Offensive line ‘getting better’ as Missouri football finishes spring

J’Mon Moore: “I see them as one of the best offensive lines in the SEC.”
Redshirt junior offensive lineman Adam Ploudre sophomore defensive lineman Josh Moore to give junior running back Shaun Conway a hole to run through during the the annual Black and Gold game on April 16.

Last season is one that most Missouri football fans would like to forget.

The Tigers went on a three-game streak without scoring a touchdown, due in part to a struggling offensive line. But the brunt of the blame fell on inexperienced quarterback play and wide receivers who simply could not get open.

This season, that offensive line experienced a massive turnover, leaving fans to wonder how the unit with so many new faces would perform. If Saturday’s spring game is any indication, this year’s line succeeding is a process.

Despite a few mishaps, including two snaps over the quarterback’s head, the offensive line held up well against an undermanned but still strong Missouri defensive line.

The game, won 21–0 by the Gold team, saw Missouri’s quarterbacks throw for three touchdown passes from relatively clean pockets. It also saw holes that did not exist in the 2015 season opened up in the defensive line.

The offensive line featured five brand-new starters as redshirt junior Nate Crawford is out for the spring.

“I think (the offensive line) had a good 15 practices including the spring game,” redshirt sophomore center Samson Bailey said. “I think we did well, competed every day, got better.”

The offensive line was by no means perfect. There were a few sloppy snaps as well as a few false starts to set the offense back.

Still, it was just a spring game. The offensive line and the team in general still have a long time before they suit up to take on West Virginia on Sept. 3.

The offensive line’s work ethic this spring has not gone unnoticed. Missouri’s other offensive players have taken notice to what the big men have been doing during spring practices.

“That offensive line and that new offensive line coach has definitely put a new culture in them,” wide receiver J’Mon Moore said. “I see that offensive line getting better and better. I see them as one of the best offensive lines in the SEC.”

The offensive line’s performance especially benefitted junior running back Ish Witter. Witter found much more space against last season’s fifth-ranked scoring defense on Saturday than he did for the majority of last season.

“We’re down a few linemen,” Witter said. “I’m proud of them. They’ve been doing good and if they can transfer that over to next season we’ll be fine.”

Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel was impressed with how well the offensive line performed on Saturday.

“Those guys have done a pretty good job,” Heupel said. “They’ve done a pretty good job of giving (the quarterbacks) a pocket and giving them the ability to step up.”

Heupel’s offense is also designed to help the offensive line protect its quarterback. His offenses at Oklahoma and Utah State only gave up sacks on 5 percent of possessions at worst, mostly due to his quarterbacks being able to distribute the ball quickly.

“Part of sack problems is quarterbacks not understanding where to go with the ball,” Heupel said. “They don’t understand where to go with the ball, they’re late, they’re holding onto it a long time.”

Missouri’s offensive line was one bright spot for the Tigers. If the team can improve on its performance before the season, the Mizzou offense should perform much better than it did last season.

“I haven’t felt any pressure of that,” Bailey said. “I’m just trying to do the best I can every day.”

Edited by Katherine Knott | kknott@themaneater.com

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