University of Missouri

Improvement on Missouri’s offensive line paves way for other position groups

Mizzou football coach Barry Odom speaks after spring practice

Missouri football coach Barry Odom spoke following his team's practice on Thursday, April 13, 2017, in Columbia.
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Missouri football coach Barry Odom spoke following his team's practice on Thursday, April 13, 2017, in Columbia.

Paul Adams remembers what was said about his group last spring — his “brothers” rather.

And yes, that’s the junior right tackle’s reference to the other Missouri offensive linemen.

“The outside world was kind of looking at us as the big question mark,” Adams said on Thursday at Missouri’s final spring practice ahead of Saturday’s Black & Gold game. “We all kind of looked at each other like: We know the scheme very well, we’ve got the guys and the talent to do it, now we’ve just got to go to it.”

Simply put: The group did it. The Tigers held defenses to a Football Bowl Subdivision-low 36 tackles for loss, down from 88 the year before. Not to mention, Missouri posted an 11th-best 14 sacks allowed mark. Adams hopes the mindset that allowed the offensive line to thrive translates to other position groups with question marks post-spring.

Missouri junior left guard Kevin Pendleton spoke of the cornerbacks as a group he wants to see follow in the offensive line’s footsteps.

The cornerback group loses Aarion Penton and John Gibson from last year’s squad.

Last year, Penton led the Southeastern Conference with 17 passes defended, and he was selected to the all-SEC first team. Gibson excelled, too, which leaves the current group inexperienced.

Missouri head coach Barry Odom said he’s enjoyed watching senior Logan Cheadle, sophomore DeMarkus Acy and sophomore Christian Holmes fill those roles and improve over the course of the spring. Pendleton agreed.

“They’ve done a great job being a unit,” Pendleton said. “Their coach made them wear all the same stuff each practice. If a guy has a sleeve, everybody has to have a sleeve. They do a great job being together outside of the field, so they’re taking all the right steps.”

Hanging out off the field was crucial to last year’s success for the offensive line, Adams said. Watching shows like “Last Chance U” and “13 Reasons Why” on Missouri junior offensive lineman Alec Abeln’s projector has been huge for the group’s continued progression.

Odom has seen said progression on the offensive line.

“Last year on this day it looked like me and you out there a lot of times, which is not a good thing,” Odom said. “They’ve done such a great job. … They’ve taken over (offensive line) coach Glen Elarbee’s attitude. They hang out together, they enjoy it and they’ve become a really strong point in our football team and our program.”

What motivates the offensive line now?

“Just never being satisfied really,” Adams said. “Yeah, (the offensive line) might have had a season like we just did, but we did have four wins, we didn’t go to a bowl game, we didn’t do anything special.”

What drives Pendleton?

“Something we’ve talked about is being the best,” Pendleton said. “... With the guys that we’ve got in this room and the coach that we have pulling the rope, we feel like we could be that.”

Injury report

Redshirt-freshman tight end Albert Okwuegbunam injured a leg in practice on Thursday. Okwuegbunam struggled to walk to the locker room during practice. Adams and Pendleton have lauded his play this spring

Senior cornerback Anthony Sherrils took a shot to the helmet in practice on Thursday. In a punt defense drill, Sherrils collided with senior safety Dominic Nelson. Odom had no update on either’s status after practice.

Black & Gold Game

▪ WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m.

▪ WHERE: Memorial Stadium in Columbia