COLUMBIA — A good lineman approaches every snap — run or pass — the same, never betraying the upcoming play call with a tell in their stance.
To redshirt senior right tackle Paul Adams, that applies off the field, as well.
When asked whether he noticed Missouri’s lack of offensive line representation in the preseason All-SEC voting, Adams went cold. His face, stone.
“Not really,” Adams said. “I’m just gonna keep it at that. Nope. Yeah, just gotta do well this season. We’re more of a team-accolades than more of an individual and whatnot.
“Hopefully our play this year will speak for itself.”
To summarize — there are 15 spots on the offensive line in preseason voting, five players per team. Missouri returns all five starters from a year ago, and the group enters with nearly 100 career starts between them; yet no Missouri offensive linemen made any of the three preseason teams.
“Everybody on Twitter thinks we still should be in the Big 12,” Kevin Pendleton said. “I don’t care. I’m happy for the guys that did receive that stuff; like I said, we celebrate those guys, those guys deserve the recognition they got.
“But I don’t care if they don’t see us as a great line. We need to go out and show them.”
While there are plenty of qualifiers used to dismiss Missouri’s line performance the past two seasons (up-tempo offense, quick passes, etc.), the stats have still put them up in elite company.
Missouri has led the nation in fewest tackles-for-loss allowed the past two seasons; in 2017, it averaged 2.85 tackles-for-loss allowed a game. It was the first time in the past 10 seasons (going back to 2008) in which a team averaged fewer than three tackles-for-loss allowed a game.
Missouri’s line also ranked 11th in sacks allowed (14) in 2016; in 2017, it was tied for fifth (13).
Instead of focusing on the slight, Pendleton and Adams — two of Missouri’s unquestioned leaders on the line — are focused on preparing for a year to remember in their final go with the Tigers.
“We can’t just get complacent, where we were last year,” Adams said. “There’s also room for improvement. And we saw some things today that we need to improve on.”
While the line returns a deep and talented group from 2017, it’s also performing for a new coach. After Glen Elarbee’s surprising departure for the same position at UCF after the 2017 season, Missouri hired Brad Davis, most recently from Florida, to fill the vacancy.
“He’s got that little bit of crazy to him, “Adams said. “...Today, we saw the crazy side to him. It was the first time the freshmen got the full force of Coach Davis. We got a little taste of it in the spring. Getting close to the season, it ramps up just a little more.”
“Coach Davis has an expectation,” Pendleton said, “and he doesn’t settle on it. The freshmen, they don’t understand those expectations yet, because we’ve been doing summer ball, skills and drills, stuff like that. He’s been the nice guy, teaching them stuff, putting a little pressure on them in the meeting room. But it’s a whole other world out there.”
“Coach Davis is all about urgency. There’s no time to waste. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, your background, whatever. You come here, he expects you to pick it up and play big boy ball.”
Judging from the preseason voting, the rest of the SEC doesn’t think Missouri’s line plays big boy ball. That’s fine for Pendleton and Adams.
There are 12 games to prove themselves, again, and for the final time.
“I (couldn’t) care less about preseason all-SEC, any of that,” Pendleton said. “I’ll be happy if all five of us are named all-SEC and win a natty; or if there’s two of us on there and we win a natty.
“I don’t care. We’re winning. That’s all that matters to me, that’s all that matters to my O-line, and that’s all that matters to this team.”