Offensive line’s play has been a treat for Missouri’s runners

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10/24/2013 2:37 PM

05/16/2014 10:32 AM

Finally, the secret is out. Junior running back Henry Josey spilled the beans about the stellar play of Missouri’s offensive line this season.

“I feed them ice cream every Thursday,” said Josey, who leads the Tigers with 83 carries for 494 yards and eight rushing touchdowns this season.

Every week at film study, Josey or another running back stocks up on treats for the hefty fellas who pave the way for the nation’s 15th-best run game, which averages 234.4 yards.

“When I do it, I bring them Snickers ice cream. I bring them sandwiches. I bring them Oreos,” Josey said. “I just go in there and grab a whole bunch of different things. When I come in, they’re excited, so that’s the biggest thing.”

Opposing defenses don’t feel the same excitement lining up against fifth-ranked Missouri’s offense, which ranks 11th in the nation in total offense, racking up 513.4 yards per game, and eighth in scoring, averaging 44.3 points per game.

Of course, health and not midweek treats — sorry, Henry — is the true secret to the Tigers offensive line’s revival.

Scarred by injuries to more than half its two-deep roster last year, Missouri was forced to mix and match offensive-line personnel, and the results reflected a team struggling to put the pieces together up front.

That hasn’t been the case this season with left tackle Justin Britt, center Evan Boehm, right guard Connor McGovern and right tackle Mitch Morse making every start (and logging nearly every minute).

Left guard Max Copeland sat out the Indiana game and was limited against Arkansas State, but otherwise the Tigers have been healthy in the trenches.

“The continuity of playing together, there’s nothing like it,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “That doesn’t mean you’re not going to have any mistakes, but certainly the consistency at that position helps a lot.”

Last season’s trials inadvertently helped set the foundation for this season’s success.

“We felt like we had something to prove this year as an offensive line, no doubt, and as a team in general,” said Morse, who spent time at guard, center and tackle a year ago. “We drew a line in the sand this offseason, and we really killed it in the weights. … The cohesiveness of the offensive line, with guys being able to stay in the same position with the same guys, has been fantastic.”

It’s a bond that extends off the field as well.

“When we walk around the (Mizzou Athletic Training Center) and you see an offensive lineman, they’re normally with another offensive lineman,” Boehm said. “That’s a special thing that we have with the offensive line.”

The linemen have become the Tigers’ very own band of brothers.

Upon returning from a win at then-No. 7 Georgia, rather than go their separate ways, the starting offensive line gathered at McGovern’s house for a bonfire and “just sat around the fire talking about life, talking about football, talking about everything,” Boehm said. “That’s how close-knit we are. We never get tired of each other.”

It’s a good thing, because the life of an offensive lineman is mostly punishment with little glory.

“It’s a relationship that you have to have when you get beat up each and every day like you do as an offensive lineman,” Boehm said. “Each and every day, you run that gantlet and get beat up by the opposing team, by the defensive line. But it’s your job to keep each other up and to make it fun for everybody else.”

It certainly has been so far.

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