scheme and getting young players up to speed.
  • If I'm making a loose depth chart based on what the coaches have mentioned and available bodies, it'd look like this:
Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
Tyler Howell 6'9, 305 Malik Cuellar 6'5, 300 Alec Abeln (R) 6'3, 290 Kevin Pendleton (R) 6'4, 295 Paul Adams (R) 6'6, 290
Tanner Owen (R) 6'6, 295 Nate Crawford (R) 6'5, 290 Samson Bailey (R) 6'5 265 A.J. Harris (R) 6'3, 297 Clay Rhodes (R) 6'5, 280
Tyrell Jacobs (R) 6'4 260 Tre'Vour Simms 6'3 315 Trystan Castillo 6'4 285
  • We'll have a separate story about the changes we're seeing from the cornerback group and new position coach Greg Brown.
Up next:

The next practice, on Saturday, is closed to the media. The next open practice will be Tuesday, March 22.

Full schedule