Offensive line addressing issues

Boehm spent extra time working on his snaps after practice.
Missouri Tigers offensive lineman Evan Boehm (77) waits to snap the ball Aug. 30 on Faurot Field. The Missouri offensive line gave up two sacks and Missouri Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk (7) was hit twice Sept. 20 against Indiana. Maneater File Photo

When senior offensive guard Anthony Gatti injured himself in the first quarter of Missouri’s game against Indiana last weekend, things seemed bad enough for the Tiger offensive line. Junior center Evan Boehm had committed two false start penalties in one drive, and the Hoosier pass rush was getting after Mizzou’s sophomore quarterback, Maty Mauk.

It only got worse. Gatti’s replacement, junior Brad McNulty, struggled. Mauk was pressured and forced out of the pocket. And Boehm’s snaps seemed increasingly errant and became part of the grander picture of Mizzou’s unexpected loss.

When the game was over, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel announced Gatti tore his right anterior cruciate ligament. Meanwhile, Boehm and his snaps were being blasted on Twitter.

Insults were being added to injury.

The issues caused Boehm to spend extra time after practice Sunday perfecting his technique, and Pinkel to retool his offensive line.

McNulty will remain at left guard in place of Gatti, who is out for the season. Senior Connor McGovern will move from right tackle to right guard, and junior Taylor Chappell will take over at right tackle. Boehm and senior left tackle Mitch Morse will remain at their respective positions.

“I like to think if (you) keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve been getting,” McGovern said. “Clearly, we can’t be doing what we did.”

The Tigers’ former starting right guard, senior Mitch Hall, will still get playing time, according to Pinkel. Right now, though, the coach said Mizzou is “just trying to get the right combination out there — see how it works.”

With McGovern moving back to right guard, Chappell will take over at right tackle. He played the position with the starters during training camp, when McGovern went down with an injury.

At right guard last year, McGovern helped the Tigers finish 16th in the country in rushing yards per game (237.9). He said the transition from guard to tackle is an easy one.

Pinkel will be hoping so. The coach said he wants more consistency in the run game — taking lots of five or six-yard rushes over one big run and an eventually stalled drive.

The Tigers are currently averaging more than 50 yards fewer per game on the ground than they did last year. And while Missouri did run at a clip of 4.9 yards per rush against Indiana, that number was inflated by two big runs from junior running back Russell Hansbrough.

As for the passing game, Mauk said, “it doesn’t matter” who is protecting him. He was sacked twice and hit two more times against Indiana.

“I’m really comfortable with those top eight, nine, 10 guys,” Mauk said. “They’re here for a reason.”

That includes Boehm. The center said he identified his problems on film: He was flicking his wrist and bending his arm, rather than “dead handing” the ball to the quarterback.

“It was a little weird,” Boehm said. “It just didn’t feel (right). Everybody has those days. I had a day, and we had a day on Saturday.”

Mizzou offensive line coach A.J. Ricker said Boehm’s snaps have been on target since the junior identified his issues.

The Tigers hope so as they head into Southeastern Conference play at South Carolina on Saturday.

“The urgency gets higher and higher every week,” McGovern said, “and it can’t get any higher than this.”

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