Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz he seemed to have a lot going for it when it comes to his offensive line last season. Whether it was penalties, tackles allowed for loss, allowing Brady Cook to be decked out, injuries, or a combination of all those things, it left Drinkwitz and the offensive coaching staff struggling. Ultimately, these things are part of why the Tigers went 6-7 and why Drinkwitz fielded six different offensive lines in 13 games.
Going into the starting period of the transfer portal, it looked like the Tigers would need a set of offensive linemen, but they only got one by signing former East Michigan offensive tackle Marcellus Johnson. Mizzou’s most significant loss on the offensive line was Connor Woodthat he ran out of eligibility, but fought hard so that his loss could at least be some sort of addition by subtraction.
The gate will reopen May 1-15 with Missouri getting a second chance to add to its offensive line if desired. However, if Johnson is the only veteran newcomer, then it’s possible Missouri will bust one of last season’s lineups, not likely, but possible.
The six different formations of Mizzou
The opening week lineup lasted just one and a half games after left guard Xavier Delgado injured his ankle midway through their Week 2 loss to Kansas State.
In game one against Louisiana Tech, Group One showed signs of a struggle and finished the game with five penalties, seven tackles for loss allowed, and one sack allowed. He helped the offense rack up 558 yards of total offense, including 328 rushing yards, but most of those yards were more about what the running backs did to get them than what the pack did to help them.
PFF College he ranked the team’s pass blocking grade at 69.5, which was the third-best grade of the season. Running block received a grade of 65.7 (second). Both of these grades are good, but a bit misleading when compared to the eye test.
Mizzou was beaten in nearly every appearance against Kansas State and it was no different for Group One in the trenches. They had four penalties (all false starts) and allowed one sack and 10 tackles for a loss, helping the offense gain just 222 total yards. This is the same game where Cook tore the labrum in his right shoulder.
Group one received a pass blocking grade of 64.5, which was the seventh-best grade of the season. The run block received a grade of 55.3 (eighth).
This group finished the season with an average pass blocking grade of 67 and a run blocking grade of 60.5.
Luke Griffin replaced Delgado in the lineup at left guard against Abilene Christian and despite a 17-point win over the Wildcats, Group Two still struggled. Despite helping the team gain 487 total yards, the pack had seven penalties, allowed a brutal hit to Cook that resulted in a strip-sack that was recovered by the Wildcats for a touchdown and nine tackles for loss.
Group two received a pass blocking grade of 65.0 (sixth) and a run blocking grade of 61.9 (third).
Group Three and Group Four
After Wood struggled in the first three games, Drinkwitz decided to switch right guard by switching Wood for Mitchell Walters in the team’s first game against a conference opponent.
Zeke Powell would have a season-ending injury in the first quarter, so this group didn’t get to play much together. Wood replaced Powell and that was when the nation saw Group Four. Prior to this game, Powell was struggling like the rest of the line, so he probably wouldn’t have fared much better if he had played the entire game, but it’s possible he could have.
As Powell barely played, this will count as a Group Four vote.
Unfortunately for them, they had the team’s worst offensive line game of the season when he had three penalties and allowed four sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
Missouri should have won this game despite poor early play, but could have used a push from the offensive line.
Group Four would start the next three games against Georgia, Florida and Vanderbilt. At home against Georgia, Missouri as a team played its best ball up to that point in the season and led the game three and a half quarters.
Group four allowed nine tackles for loss and a couple of sacks, which isn’t great, but against Georgia’s vaunted defense, it wasn’t all that bad until you added penalties. They only had four, but Walters committed two that were backbreaking.
The first was a false start penalty at the Georgia one-yard line in the second quarter and instead of going to halftime on 19-6, 20-6 or 21-6, the Tigers had to settle for a field goal on the drive and go into halftime on 16-6.
The second penalty was a personal foul on what was a completed third down early in the fourth quarter with the Tigers up 19-12. Mizzou would have to settle for another field goal and go up 22-12. Those penalties contributed to a 26-22 loss.
Group four received a pass blocking grade of 66.3 (fifth) and a run blocking grade of 58.5 (sixth) for that game.
