University of Missouri

Missouri’s Evan Boehm has improved the Tigers by switching to center

Despite losing a bet with his dad, Missouri sophomore center Evan Boehm will drive back to campus on the day after Thanksgiving in his new car, a 2007 Chevy Tahoe.

Before the season, Boehm, who started all 12 games at left guard last season for the Tigers, asked to switch to center at a meeting with head coach Gary Pinkel. It was a move Pinkel said he and his staff had contemplated anyway.

“He did that without even letting us know he was going to do that,” Evan’s father, Royce, said. “He came back from his meeting with Pinkel and told us. We were like, ‘All right, very good. You have our full support.’”

That’s where the bet comes in. Evan bet his father, the Lee’s Summit West head coach, that he would have perfect snaps throughout the 2013 season. The prize for perfection would be a new car.

Evan didn’t even make it out of the first half in the first game.

“The very first game against Murray State, I had a snap hit my butt,” Evan said. “It was low to (quarterback) James (Franklin), so James had to bend over a little bit. We still picked up yards on it, but (my dad) said it was low.”

That meant no new car. But losing the bet shouldn’t obscure a remarkable season for Evan.

Among Missouri’s myriad struggles last season, snap issues frequently cropped up, especially from the shotgun, but those issues have disappeared with Evan at center.

First-year offensive coordinator Josh Henson made some changes that helped, shifting the quarterback forward in shotgun sets and calling more plays with the quarterback under center.

Still, a lot of the turnaround has to do with Evan, who had experimented some with playing center in high school. He was the long snapper for Royce’s Titans as a freshman and tinkered with snapping before certain matchups, notably as a junior and senior before games against Park Hill and its defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins.

Still, it wasn’t until Aug. 31 against Murray State that Evan saw the field for his first snap in a game — not that anyone could tell.

“He’s done great with it,” Henson said. “For the most part, his snaps have been very accurate. More than anything, he’s done a great job communicating up front.”

The center is considered the quarterback of the offensive line and generally has the final say on blocking calls. It’s a lot of responsibility for Evan, who is the youngest starter on Missouri’s line, but he has handled it well.

“Having a year under my belt, I really felt like I could be that leader and be out there and be confident with what we do and have that final say of what we do,” Evan said.

It wasn’t always easy, but when Evan struggled with transition during spring football, Royce reminded him, “You’re the one who wanted to make this move, so you’re also the one who’s going to have to get it figured out.”

Evan knew Royce was right and knew this was what he wanted to do, so he kept working and turned a corner in preseason camp, emerging as one of the top offensive line talents in the Southeastern Conference.

“I think he’s one of the best centers in the league,” sophomore right guard Connor McGovern said. “He can be a great one. He has the mentality and the physical attributes to do it.”

Some think Evan’s already had a great career.

“If he’s not the best freshman and sophomore (lineman) to play here, I want to meet the guy who was here before him,” senior left tackle Justin Britt said. “He’s had a helluva career so far and, knock on wood that he stays healthy, he’s only going to get better and better.”

While home for a Lee’s Summit West playoff game, Evan mentioned the trouble he was having with his 1998 Ford Explorer. While Evan hadn’t been perfect this season, Royce agreed to replace his car anyway.

“It’s not a brand new car, but it’s a newer one,” Royce said. “That Explorer was really was on its last legs, so I think he deserved a new one. Let’s say, if it was perfect snaps for a new car, he came really close. So he’s getting something close to new.”

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