During training camp, eruptions from the northwest corner of the Missouri’s Kadlec Athletic Fields were commonplace.
That parcel of turf is where new Tigers offensive-line coach Glen Elarbee put his players through the paces.
Periodically, when the blaring horn would signal the transition from one practice period to the next, Mizzou’s linemen would grab PVC chutes used for certain drills and launch them through the air.
Sophomores Paul Adams and Kevin Pendleton would bellow as they hurled the white plastic gates off the field, creating a scene impossible to ignore.
“Elarbee always asks us where our juice is at,” Adams said. “Whenever he asked us where our juice is at, that’s when we start going crazy. We’ll finish an individual drill and that’s when … we just start going crazy and throwing stuff.”
There was a method to the Elarbee-sanctioned madness.
“He likes us to have a lot of energy and practice, because he knows that means we’re here and ready to work,” sophomore center Sam Bailey said. “We’re ready to get stuff done, but we’ve got to have a little bit of fun with it too. Otherwise, what’s the point, if you’re not having fun?”
Asked if Elarbee was a bit crazy, junior left tackle Tyler Howell said, “Aren’t we all? … But he’s passionate, and that keeps us motivated. When you see someone who cares that much about the game, you’ve got to bring your best effort every day.”
Arriving in January from Arkansas State, Elarbee inherited a young offensive-line group blessed with athleticism but lacking any significant experience.
You’ve got to have the juice at practice. You’ve got to be going. You’ve got to have some excitement, energy.
Missouri offensive-line coach Glen Elarbee
Junior Alec Abeln, who started three games last season, was far and away the most seasoned returning player, so Elarbee stoked his players’ passions to push through the grind of two-a-days.
“You’ve got to have the juice at practice,” Elarbee said. “You’ve got to be going. You’ve got to have some excitement, energy. There’s a lot of technique, a lot of Xs and Os, but, if you’re not passionate and don’t have energy, it doesn’t really matter.”
Elarbee’s quirky personality also extends to the film room.
“He gets mad that we don’t fully go through on stuff like (cut-blocking),” Adams said. “He demonstrated it for us one time. He took off his glasses and did a chop-block, and put his head right into a chair then got up like it was nothing and put his glasses back on. We were like, ‘OK, this guy mean serious business.’ ”
He’s also gotten serious results.
Mizzou’s offense ranked 125th last season among 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, averaging 280.9 yards per game.
Thirteen teams churned out more than double the Tigers’ 3,371 total yards in 2015 — a figure the offense should surpass Saturday against Middle Tennessee during Mizzou’s homecoming game at 3 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
This season, new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s offense ranks 24th in the country with a 484.3-yard average, a turnaround that wouldn’t be possible without improved offensive-line play.
“He’s continued to develop that group as we’ve gone on and … he wants his guys to play at a high level,” first-year Tigers coach Barry Odom said. “He coaches them hard, has got a tremendous football IQ and … you see the offensive line taking shape on what he is as a coach.”
Elarbee, who played offensive line at Middle Tennessee from 1999-2002, brings a light touch and allows Mizzou’s line group to have fun, but that’s only part of his approach.
“We like seeing the funny Elarbee,” Adams said, “but whenever the strict Elarbee or the work Elarbee comes out, we know what time it is.”
Elarbee has struck a deft balance in getting the Tigers’ offensive line to perform above expectations through the first half of the season.
Asked if there would be any mixed emotions playing his alma mater, Elarbee said, “Not at this point, man. The only thing I can focus on right now is trying for us to get better and go win a game. That’s about as emotional as it gets.”
Elarbee was a first-year graduate assistant for the Blue Raiders’ only previous visit to Columbia, a 41-40 overtime loss in September 2003.
“That was a heartbreaker,” he said. “It was a tough one, but it was a lot of fun and a great environment. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here, because of that environment.”