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Luke Griffin is here to stay

A former elite level recruit had to overcome multiple injuries to re-gain his previous form. He’s back, and he’s ready to crush some SEC defensive linemen.

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NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Are you ready to meet your next favorite Mizzou offensive lineman?

Allow me to introduce you to Luke Griffin. The Georgia native was viewed as an elite level recruit after his freshman year in high school, so much so that then-Georgia head football coach Mark Richt extended an early offer. Griffin jumped on it, and saw himself as a future Bulldog.

Then, life happened.

Georgia fired Richt. Griffin tore his ACL and his meniscus in his right knee midway through his sophomore year while playing for his high school basketball team... And then tore his ACL in his left knee at the end of his junior football season.

Georgia decided to move on, and Griffin was looking for a new landing spot. The former elite level recruit now had injury questions to answer for college football programs. He put together a dominant senior season in which his high school coach says he graded out better than 90 percent on the year.

The recruiting interest picked back up again. He gained interest from programs like Florida, Alabama, Minnesota and Missouri.

He fell in love with Mizzou, and decided the Tigers were his future destination. His first year on campus was a true redshirt season, as Griffin never saw the field. That changed in the 2020 season, and it gave Mizzou fans plenty of reasons to believe this one-time elite level recruit is regaining form as a potential impact player for Eli Drinkwitz.

According to Pro Football Focus, Griffin didn’t get any offensive snaps in the first five games of the season. His first opportunity came against South Carolina when he played all 75 of Mizzou’s offensive snaps as the Tigers dealt with injuries to starters Xavier Delgado and Larry Borom. Griffin’s performance was enough to earn himself playing time in each of the next three games at left guard against Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Georgia.

The results were impressive.

His performance against South Carolina and against Arkansas were so extraordinary that he made the Pro Football Focus “Team of the Week” in both week 12 and week 14. Griffin and Larry Borom (week 6 vs. LSU) were the only Missouri players to earn PFF Team of the Week honors in the 2020 season.

I went back and re-watched Griffin’s performances against both South Carolina and Arkansas, and it’s not hard to see why he graded so highly for Pro Football Focus. He certainly made some mistakes that you would expect out of a redshirt freshman, but he did so while looking to make a play. His aggressiveness can - at times - take him off of his angles, and that’s one thing he needs to work on especially in the screen game.

However, Griffin is an absolute nightmare for opposing defensive linemen when he gets his hands on them. If he gets his hands inside your pads, it’s over. He’s won.

The best part of Griffin’s game right now is his ability to cut block from the backside, especially on stretch plays going the other way. His man, more often than not, ending any path for his assignment to make a play on the ball-carrier.

Griffin’s ability to keep working in the passing game and his willingness to help out on the backside in the running game is what will make him a favorite among the coaching staff. What will make him a favorite among the fans is his ferociousness as a pulling guard. Unsuspecting defensive ends should beware because Griffin is coming, and he’s coming with authority.

It’s hard to say what Griffin’s immediate future holds. He spent some time with the first team offensive line in the spring, but some of that can be traced back to Michael Maietti and Case Cook splitting reps for load management. I have to imagine the camp battle this fall will be between Griffin and Delgado at the left guard spot. Delgado spent the majority of the time as the starter a year ago, and performed admirably, but Griffin has more than enough talent to earn a starting spot this year or next if the second half of the 2020 season is any indication.