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Mizzou’s offensive line needs someone young to step up

There are plenty of reliable veterans in the trenches, but Mizzou won’t go to the next level without a youth movement.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 North Texas at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Believe it or not, we’re just a few months away from another season of Missouri Tiger football. As we do every summer, we’ve gathered the editorial staff to answer various questions about the different position groups across the roster.

“You can’t win in the SEC without winning in the trenches.”

It’s become a cliché at this point, especially for a program like Missouri. We’ve seen firsthand how strong offensive (and defensive) lines can be catalysts to conference success, but Mizzou has yet to recapture that 2013 magic in the decade since. They’ll have to if they want to add more division titles (or more) to their trophy cabinet.

As summer camp approaches, we’re continuing our weekly preview pieces centering on each of the Mizzou Football position groups. This week, we’re putting our hands in the dirt and looking eye to eye at the offensive linemen.

If you want to catch up on our previous posts in the series, you can click the links below:

The loss of Michael Maietti will hurt Mizzou’s offensive line, but there is a lot of exciting talent waiting in the wings. Can the Tigers replace the All-SEC center, and who’s best positioned to step into his shoes?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Central Michigan at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nate Edwards, Football Editor: Do you simply replace an All-SEC center with just anyone? No, absolutely not. But in a common theme with the offensive line, there are several candidates to choose from which can be a nice alternative if the team does not have an equal talent waiting in the wings. Bence Polgar comes to Columbia with a similar resume to Maietti - starting experience in a lesser league - but my hope is Connor Tollision is good enough to earn the starting spot this year. The Drinkwitz staff almost always values experience over upside, and I do think Polgar is the safest choice to have the least amount of drop off from Maietti. Tollison is just too intriguing as a long-term investment to overlook..

Aaron Dryden, Staff football Writer: Maietti is going to be an exceptionally tough player to replace. They have a few options, but will any of them end up providing the same level of play? Probably not.

Playing center is like being the quarterback of the offensive line in that you’re making calls and helping the quarterback diagnose while also snapping and getting to your assignment. There’s obviously a lot going on. There’s a lot to like about Connor Tollison but he’s still young. Polgar has some experience and is older. This will be his fourth year in a collegiate conditioning program. There’s something to be said for that. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see somewhat of a timeshare situation between he and Polgar in the early part of the season, but I think Polgar ends up winning out.

Javon Foster has generated some early buzz as the next potential Mizzou lineman to play on Sundays. What does Foster need to do this season to make good on the hype?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 South Carolina at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nate Edwards: The best thing about Foster is that he is a Pinkel-like story: he sat on the bench, developed his craft, and took his rotational snaps to hone his craft and eventually become a starter in his 4th year. And, oh-by-the-way, be the highest-rated run-blocking returning tackle in the SEC (according to PFF). He’s not some athletic freak or uniquely-sized prospect; he’s just a dude who took the coaching, worked hard, and became the best tackle on the team. If that mentality has stayed consistent through this year then he’s already set to make an impact in ‘22; just make sure to not give up any silly sacks!

Aaron Dryden: I think for Foster, he really just needs more reps. More film and a bigger body of work. He has some small technical things to work on. For instance, his feet occasionally die in pass protection and though he has an exceptional first punch, on the reset he has the tendency to reset his hands outside of the frame. That can lead to the occasional holding penalty. That said, he’s very agile and would fit well in a zone scheme at the next level so if he can have a good season, he’ll have suitors.

Like many positions on Mizzou’s roster, the offensive line is stacked with young talent that hasn’t had a chance to prove itself. Do you see any freshmen or sophomores getting a slot in the 2022 rotation?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 South Carolina at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nate Edwards: I’ve already opined on Connor Tollison, who is at the top of my list. Offensive line is a tough position to get freshmen into the rotation, simply because it’s a hard position to scout and project in high school and the growth and development they experience from 18-22 changes a ton about how they play and where they can play. So from a “new-faces” approach to the rotation, I’d love to see E.J. Ndoma-Ogar get some extended playing time as he really impressed me with the snaps he received last year. The circuitous return of Dylan Spencer means we get another shot at seeing him in the interior which excites me as well. And, of course, it would make me happy to see the giant Mitchell Walters finally crack the tackle rotation so we can see what the 6’8” 319 pound Mehlville product can do at the SEC level.

Aaron Dryden: They absolutely need some of them to work their way into the rotation. Missouri figures to have a pretty solid top five or six, but they’re going to need some depth behind them. Tollison has been covered, but EJ Ndoma Ogar is going into his third year of college football and got some snaps last season. Maybe he makes a leap. After that, it all seems to be a stretch. There are good young offensive lineman on this team, but if there’s a situation where the team needs the best overall player to come in and get snaps, it’s hard to envision some of these guys beating out even the veterans on this roster who are more so depth pieces.

Have any questions you want answered about different positions on the roster? Let us know in the comments and we’ll submit them to be included in our coming features!