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Mizzou Football: The Tigers return a lot of starts, will it translate into production?

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One of the country’s best units two years running is back for another round in the trenches. How important is another great year for Mizzou to become elite?

NCAA Football: Auburn at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Tuesday-before-game-day, Tiger fans! We’re closing in on another season of Mizzou football. Are the days seeming to drag on a little longer to anyone else? Or is that just me?

As we continue getting ready for Saturday’s kickoff, we’ve got you covered on football content, including a brand new podcast from Pete and David called Zoukeepers. Check it out wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe to Rock M Radio for more content!

Now that the plug is finished, let’s move on with our positional previews. We’ve been covering the defense over the past few days, and it’s time to move on to the offense. Today, we’re starting with the offensive line, one of Mizzou’s undeniable strengths over the past few years. Can the line put up another elite year, keeping Drew Lock healthy and opening up holes for the Crockett-Rountree one-two punch? Let’s turn to Ryan, Jack and Connor to find out.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou has quietly churned out one of the best offensive lines in the country for the past two years. What has been the secret to making this unit so solid?

Ryan Herrera, Football Beat Writer: It’s not really a secret, but what’s made this line so good is just the experience the linemen all have. Guys like Kevin Pendleton and Paul Adams have gone through multiple losing seasons as well as 2017’s second half resurgence, so they’ve seen enough to be the unquestioned leaders of the unit. Then you have guys like Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms, Yasir Durant and Trystan Colon-Castillo who all jumped into starting spots last season and helped the Tigers lead the nation in fewest tackles for a loss and lead the SEC in fewest sacks. It also helps that these guys aren’t recognized on any of those pre or postseason lists. Playing with huge chips on their oversized shoulders definitely provides some boost to their performance on the field.

Jack Parodi, Football Beat Writer: Familiarity and team chemistry are some of the most important qualities of a talented offensive line. This group spent all of 2017 together, and some even longer than that. They all know each other’s tendencies, strengths and weaknesses, helping one another to improve as a unit.

Connor Snelson, Football Analyst: Offensive line coach Brad Davis stepped into a great spot. He’ll take over with a mostly veteran unit. Davis will also benefit from previous offensive line coach’s Glen Elarbee’s phenomenal job of developing the talent of the group before Davis’ arrival. Having an experienced quarterback in Drew Lock helps a ton.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously, the line will play a big role in meeting expectations this year. What do you see as their most important role in the 2018 season?

Ryan Herrera: The line’s biggest role is pretty simple, and it’s the biggest role for every football program out there: protect the quarterback. Missouri’s offense goes as Drew Lock goes, and Lock goes as the line goes. The five up front have the experience of blocking for Lock and of playing with each other in the trenches, so there shouldn’t be any regression this season. Nobody knows if the line will enjoy another healthy year, but the depth chart is full of proven backups like Jonah Dubinksi ready to step in. These guys do all the dirty work without getting much of the praise, but the better they can block for the guys in the backfield, the better this Missouri team will be.

Jack Parodi: In order for Missouri to upset Georgia and make the SEC Championship, this offensive line will have to stay healthy and make sure Lock does as well. The Tigers offense has the pieces to be extremely special this year, but it’s clear the season would be a bust if Lock got injured. This may be one of the best lines Missouri has seen in recent years, so this isn’t a large concern. Other than making sure Lock stays healthy, this group will have to quickly pick up the blitz from opposing defenses. They’ll surely come a solid amount this year, as defenses will try to put more pressure on Lock to throw him off. If the offensive line and running backs can routinely spot and snuff out blitzes throughout 2018, Missouri’s offense will be elite.

Connor Snelson: The biggest thing for the offensive line this year will be providing enough time for Drew Lock to make his reads and throws. Not only will they need to provide him with enough time, but a clean pocket that Lock feels comfortable standing tall in as he scans the field for his open target.