If you watched the Super Bowl this past weekend, you would’ve probably noticed that the Buccaneers won that game because they were superior along both the offensive line and the defensive line. Flashy skill players didn’t determine that game; it was the big fellas with their hand on the ground.
If you watched the national championship game, you may have noticed how Alabama was not just a little better than Ohio State in the trenches, but A LOT better. They dominated the point of attack against a team that stacks up similarly as far as talent goes.
Here’s the bottom line: Championships are won in the trenches.
That being said, I think Missouri has a lot of talent in the trenches, and I wanted to dive into what that could look like.
The only departure from a solid starting lineup of 2020 was Larry Borom, who was so good last season that he decided to take his talents to the NFL. This is a huge loss, but there is a bright side. Hyrin White, after missing all of 2020 with a shoulder injury, should be back for the Tigers. He can slide in at one of the tackle spots, (preferably the left one) and give them a somewhat experienced presence. He started two games in 2019, and has played in 19 total.
So, if you replace Borom with White, you wind up with an offensive line that has a combined 80 starts between all of them. This is the key to success for a team that isn’t going to recruit at the levels of blue blood schools. You have to be able to have some sort of continuity and experience to be successful when you recruit at a mid-three star level. This should be a massive strength for the team to have all of this experience along the line. This also gives them the benefit of bumping guys like Luke Griffin, Jack Buford, and Javon Foster to second string depth pieces.
Overall, I’m really looking forward to watching this offensive line grow and mesh together over the course of the spring. The sign of a good team starts with a good offensive line who can be malleable to any given situation, and I think that the returners give them a good chance of being just that group.
There have been plenty of guys on this team who are exercising the right to another college season, and no position group was affected more than the defensive line. The Tigers have four seniors returning in Kobie Whiteside, Markell Utsey, Akial Byers and Chris Turner.
Similar to the offensive line, this group of returning seniors is headlined by a guy who missed most of 2020 to injury in Kobie Whiteside. Whiteside struggled a bit when being the most accomplished guy on the line, but now he has some reinforcements with Trajan Jeffcoat finding some consistency on the edge. If you remember, Whiteside’s best season came with Jordan Elliot right beside him taking up plenty of attention. Jeffcoat won’t necessarily be playing on the interior, but he will absolutely command attention and extra blockers from defenses on a weekly basis, and I think that will benefit a guy like Whiteside, who we know can handle one on one blocks really well.
The other guys have a lot to offer, too. Aside from the returning seniors, they also added two four-star prospects in Travion Ford and Kyran Montgomery, along with a few other talented freshmen defensive ends. There is an edge spot that is theoretically up for grabs, and it’ll be interesting to see if one of the freshman can come up and snatch it, or if one of the incumbents like Chris Turner or Jatorian Hansford can hold it down.
This group has a good mix of experience and youth, and it’s going to be interesting to watch how the older guys in particular react while learning a new-ish scheme. With a new coordinator and position coach, I want to see how they can help elevate some of the guys in this group who may have plateaued in their development. It’ll be a bit of a process, but there is the right amount of talent and experience for this group to make a big impact in 2021.
Follow me on Twitter @iAirDry!