Alec Abeln certainly couldn’t have scripted his first college football game.
Abeln, a 6-foot-3 and 290-pound sophomore from St. Louis University High, was something of a surprise starter at left guard.
He’d only moved to that spot from the backup center position a week before Missouri’s opener against Southeast Missouri, a 34-3 win Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
No sooner had Abeln settled in at left guard, the Tigers’ staff shifted him back to center for the second half when senior Evan Boehm was sidelined with a sprained right ankle.
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“I thought he did good, playing two positions,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “We didn’t plan on that.”
Versatility, intelligence and poise are hallmarks of a good offensive lineman. Abeln displayed all that and more despite less-than-ideal circumstances.
“He did a tremendous job (at left guard),” junior quarterback Maty Mauk said. “He might not know as much as Evan, when Evan’s out there making calls, but (senior left tackle) Connor (McGovern) was right there beside him helping to make those calls and make it easier on him. From a center standpoint, he did a great job. He got me the ball, and that’s his first job. Then, he blocked the guy across from them. That’s all you can ask of him.”
Abeln wasn’t perfect, but he doesn’t have to be. Resiliency is more important.
“If you make a mistake or two, that’s OK,” Tigers offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “We’ll fix it when you get back to the sideline. I think for the young guy, sometimes not letting one bad play turn into five bad plays is really important, and I think he did a really good job of that.”
Abeln, in some ways, typified MU’s offense in the opening game.
“He’s young, and he’s going to make mistakes,” Pinkel said. “We had a lot of guys out there that are younger and are going to make mistakes, but we had a lot of guys who have a chance to be really good players.”