Missouri junior Evan Boehm admits there were some frustrating moments last spring as he transitioned to center.
He started all 12 games as a true freshman at left guard before deciding to switch positions, spending countless hours outside of practice working on his shotgun snap and learning the nuances and intricacies of first-year offensive coordinator Josh Henson’s plays and protection schemes.
Now, after starting all 14 games at center as a sophomore, Boehm is settled in during spring camp and his focus has shifted from learning to dominating.
“It’s different for sure,” Boehm said. “I’m not worrying about the snaps and trying to get the ball back to the quarterback every time. Now, I can focus on stepping and being physical up front, finishing blocks and doing stuff like that.”
As good as Boehm was last season for a Tigers team that ranked No. 13 in the nation in rushing, averaging nearly 238 yards per game during a 12-2 campaign that included an SEC East division title, hopes already run high for an even better junior season.
“Evan’s obviously improved from where he was a year ago, there’s no question about it,” Missouri co-offensive line coach Bruce Walker said. “Most kids will because of their playing time.
“The challenge for Evan now is not to work to be the starting center. The challenge for Evan is to be the best center in the SEC. That needs to be his goal.”
Does Walker think it’s an attainable goal?
“You bet your (rear), I do,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Boehm feels the same way.
“We have after-season meetings before spring ball and I told the coaches that was one of my goals,” said Boehm, a Lee’s Summit West graduate. “I even sat down with coach (Gary) Pinkel and told him that, too. My goal right now is to be the best center not only in the SEC, but in the nation.”
Upon arriving at Missouri, Boehm had undeniable talent. He was a four-star recruit and the No. 7 offensive guard prospect in the country, according to Rivals.com, while Scout.com listed him as the nation’s top prospect at center.
Still, there was a learning curve the first two seasons.
“Evan is a very strong athlete,” Pinkel said. “He got away a lot in high school with just overpowering people. At this level, you’re going to play people that are as strong and as big as you. Technique and fundamentals become huge. I think he’s doing a much better job at really focusing on the fundamentals, so he can get a lot better than he was a year ago.”
As the only starter returning at the same position, Boehm’s presence is vital for a Tigers’ offensive line in flux.
Senior Mitch Morse also returns, but he is switching from right to left tackle, replacing Justin Britt, while junior Connor McGovern is sliding from right guard to tackle.
Senior Anthony Gatti started two games at left guard when former Missouri lineman Max Copeland had a sprained ankle. Gatti inherits that spot on a full-time basis, while Mitch L. Hall, a junior transfer from Mississippi, is atop the spring depth chart at right guard.
So, having Boehm as the line’s anchor is an immense help as spring football continues and with an eye toward summer workouts and the preseason camp in August.
“You’re used to the cadence, which is a huge deal,” Morse said. “You’re used to how he snaps the ball and when he snaps the ball and certain calls he makes.
“Ultimately, the center is the quarterback of the offensive line and he did a fantastic job of that last year. He’s picking up right where he left off this year, so it’s nice to have some stability in the center with these moving parts.”