Pro Football Focus ranked Missouri’s offensive line 30th out of 127 possible teams in 2020, a respectable spot that most coaches would be thrilled with.
Still, Connor Bazelak was sacked 12 times last season. While not a daunting number, with how quickly Eli Drinkwitz gets the ball out of his quarterback’s hands, it should not be that high. On top of that, the rushing attack averaged a meager three yards per carry and ranked in the bottom third of the country with 135 yards per game. To make matters worse, Larry Borom, the most consistent and reliable member of the 2020 offensive line, is off to the pros.
There is plenty of room for improvement up front, especially given the fact that SEC defensive lines continue to get scarier and scarier.
Enter Hyrin White. The monstrous 6’7”, 320 lb. redshirt senior was slated to be a reliable starter for the 2020 team before shoulder surgery during fall camp ended those expectations.
White played in eleven games (starting twice) during the 2019 season and eight during 2018 after redshirting his freshman year, showcasing his versatility throughout. White was moved along the offensive line due to injuries, and the coaching staff was impressed with his ability to adjust to different positions. His main highlight comes when he subbed in for an injured Yasir Durant against Purdue in 2018 and helped the Tigers steal that game late.
However, tackle is the spot he played at in high school, and it remains his strength. A 3-star recruit out of DeSoto, TX (same hometown as former Tiger running back Marcus Murphy), White chose Mizzou over schools like North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Arizona State and Colorado. He cited the positive reviews from Murphy as a major reason he chose the Tigers.
Borom leaves big shoes to fill. The tackle spots are still mostly open competitions entering fall camp, as White, Zeke Powell, Javon Foster, Bobby Lawrence and Mitchell Walters all have aspirations to start. Hyrin White is the wild card though, as with his size and experience, the NFL will come calling if he puts together a full season.
That “if” is a concern, because many wonder if he will be the same player after missing a full season and undergoing surgery. If White can continue to build off of his solid sophomore and junior campaigns, he should solidify an offensive line that looks to guard Case Cook and center Michael Maietti as their leaders and only proven starters.
On top of that, it is safe to assume that the job of protecting the quarterback will get much tougher in 2021. Opposing SEC teams have almost certainly studied and formulated schemes to combat Eli Drinkwitz’ unique style of offense after he torched the likes of LSU, Arkansas and Vanderbilt for over 40 points. Drinkwitz’ quick-fire, motion-based offense was unique enough to catch a few defenses flat-footed. That will not be the case this time around.
Defenses will be prepared for Drinkwitz’ system, and Bazelak will not be taking anybody by surprise in 2021. This means it will be that much more important for this offensive line to take a step forward and give their star quarterback more time in the pocket. White can be a key cog in that improvement.
In order to prove himself to NFL scouts, White will have to put together a healthy season in which he showcases his combination of size, length and pass blocking skills. Whether he lines up at the right or left tackle spot, White will be counted upon to be the last line of defense for Connor Bazelak.
If there is one thing every SEC football fan knows, it is this: to win in this conference, you have to be able to hold your own up front. While the hype surrounding the skill positions and Bazelak is great, none of them will live up to that hype if the Hyrin White and the offensive line can not win the battles up front.