COLUMBIA — There are an endless amount of adages about the importance of offensive line play, but there are far fewer ways to understand it.
This year's Missouri football coaching staff makes the notion a bit easier to grasp. Rather than having one coach, they employ two.
After spending the past four seasons as a tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for Louisiana State University, Josh Henson has joined Bruce Walker to form a coaching duo that is now able to evaluate each player more efficiently, and make better use of practice time by dividing the entire group of lineman by position and level on the depth chart.
Henson says that with many teams, the line coach will watch one half of the line while a graduate assistant surveys the other and fills in the coach afterward. But this year there are always two sets of eyes on the group, and it allows the players to be coached constantly.
"It's a great thing," Henson said. "They get coached on every play. We get to critique every single thing they do. If you're one guy standing there, maybe you didn't see the front side of a play, or the back side of a play. You know now that those things are getting coached, and getting seen."
During one drill Wednesday morning, Henson rode on the back of the five-man sled while Walker stood behind the group, barking orders and the occasional compliment during and after every repetition. With voices coming from every direction there is no time for laziness, and the players have noticed.
"It keeps you from slacking off," senior guard Kurtis Gregory said. "There's always somebody watching."
"You always have somebody watching you," sophomore tackle Elvis Fisher said. "You can't take a play off."
While the two coaches are both listed as co-offensive line coaches, each warrants a more unique title while overlooking individual drills. Henson plays the role of technique quality controller. As players move through drills Henson is constantly correctly the angles of elbows and direction of toes. And Walker, whom Henson calls "a great technician" in his own right, is the director of general maliciousness. Walker is the one that can be heard from a few dozen yards away preaching the importance of physicality and toughness.
"The players love playing for him," Henson said of Walker. "He's very aggressive. He coaches them hard."
While the differences in personality between the two are small, the gap seems to be narrowing.
"At first I'd usually say that coach Walker yelled a lot more," Gregory said. "But now I'd say that coach Henson's getting pretty good at it too."
"They're both in your face, up-tempo guys," Fisher said. "Coach Henson likes technique, but he sure wants you to get after guys."
Walker would agree that the gap is closing. In fact, he would contend that there never was one.
"There's two of us," Walker said, "but really, there's only one."
"Our voice is the same in terms of what we're trying to get done with the players. And that helps create unity. Josh and I are unified, and unselfish. And that helps our kids be unified and unselfish."