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Could Missouri’s new offensive line coach bring an All-Conference guard with him?

Former Houston offensive guard Cam’Ron Johnson is currently in the transfer portal. Would he make sense for the Tigers?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 04 American Championship Game - Houston at Cincinnati Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The transfer portal might be “closed,” but that doesn’t mean the speculation comes to an end.

Former Missouri offensive line coach Marcus Johnson dealt the team a tough hand when he decided at the end of spring ball to take the vacant offensive line coaching job at Purdue. No ill will toward Johnson, but the timing certainly wasn’t helpful for the Tigers. Thankfully for Eli Drinkwitz, a quality offensive line coach was available.

The Tigers are expected to hire former Houston co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Brandon Jones to replace Johnson. It’s a hire that, frankly, came as a bit of a surprise. There are no obvious connections between Jones and either Drinkwitz or new offensive coordinator Kirby Moore. The previous trend for Drinkwitz was to hire someone he had a clear and obvious connection to, with most coming from either his history at Auburn or Arkansas State. There’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of us would hire people we have a history with or those that we have shared experiences with; it’s understandable. But it does come at a cost. Past colleagues are not always the most qualified men or women for the job. Sometimes there are better candidates available. This is one of those situations where an overwhelmingly qualified man for the job was available, and the Tigers were able to add Jones to the staff as a result.

Houston’s offensive line has been among the most productive pass protection units in the country under Jones’ leadership. He has spent the past four seasons with the Cougars, with five of his players making an All-AAC team. He’s had two former players make it to the NFL, as well.

Based purely on the publicly available information, it’s a good hire for Missouri. Is it possible Jones isn’t the only former Houston Cougar set to join the Tigers’ offensive line meetings in 2023?

Houston is at a bit of a crossroads as a program, and the transfer portal is not helping their case. It was announced just a few short weeks ago that first team All-AAC guard Cam’Ron Johnson plans to enter the transfer portal with two years of eligibility remaining. It’s worth noting Johnson committed to Houston late in the 2019 recruiting class, about a month after Jones was hired as the Cougars’ offensive line coach. Jones is the only offensive line coach Johnson has played for in his college career.

That doesn’t mean Johnson is guaranteed to forgo other opportunities to follow his offensive line coach to Missouri. Jones will have plenty of options in the transfer portal. It might be easier to make a list of teams not interested in an all-conference guard with more than 1,500 career snaps, especially one who rated as highly in pass protection as Johnson has each of the past two seasons. That being said, the connection is hard not to make. The Tigers need offensive line help. Johnson clearly has a connection with Missouri’s new offensive line coach. And, by the way, the Tigers are one of just seven offers Johnson has publicly claimed on Twitter (along with California, Maryland, Arkansas, South Carolina, West Virginia and Arizona State).

Johnson would be a massive get for Missouri. He has played nearly every snap of his collegiate career at left guard. That is a position currently held by Xavier Delgado, but Johnson would be a clear upgrade over Delgado. Such an addition would fortify the interior in a way that feels necessary. The Tigers have a massive question at center, but they seem content at the moment with Javon Foster, Armand Membou and Marcellus Johnson as three of their five starters. Adding Cam’Ron Johnson to that mix would give Missouri four starters they’re comfortable with, leaving the final spot to a competition between Delgado, EJ Ndoma-Ogar, Connor Tollison and Bence Polgar. Go with the best five, regardless of where that slots players in.

Or bring in another Houston offensive line transfer? This one feels less likely, but I don’t want to leave without mentioning former Houston guard Chayse Todd has also entered his name into the transfer portal. Todd was a 2-star recruit out of the Houston area and he does appear to have some experience at the center position. I’m not saying he’s a clear take for Missouri. But he plays an obvious position of need, he did so for the Tigers’ new offensive line coach, and he’s looking for a new opportunity. I’ve heard worse ideas.

Missouri didn’t hire Brandon Jones to bring his players with him. They hired him because they believe he’s the best man for this job. But I don’t think anyone would be upset if a player (or two) followed Jones from Houston to mid-Missouri.