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2020 Missouri Football Position Previews: Offensive Tackles

2019’s offensive line was bad enough that we should feel good about new starters taking over across the board. That starts at the edges of an offensive line that needs to be much better at protecting the passer.

Missouri v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The biggest issue with Missouri’s offensive woes in 2019 was, surprisingly, the offensive line. Glen Elerbee was able to improve Missouri's line in 2016-2017 thanks to starting the five biggest dudes on the line and utilizing a quick passing game to keep any defender from hitting Drew Lock. Brad Davis took over in 2018 and reaped the benefits of a line that was 9th in the country in sack rate, 20th in opening holes for five-yard gains, and 6th in the country in stopping runs from getting stuffed.

Last year’s line? 93rd in sack rate, 106th in opening holes for five-yard gains, and 72nd in stopping runs from getting stuffed.

So what changed? They lost two starters from 2018, sure, but couldn’t find the right lineup that could work well together, cycling in different combinations of guys at all the spots to try to find something that worked.

Obviously, it didn’t.

When a unit is as bad as it was in a given year, it is in everyone’s best interest to open up competition to find some guys that will work. That would have been true if Odom had stayed, but is definitely true with a new staff in place.

The offensive tackles are most important in the passing game, keeping the pass rushing specialists on the defense from getting to the quarterback, and today we’ll take a look at the possible starters and the guys who will be pushing for playing time.

The Veterans

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 South Carolina at Missouri
Hyrin White
Photo by Scott Kane/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Larry Borom - Redshirt Junior - 25 games played, 11 starts

Hyrin White - Redshirt Junior - 19 games played, 2 starts

Bobby Lawrence - Redshirt Sophomore - 4 games played, 1 start

So here they are: the three guys with the most experience among the tackles. Borom got the most usage, but bounced back and forth between guard and tackle for most of 2019. In a MIZ-ZOOM meeting two weeks ago, he mentioned that he was mostly being utilized at tackle, which is probably the best fit for him given his 6’6” 332 pound frame. White is the same height with about 17 fewer pounds, but had his best moment in 2018, relieving Yasir Durant in the Purdue game. Lawrence is a massive 6’8” and 320 pounds, which is a great size for a tackle, but speaks nothing of his technique. Because of their experience, I’m sure they’ll get the first crack at the tackle positions, but allowing a sack 6% of standard down plays and 8% of passing downs plays is not a good look for pass protectors. If two of these three wins the job, let’s hope it’s because they improved and are able to execute better than the others.

The Reinforcements

Troy v Missouri
Mike Ruth
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Mike Ruth - Redshirt Sophomore - 3 games played, 0 starts

Javon Foster - Redshirt Sophomore - 2 games played, 0 starts

Zeke Powell - Redshirt Junior - 7 games played (South Alabama & Coffeyville CC), 0 starts

I’ll admit, a lot of this is projection, and the reason it’s tough to figure out who plays where is for a couple of reasons:

  1. Any coaching staff will tell you that they’ll play the five best guys, no matter what. That means, in theory, you could have a line comprised of nothing but 6’1” guys or 6’8” guys or everything in between, and figuring out who’s doing the best without seeing practices is a folly in itself. But...
  2. There is still preferred types to slot in specific places. Asking a 6’8” guy to play “low-man wins” on the interior is tougher to do then getting a guy who’s 6’4” to do it, so I tend to plug the taller guys on the outside. If I’m proven wrong and they end up at guard, so be it.

Mike Ruth has played both inside and outside; he seemed more natural on the outside but saw most of his time at guard. Foster is definitely tackle-material, but battled leg injury issues for most of 2019. Powell was an interesting late-in-the-process addition; on one hand, it’s good to bring in guys with experience to push the guys on your roster, and possibly find a new starter. On the other, Powell was a guy who barely saw the field at both South Alabama and Coffeyville, and never started a game. Whether he’s a depth piece or a grooming project will be up to the staff, but he’ll certainly have an opportunity to show what he can do.

What would dumb Nate do?

Start Borom at right, rotate White and Lawrence and figure out which one is the most viable long term.

What’s actually going to happen?

Borom and White start, Lawrence and Foster rotate in, Powell and Ruth work their way in eventually.