Missouri reshuffled its offensive line after a loss to Indiana, but it hasn’t proven to be a panacea for the offense’s ills.
Junior Connor McGovern, who started the season’s first four games at right tackle, moved back to right guard, where he started all 14 games last season.
Junior Taylor Chappell replaced McGovern at right tackle, while junior Brad McNulty stepped in at left guard for senior Anthony Gatti, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Hoosiers.
Generally, coaches have praised each of the moving pieces individually, but the offensive line remains a work in progress — and a major factor in the Tigers’ offensive struggles.
“We have all the components, which is so frustrating because we’re so close, but, when you don’t execute, what you get is what you saw today,” senior left tackle Mitch Morse said after Saturday’s 34-0 loss against Georgia.
The most frustrating part for Missouri’s offensive line is that it isn’t one thing — a simple and correctable error — that keeps rearing its head.
Instead, it’s an accumulation of mistakes on play after play that has undermined the offense.
“It was just a bunch of technical flaws we needed to fix, nothing in particular,” Morse said. “But it’s definitely things we need to change.”
McGovern said it seems like every player messes up on a play, but rather than the mistakes happening together and resulting in one bad play, it’s a constant stream of errors that tanks play after play.
“If one guy messes up, the whole play isn’t going to go very well,” he said. “Our problem is one guy kept messing up on every play. It’s hard to get going when that stuff’s happening.”
Certainly, the offense has other issues, but blocking sets the foundation for the offense, making everything else — in the run or pass game — dependent on the offensive line.
“We’re getting beat and losing our one-on-one battles,” Missouri’s first-year offensive line coach, A.J. Ricker, said. “… It’s running inside zone and you’ve got four guys blocking their tails off and you’ve got one guy missing a block. That’s how it is. You’ve got protection. You’ve got four guys fighting their tails off and one guy gets beat. That’s stuff that’s got to get corrected, but it’s not schemes.”
Ricker said he didn’t have time to change much after arriving from Illinois in mid-July, so there shouldn’t be a learning curve anymore in terms of learning the or understanding the system.
Missouri’s ground game carried the offense through some tough stretches when the passing wasn’t effective last season, but the rushing attack has lacked consistency and produced precious few big plays this year.
The Tigers only have seven runs of 20 yards or more and rank 13th in the SEC with seven rushing touchdowns this season. Only hapless Vanderbilt has fewer (five).
“We haven’t run the ball as well, and a lot of things are working hand-in-hand right now,” offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “We’re just not executing very well.”
Halfway through the season, the Tigers are frustrated to still be dealing with such fundamental flaws, but the players and coaches aren’t going to abandon all hope.
“You know you’re so close,” Ricker said. “You’re one guy away, but we’ve got to quit being one guy away. We’ve got to execute better. To me, you see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we’ve got to get there. … That’s the frustrating part, but what we can’t do is sit here and yell at everybody and get all whacked out. We’ve just got to fix it.”