The trenches are critical for any team, and Missouri felt like it needed to replenish the ranks at offensive line heading into the 2014 season.
“The last couple years, our depth has been lacking there,” Tigers offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “It’s kind of like the wideout spot. We haven’t brought in a lot of guys — some quality guys, but not a lot of guys. We needed a good class numbers-wise that had numbers and quality to get our depth back where it needed to be, and I think we did that.”
DeSmet senior Andy Bauer (6-3, 300) is the headliner of the bunch. He was ranked No. 8 at guard by Rivals.com.
Missouri also signed Lee’s Summit West senior Kevin Pendleton (6-3, 320), Paul Adams (6-6, 280) from Nashville, Tenn., and Sam Bailey (6-4, 265) from Lamar, Mo.
Blue Valley West graduate Michael Fairchild (6-4, 275) enrolled early, but he’s still considered part of the 2014 class. Fairchild’s father, Paul, played seven seasons for the Patriots.
Bauer missed his senior year of high school with a torn labrum, prompting some analysts to project him at guard, but tackle remains a possibility down the road.
“Andy’s a good guy — he’s very talented and very bright — and we expect him to come in and be a very good player,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.
Bauer already has a college lineman’s body, so his path from recruit to on-field contributor could be accelerated. The same is true for Pendleton.
“When you look at physically advanced enough, you’re probably looking at Andy Bauer and Kevin Pendleton,” Henson said. “Those are the two guys that from a mass standpoint, a strength standpoint could probably come in and be physically ready to give you what you need.”
Of course, it’s still a longshot either will have an impact as a true freshman.
“It is really difficult, and I don’t care where you’re at, for a freshman to come in and play,” offensive line coach Bruce Walker said. “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.”
Center Evan Boehm, another Lee’s Summit West product, has started all 26 games in each of his first two seasons. Walker cited a couple other examples — Danny Hoch and Jack Meiners — “but those are the only three I can think of,” he said.
Meanwhile, Adams, Bailey and Fairchild need to add mass before being deemed SEC ready, but Missouri’s staff has high hopes for the trio.
The Tigers return Boehm, right guard Connor McGovern and right tackle Mitch Morse, but have holes to plug on the left side after Justin Britt and Max Copeland graduated.
“This spring, there will be musical chairs there,” Walker said. “We’ve got to develop our depth and so forth. Connor will play some tackle. Anthony Gatti will play some tackle, but Anthony Gatti will also play some guard. Mitch Morse will play on the right; Mitch Morse will play on the left. We’ll have to move those guys around and try to find out who the best five are.”
There are question marks, but Walker is confident answers will come.
“We’ve got some guys who are untested that have got to step up and get ready to go, but a year ago Connor McGovern was untested and he stepped up and did a helluva job for us,” Walker said. “That’s what spring football and the fall camp is for, getting those guys better, and it’s my job to get that done. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll throw them out there and we’ll find five to go out there and bite everybody in the kneecaps there in the SEC.”