Picture this: You go to a bar with your best friend. You’re talking about the upcoming football season. The first thing you bring up is the offensive line. Happens all the time, right?
Probably not, let’s be honest. The offensive line is often overlooked going into a season. Good, bad or indifferent, the unit doesn’t draw as much attention as skill positions.
A lack of conversation shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of importance, though. The Tigers’ best teams in the last 20 years have - not coincidentally - also had the program’s best offensive lines. Think back to 2013, for example. Justin Britt, Max Copeland, Evan Boehm, Connor McGovern and Mitch Morse formed one of the best offensive line units in the country. The results that followed shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Having a great offensive line is one thing. Sustaining that success is the hard part.
The Tigers’ offensive line performed admirably a year ago. Michael Maietti was a great addition, Case Cook was a stabilizing force at guard and Larry Borom set himself apart as one of the best offensive linemen in the country.
Borom decided to declare early for the NFL Draft after his successful 2020 season. His decision paid off last weekend when the Chicago Bears selected Borom in the fifth round with the 151st overall pick.
Now it’s on Eli Drinkwitz to find his replacement. Who are the candidates to do so? Let’s take a look.
The Favorite: Hyrin White
Hyrin White has done nothing but produce when given an opportunity to do so. He filled in admirably in limited action at left tackle while Yasir Durant was hurt in 2018. He did so again in two starts at right tackle in 2019 against Wyoming and West Virginia. He was expected to be the starting left tackle a year ago until a shoulder injury put him on the sidelines for the entirety of the 2020 season.
Missouri has two legit NFL talents at LT/RT. LT Larry Borom (@lborom_ ) is a phenomenal run blocker, who put up very impressive tape. RT Hyrin White (@hyrinwhite) has great length/footwork for either tackle spot. Pay close attention to this duo in 2020. #NFLDraft #DraftTwitter pic.twitter.com/Kj9xFqQ3Q8— Jack Borowsky (@Jack_Borowsky) September 2, 2020
White is back on the field and is, presumably, healthy. With Javon Foster seemingly taking over at left tackle, it appears White will be the heir apparent at right tackle to replace what the Tigers lost in Borom.
White and Borom are not particularly similar in the way they go about things. Both White and Borom are incredibly long athletes, but Borom is a much wider body than White. What Borom has in size, White boasts in athleticism. Both get the job done, but they go about it in very different ways. It will be interesting to see if White’s ability to get to the second level helps the Tigers open up the offense a bit in 2021.
The Other Options: Javon Foster, Zeke Powell & Bobby Lawrence
It would be a pretty big upset if - barring injury - anyone other than White starts at right tackle this season. One move that could make some sense is flipping Javon Foster and White at left and right tackle, respectively. That being said, it sounds like Foster spent the vast majority of his time at left tackle in spring ball, so that’s where I’m going to assume he spends his time in the fall.
Two sleeper candidates to steal playing time are Zeke Powell and Bobby Lawerence. Powell spent the majority of last season as the team’s starting left tackle. Lawrence has seen action at both left and right tackle in his time at Mizzou.
What it means for Mizzou:
Replacing an NFL caliber offensive lineman isn’t an easy task, especially when you’re asked to do so before the player’s full college eligibility has been exhausted. But, the Tigers are uniquely qualified to do so.
White was going to be counted on as a starter in 2020 before an injury forced him to miss the season. He’s shown high level ability in his limited action on the field in the past. He should be a great fit for the scheme Drinkwitz wants to run in 2021 and beyond.
Losing Borom isn’t easy, but the Tigers have a pretty solid replacement plan in place with White.