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'Shouldn't Wes Leftwich be in the slot?' and other armchair suggestions for the Missouri offense

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[Uncontrollable Sobbing]

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Heretofore, I've mostly avoided armchair coaching, since I'm well aware that the people that get paid millions of dollars to do this are better at it (or, at least, are more willing to keep working at it after it stops being fun) than I am. But, at this point, there isn't much else to talk about, and it's kind of fun, and who doesn't need a little fun right now?

We're now swimming at the bottom of the barrel with three other 1-conference-win teams in the SEC East, and of those teams, only South Carolina and Vanderbilt are projected to finish worse than us.

Offense

Offensive Line

...and you may ask yourself, well, how did we get here?

(I was tempted to include 2012 here, but there were so many combinations that it was kind of a fool's errand.)

2013's OL, going into the Cotton Bowl:

Left Tackle

Left Guard

Center

Right Guard

Right Tackle

Justin Britt (Sr)

Max Copeland (Sr)

Evan Boehm (So)

Connor McGovern (So)

Mitch Morse (Jr)

Jordan Williams (RSFr)

Anthony Gatti (Jr)

Brad McNulty (So)

Mitch Hall (So)

Taylor Chappell (So)

2014's OL, going into the Citrus Bowl:

Left Tackle

Left Guard

Center

Right Guard

Right Tackle

Mitch Morse (Sr)

Brad McNulty (Jr)

Evan Boehm (Jr)

Connor McGovern (Jr)

Taylor Chappell (Jr)

Nate Crawford (RSFr)

Jordan Williams (So)

Alec Abeln (RSFr)

Mitch Hall (Jr)

Clay Rhodes (RSFr)

Move ‘em over, move ‘em up. Britt graduates; Morse moves over. Max graduates, McNulty moves over and up. Boehm and McGovern hold steady. Chappell moves up.

Following that precedent and accounting for Crawford's emergence, 2015 should have looked like:

Left Tackle

Left Guard

Center

Right Guard

Right Tackle

Nate Crawford (So)

Brad McNulty (Sr)

Evan Boehm (Sr)

Connor McGovern (Sr)

Taylor Chappell (Sr)

Malik Cuellar (Jr)

Jordan Williams (Jr)

Alec Abeln (So)

Mitch Hall (Sr)

Clay Rhodes (So)

Crawford moves up. That's it. That's a load of experience and a load of continuity.

Instead we ended up with:

Left Tackle

Left Guard

Center

Right Guard

Right Tackle

Connor McGovern (Sr)

Brad McNulty (Sr)

Evan Boehm (Sr)

Mitch Hall (Sr)

Nate Crawford (So)

Malik Cuellar (Jr)

Alec Abeln (So)

Sam Bailey (RSFr)

Kevin Pendleton (RSFr)

Taylor Chappell (Sr)

McGovern, a natural mauler at RG, is now a pass-blocking LT. McNulty and Boehm hold steady. Hall moves up. Crawford, who we can infer was the 3rd best tackle in 2014, has been leapfrogged by McGovern and moved to RT, burying Chappell, a former starter, in the process. Many of us expressed concern about this when it was announced, and now, well into the season, those concerns seem to be well founded.

The line looked shaky in run blocking but steady in pass blocking against pass rushes that were slowed by the threat of Mauk scrambling. But it can't do anything right against pass rushes free to tee off on a young quarterback prone to holding on to the ball too long, with receivers that struggle to find open space. In particular, the line struggles to pick up twists with DEs regularly coming in clean up the middle.

Running Backs

Morgan Steward's and Russell Hansbrough's injuries were impossible to predict and impossible to place blame for. If both of those guys are healthy, we have a senior Hanbrough and junior Steward ahead of a clearly-not-ready-for-prime-time Ish Witter, a walk-on senior Tyler Hunt, and a hasn't-emerged-as-hoped Chase Abbington. But we are where we are. Given the struggles of the OL, two full-strength backs that could make the most of the small and fleeting creases could have made the difference in a few of this year's close games, "but, you know, crap in one hand, wish in the other one and see what comes up first, you know."

With all that said, and even with Witter's modest improvement as the season has ground on, I'm still befuddled that Hunt hasn't earned more touches. While it's certainly possible that the coaching staff thinks any drop-off in production this year will be made up for by an experienced Witter next year, resulting in more net wins over two years than the alternative, it sure makes for an unsatisfying 2015.

Receivers

Much like OL, I'm increasingly convinced Wesley Leftwich isn't being used to his potential. Unlike J'Mon Moore, Emanuel Hall, and Nate Brown, who are all listed at 6'3, Leftwich is listed generously at 6'1, and despite being the only upperclassman on the depth chart at WR, still struggles with drops, particularly in tight coverage.

If Leftwich is truly one of the best three at WR, then I think he belongs in the slot, where he can use his speed sideline to sideline to outrun man coverage without getting so far away from the Lock that he loses him, or where he can use his experience to identify and settle into gaps in the under coverage.

Everyone else gets something of a pass for inexperience, which we new from day 1 was going to be a problem.

Quarterbacks

Obviously, Maty Mauk would be seeing a very different defense than Lock did. Vanderbilt would have, as other teams had, played deep and spied him to force him to stay in the pocket and throw short. That said, watching Lock lope along to pick up 18 and 33 yard first downs does make one wonder what this game would have looked like if Mauk's decision making had been just a hair better.

Play-calling

It's hard to be a brilliant play caller when the line can't block, the running backs can't find what holes there are, the receivers can't get open, and the quarterback can't find the open receivers. That said, I still can't shake the feeling that despite the suspension, injuries and inexperience, this team is just too talented to be this bad without a serious shortcoming on behalf of the coaching staff. I don't know where the blame lies, but there's certainly enough to go around.

Special Teams

That's three weeks in a row that both teams have missed a field goal. That's gotta be some kind of record, right?

A gift on the opening kickoff and a lost fumble on a punt proved that in order to karmically balance Corey Fast-ony's excellence, the return game has to suffer.

Defense

I want to give you guys a hug. Vandy came out played their homecoming game like a team that knew this might be their only chance at a conference win. You looked exhausted but never gave up. Vandy obligingly tried to run you ragged with outside zones, and had some success, but that's hardly your fault, even if you've been coached to say it is.

Officiating

Someone whop those officials on the nose with a newspaper, rub their noses in the instant replay and give them a stern "no!"

Logistica Miscellanea

The wife and I stayed with friends in Franklin, TN, home of Corey Fatony. Friday night we hit up 55 South. I had the chicken-fried chicken with green chile gravy and fries, which was fantastic. It was the biggest mutant chicken breast I had ever seen in my life. Saturday night we went just across the street to The Red Pony. The four of us split the cheese croquettes with pepper jelly and fried parsley, the pirogues with n'duja, herbs, and brown butter and the house made guacamole. The wife had shrimp & grits with apple bacon, scallions, mushrooms, white wine, and garlic-cheese grits, while I went for the hickory grilled cowboy rib eye with roasted potatoes, portabella mushrooms, cipollini onions, and chile butter. Both were amazeballs.

The game day experience was as you might imagine. The stadium was probably one-third Mizzou fans. It was dreary. For a good chunk of the game the Vandy fans really only seemed to get involved to boo. And they booed everything, for no obvious reason.

In a game I would otherwise like to forget, there was one highlight: the drunk Vandy fan behind us. He was like a parody of himself, come to life for my entertainment. He would repeatedly scream such wonderful nuggets as, "git outta preevint!", "git up on dose receivers!", "'at's keck cetch innerference!", and "'at's a fumble!" You're a true American hero, sir.

Vandy