PowerMizzou – How Mizzou’s six offensive line combos fared in 2022
Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz seemed to have a lot on his plate when it comes to his offensive line last season. Whether it was penalties, allowing tackles for loss, allowing Brady Cook to get decked, injuries or a combination of all those things it left Drinkwitz and the offensive coaching staff scrambling. Ultimately, those things are part of the reason why the Tigers went 6-7 and why Drinkwitz deployed six different offensive lines in 13 games.
Heading into the initial transfer portal period it seemed like the Tigers would need a host of offensive linemen, but they only picked up one by signing former Eastern Michigan offensive tackle Marcellus Johnson. Mizzou’s most significant loss on the offensive line was Connor Wood, who ran out of eligibility, but he struggled mightily so his loss could possibly be an addition-by-subtraction sort of thing at the least.
The portal opens will re-open from May 1-15 with Missouri having a second chance to add to its offensive line if it chooses to. However, if it stands pat with Johnson as the lone veteran newcomer then it is possible Missouri roles out one of the lineups from last season, it’s not likely, but it’s possible.
Mizzou’s six different lineups
The opening week lineup lasted just a game and a half after left guard Xavier Delgado hurt his ankle midway through the week two loss against Kansas State.
In the first game versus Louisiana Tech, Group One showed signs of struggle and finished the game with five penalties, seven tackles for loss allowed and a sack allowed. It did help the offense amass 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 as opposed to what group one did to help them.
PFF College graded the team’s pass blocking grade a 69.5 which was its third-best grade of the season. The run blocking received a grade of 65.7 (second). Both of these grades are good, but a little misleading compared to the eye test.
Mizzou got beat in just about every facet against Kansas State and it was no different for Group One in the trenches. They had four penalties (all false starts) and allowed a sack and 10 tackles for loss while helping the offense gain just 222 total yards. This is the same game Cook tore his labrum in his right shoulder.
Group One received a pass-blocking grade of 64.5 which was its seventh-best grade of the season. The run blocking 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 versus Abilene Christian and despite a 17-point win over the Wildcats, Group Two still struggled. Despite helping the team gain 487 total yards, the group had seven penalties, allowed a brutal hit to Cook which 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 make a change at right guard by subbing 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 subbed in for Powell and this is when the nation got to see Group Four. Prior to this game, Powell was struggling like the rest of the line, so he likely wouldn’t have fared much better had he played the full game, but it’s possible he could’ve.
Since Powell barely played, this will be considered Group Four’s grades.
Unfortunately for them, they had the team’s worst offensive line game of the season when it had three penalties and allowed four sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
Missouri should’ve won this game in spite of the poor play upfront, but it could’ve used a boost from the offensive line.
Group Four would start the next three games versus Georgia, Florida and Vanderbilt. At home versus Georgia, Missouri as a team played its best ball to that point in the season and led the game for three and a half quarters.
Group Four allowed nine tackles for loss and a pair of sacks which isn’t great, but against Georgia’s vaunted defense, it wasn’t that bad 一 until you add in the penalties. They had just four, but Walters committed two that were backbreaking.
The first was a false start penalty on Georgia’s one-yard line in the second quarter and instead of going into halftime up 19-6, 20-6 or 21-6, the Tigers had to settle for a field goal on the drive and go into halftime up 16-6.
The second penalty was a personal foul on what was a third-down completion 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 the 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 versus Florida was another dud for the offensive line. Group Four helped the offense amass 370 total yards, but they 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 versus Vanderbilt was the first game after the bye week and the offensive line still struggled against one of the nation’s worst defenses. The group allowed Vanderbilt to record eight tackles for loss and a 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 a pass-blocking grade of 57.73 and a run-blocking grade of 55.43.
EJ Ndoma-Ogar replaced Walters in the starting lineup at right guard in week nine against No.25 South Carolina due to Walters’ struggles. This happened to be one of the better performances of the season from a Missouri offensive line.
Group Five helped the offense rack up 367 total yards all while 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 got to run it back in week 10 versus Kentucky, but Ndoma-Ogar suffered a season-ending injury early in the second quarter leading Drinkwitz to sub Walters back in at right guard.
Walters did have his best pass-blocking grade of the season at 86.3, but the line still only helped the offense gain 232 total yards and it gave up six sacks, 11 tackles for loss and committed three penalties. One of the penalties was a hold on Walters that negated a 27-yard gain early in the fourth quarter while the Tigers were trying to mount a comeback.
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 filled in at right tackle to make this the sixth starting offensive line of the season. Group Six had the most time to gel together but they also had to gel during arguably the toughest portion of the schedule beginning in week 11 against Tennessee.
This group helped put together Missouri’s most points versus a Power 5 team all season (24) and they helped the offense gain 389 total yards, but they also allowed a couple of sacks and seven tackles for loss 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 versus New Mexico State, who entered the game with a top-30 defense. Missouri put up 443 total yards (182 rushing) and the offensive line only allowed two tackles for loss and a couple of penalties. One of those penalties was an illegal man downfield penalty that negated a 29-yard reception by Barrett Banister from Sam Horn that would’ve put the Tigers inside New Mexico’s 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 versus Arkansas, the offensive line helped amassed 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 get 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 versus Wake Forest must be taken with a grain of salt. Wood and Tollison both left in the first half with injuries leaving Drake Heismeyer to replace Tollison at 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 it also committed 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 a pass-blocking grade of 65.3 and a run-blocking grade of 58.72 across four games.
PFF Grades of returning offensive linemen
Technically, the first group ended up being the best offensive line group, but it didn’t get a chance to play too long together. The eye test says that the sixth group, before Tollison and Wood got injured, was the best group over the stretch of games they played even though the best performance versus a Power 5 team was from Group Five at South Carolina.
Again, Missouri may add another offensive lineman when the portal re-opens, but if it decides not to do that then there is a collection of players with starting experience who can still make a formidable line.