The game against Florida was another disaster for the offensive line. Group four helped the offense amass 370 total yards, but also allowed four sacks, 13 tackles for loss and committed two penalties.
This group received a pass blocking grade of 40.3 (worst) and a run blocking grade of 54.2 (10th).
The game against Vanderbilt was the first game after the bye week and the offensive line still struggled against one of the worst defenses in the nation. The pack allowed Vanderbilt to record eight tackles for loss and one sack.
The group received a pass blocking grade of 66.6 (fourth) and a run blocking grade of 53.6 (11th).
Overall, this group averaged 57.73 pass-block votes and 55.43 run-block votes.
EJ Ndoma-Ogar replaced Walters in the starting lineup at right guard in Week 9 against #25 South Carolina due to Walters’ struggles. This was one of the best performances of the season by a Missouri offensive line.
Group five helped the offense rack up 367 total yards, allowing South Carolina to only get one sack and four tackles for loss. This group also only committed three penalties (all false starts).
The group received a pass blocking grade of 56.2 (12th) and a run blocking grade of 61.6 (fourth). The run blocking grade was the highest grade against a Power 5 team all season.
This group made it all the way back in Week 10 against Kentucky, but Ndoma-Ogar suffered a season-ending injury early in the second quarter which led to Drinkwitz replacing Walters at right guard.
Walters had his season-best pass blocking rating at 86.3, but the line still helped the offense gain only 232 total yards and gave up six sacks, 11 tackles for loss and committed three penalties. One of the penalties was a catch on Walters nullifying a 27-yard gain early in the fourth quarter as the Tigers were trying to rally.
The group received a pass blocking grade of 58.4 (11th) and a run blocking grade of 54.7 (ninth).
Wood moved to right guard and true freshman Armand Membou replaced right tackle to make this the starting sixth offensive line of the season. Group Six had more time to unite, but also had to unite during arguably the toughest portion of the schedule starting in Week 11 against Tennessee.
This group helped Missouri’s most points against a Power 5 team all season (24) and helped the offense gain 389 total yards, but also allowed a pair of sacks and seven tackles per game. defeated and committed a penalty.
The group received a pass blocking grade of 59.2 (ninth) and a run blocking grade of 53.1 (12th).
The best game of the season for a Missouri offensive line came against New Mexico State, who entered the game with a top-30 defense. Missouri amassed 443 total yards (182 rushing) and the offensive line had allowed only two tackles for loss and a pair penalties. One of those penalties was an illegal man-down penalty nullifying a 29-yard reception by Barrett Railing by Sam Horn who would have brought the Tigers inside the New Mexico 15-yard line.
The group received a pass blocking grade of 70.4 (second) and a run blocking grade of 73.8 (best).
In Week 13, with bowl eligibility on the line against Arkansas, the offensive line helped amass 468 total yards (226 rushing) and allowed a pair of sacks and six tackles for loss, while also committing three penalties. It wasn’t a great game for the offensive line, but they did more than enough to help clinch a win in the biggest game of the season for Mizzou.
The group received a pass blocking grade of 73.2 (best) and a run blocking grade of 59.0 (fifth).
How this group played during the Gasparilla Bowl against Wake Forest has to be taken with a grain of salt. Wood and Tollison both went out in the first half with injuries, leaving Drake Heismeyer to replace Tollison in center and Walters to replace Wood at right guard.
Group Six, with and without Tollison and Wood, helped the offense gain 329 total yards but allowed the Demon Deacons to get four sacks and 10 tackles for loss while also committing three penalties.
The group received a pass blocking grade of 58.4 (10th) and a run blocking grade of 49.0 (worst).
Overall, this group averaged 65.3 pass blocking points and 58.72 run blocking points in four games.
PFF Returning offensive lineman ranks
Technically, the first group ended up being the best offensive line group, but they didn’t get a chance to play together for too long. The eye test says Group Six, before Tollison and Wood were injured, was the best group over the course of the games they played even though the best performance against a Power 5 team was Group Five in South Carolina.
Again, Missouri can add another offensive lineman when the gate opens again, but if they decide not to, then there is a collection of players with starting experience who can still make a terrific line.