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What Makes for a Boss Mizzou Offensive Line?

2018 could be a really good one. What can other good ones tell us about how good?

Tennessee v Missouri
Ish Witter’s not around to lift up anymore, but Kevin Pendleton might want to brush up on his shoulder press for all the potential running back deadlifts he has ahead of him in 2018.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It’s not often that a team gets five starters back on its offensive line. It’s even less frequently that a team gets five starters back from an offensive line that helmed a 500-yard-per-game offense the year before.

And yet, that’s what Missouri is getting this year in Yasir Durant, Kevin Pendleton, Trystan Colon-Castillo, Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms and Paul Adams.

The Tigers have been a really potent offense the past two years — and one that barely ever goes backwards — thanks to these guys and pinch-hitters/one-year starters such as Tyler Howell, Samson Bailey, Adam Ploudre, Jonah Dubinski and Alec Abeln.

So this is the year it all comes together, right? This is the year that the line goes from merely impressive to dominant.

Perhaps. And perhaps, to get a handle on how good it can be, we should look at how this line stacks up to the ones from explosive offenses of recent Missouri vintage and give it its possible place in history.

I looked back at the six offenses from 2000 onward that averaged at least 475 yards a game — 2017, 2016, 2013, 2011, 2008 and 2007 — and saw what the guys who started on the line those years had going for them in terms of Rivals pedigree, previous starting experience and size profile.

For walk-ons, I counted them as 1-star, 4.9-rated prospects. For positions in which more than one player started during the year, I weighted by start. So, like, Pendleton’s 3 stars got counted 12 times for the left guard measure last year and Ploudre’s 1 star got counted once, then averaged over 13 games.

And, as I did this, I realized Rivals doesn’t have ratings on file for some of the older Mizzou signees (and, I suppose, signees in general?). So I took whatever stars they had and assigned them the lowest rating within that category, given that offensive linemen usually come in a little lower than skill position guys. And the Tigers tend to get lower-rated guys...because they don’t look at recruiting rankings...

Here’s what we got.


Avg. Starts — 9.97
LT — 10.3
LG — 13.7
C — 8.17
RG — 7.17
RT — 10.5

Avg. Stars/Rating — 2.70/5.46
LT — 2.83/5.54
LG — 2.36/5.34
C — 2.99/5.59
RG — 2.81/5.44
RT — 2.50/5.42

Avg. Ht./Wt. — 6-5/312
LT — 6-6/313
LG — 6-4/314
C — 6-4/306
RG — 6-4/311
RT — 6-7/318

So...what do we got here? On the Tigers’ six most successful offenses in the past 11 football seasons, it looks like left guard has been the most experience position going in, but the least “talented.” That’s where you’ve seen a Max Copeland or a Ryan Madison making their way. Center, meanwhile, comes in pretty low on the experience scale but pretty high on “talent,” or expected talent anyway. That’s where you see first- or second-year starters like Colon-Castillo or Evan Boehm.

Obviously, there are exceptions. And six years isn’t a huge sample size. The 2016 line, for instance had, like, no experience and was under the averages for both stars and rating. And it still moved people. But it’s still a bit of a window into what has made the Tigers successful in recent years.

And how does the potential 2018 line stack up with all this? Very well, indeed.

Avg. Starts
2018 — 16.8
2007 — 16.4
2011 — 13.0
2013 — 11.2
2008 — 10.0
Avg. — 9.97
2017 — 8.60
2016 — 0.60

Avg. Stars/Rating
2011 — 3/5.6
2018 — 3/5.54
2017 — 2.97/5.53
2013 — 2.66/5.48
Avg. — 2.70/5.46
2016 — 2.55/5.44
2007 — 2.60/5.37
2008 — 2.40/5.36

Avg. Ht/Wt
2018 — 6-5/328
2017 — 6-5/327
2016 — 6-5/315
Avg. — 6-5/312
2007 — 6-6/311
2008 — 6-5/309
2013 — 6-5/309
2011 — 6-5/303

So, the biggest, most experienced and almost the most highly rated of any of the most successful lines of the past 11 years. Yes, I’d say you’d be right to be geeked about the possibilities of this group, Missouri fans.

One thing these other lines all had in common, though, that we can’t account for: continuity. All of them started, at most, seven guys over the course of the year. That was 2017 and 2016. 2013 started six, as did 2011 and 2007. 2008 started five guys the whole year.

Will this line stay healthy and playing at a high level, so as to stave off benchings? If so, could be in for something special.

Here’s the work, if you wanted to see.