Missouri football offensive line improving despite injuries

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 | 7:48 p.m. CDT; updated 8:07 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 8, 2012
The Missouri offensive line practices during workouts Wednesday at Faurot Field. The Tigers line is already banged up, suffering multiple injuries during training camp.

COLUMBIA — Last year, the Missouri football team lost left tackle Elvis Fisher for the season when he ruptured his left patellar tendon during training camp.

Fisher is back this season after being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. That's good news for the Tigers' offensive line, which has already suffered multiple injuries during training camp.

As the team practiced Wednesday on the new artificial turf at Faurot Field, the offensive line was still adjusting.

Missouri coaches have had to shuffle players after senior left guard Travis Ruth tore his left triceps tendon and redshirt freshman right tackle Taylor Chappell tore the ACL in his left knee.

There is no timetable for the return of either player, but they are not expected back any time soon. Ruth and Chappell had been practicing with the first-team offense. Chappell was filling in for injured starter Justin Britt, who's out with a foot injury but expected to return before camp ends.

On Wednesday, sophomore Anthony Gatti took most of the reps with the first team at right tackle, while junior Max Copeland and freshman Evan Boehm shared practice time at the left guard spot. 

Senior right guard Jack Meiners and Fisher are helping the younger players step in and learn.

"It's always good to have a couple older guys in the mix in there," Fisher said. "When Justin (Britt) comes back on the right side he'll be pretty well off."

Meiners said the injuries will force the younger players to grow up fast, something Fisher sees as the silver lining of having hurt players.

"It's not a good thing to get injured," Fisher said. "But at the same time, when you get injured you move guys up and you move them around, and you get a lot of the younger guys a little more experience. You start to develop your depth a little more."

Meiners claims he and Fisher are the smartest players on the offensive line, joking that he is smarter than Fisher. Their knowledge and experience allows them to recognize defenses and tell the younger players what they are supposed to do.

"Physically, you know, we recruit great guys," Meiners said. "Physically, they are all really good to play. It's just the little things like fundamentals, getting those little steps in, those little techniques in. And then also, the mental game."

Fisher also said it helps to have players who can help inexperienced linemen make calls and recognize things in the defense. He said it helps that the experienced players are spread out along the line, with Fisher at left tackle and Meiners at right guard. But Fisher took exception to Meiners' claim of being the smarter of the two.

"It's not true. I mean, who has their degree already?" Fisher, a sixth-year senior, joked. "Let's just put it like that."

Meiners said he expects the offensive line to improve over the remainder of camp. He said getting more reps will help the line come together and be ready for the season.

"The defense out here (at camp) will start changing up their fronts and getting more complex as it goes along," Meiners said. "And we'll keep watching film and keep getting smarter."

NOTES: Quarterback James Franklin did not throw for the second straight practice. It was one of the scheduled rest days for the quarterback during training camp as a precaution after his shoulder injury in the spring. Franklin threw during the Tuesday morning practice, but rested his arm for the second practice of the two-a-day.

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