Missouri’s search for answer along the offensive line might take a dramatic turn Saturday at Vanderbilt.
“We’re looking a little bit at maybe switching some guys up position-wise possibly …,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said Monday during his weekly news conference. “We haven’t decided for sure what we’re going to do, but we’re looking at a couple different things.”
Pinkel indicated it won’t be as extreme as shifting senior center and captain Evan Boehm from center, where he’s started the last 35 games, to tackle.
Then again, nothing’s set in stone.
Moving Boehm, who started all 12 games at left guard as a freshman in 2012, is an option.
“We’ve thought about it,” MU offensive line coach A.J. Ricker said. “We’ve thought about a lot of stuff. Trust me.”
Senior left tackle Connor McGovern, who started 24 of 28 games the last two seasons at right guard, back to the interior also is an among the options for Missouri.
Boehm and McGovern are the Tigers’ best offensive linemen and both are playing well enough to give the offense a chance to succeed..
“There’s some guys that are playing at a pretty high level right now,” Ricker said. “Guys that probably wouldn’t shock you. We’ve just got to get everybody up to that level. … We had two guys last week grade out, in my opinion, playing winning football. We’ve got to get three more.”
Missouri’s offense languishes as the worst statistically among all Power Five programs in scoring and total offense, so something’s got to give.
“The biggest decision is production and ability for us to just function with our plays and operate our plays an execute our plays,” MU offensive coordinator Josh Henson said.
Right tackle Nate Crawford, a sophomore who converted from defensive tackle before last season, was making strides before a high left ankle sprain set him back physically. He missed the South Carolina game and has been used as a reserve in the last two games.
Senior Mitch Hall has been steady, if unspectacular, as the starting right guard this season, while sophomore Alec Abeln and seniors Taylor Chappell and Brad McNulty have rotated through at left guard.
Chappell also stepped in at right tackle with Crawford injured.
Ricker tried not to play musical chairs too much with the offensive line after the first few weeks of practice, but —- well, best-laid plans and all.
“I can sit here and say ‘this is what I don’t want to do,’ but, if we’re not good enough at what we’re doing, obviously we’ve got to find answers,” Ricker said. “We owe that to the whole team and the offense.”
Ricker said he hasn’t noticed many mental errors.
“It’s not like we don’t know what we’re doing and we’re blocking the wrong guys all the time,” he said. “It’s just winning our one-on-one matchups, whether it’s run-blocking, whether it’s pass-blocking.”
That means Ricker’s working hard to shore technique across the line — better footwork, a better punch on twists and stunts and more consistency in sustaining blocks.
“It’s doing what we do and doing it the right way,” Ricker said. “It’s blocking the guy across from you like you’re supposed to do. It’d be a different story if we were losing the line of scrimmage and getting pushed around out there. That’s not our issue. It’s consistently staying on guys, it’s moving our feet, it’s technique and playing with confidence.”