COLUMBIA — Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel says younger players will need to step up for a program hampered by injuries heading into its first game of the season.
Pinkel addressed the the media in a Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference Wednesday and said the Tigers' offensive line has become thin after four of the team's top 10 linemen got injured in training camp.
Among the injured offensive lineman, only senior right guard Jack Meiners, who has a left sprained knee, is expected back this season, Pinkel said. The plan is for Meiners to return for the game next week against Georgia.
Senior left guard Travis Ruth, who has a torn left triceps tendon, might be able to return late in the year. But that's about it.
Redshirt freshman right tackle Taylor Chappell has a torn ACL in his left knee, and junior right tackle Mark Hill has decided to stay off the field after struggling with blood clot problems.
Pinkel said Evan Boehm will have to fill in at left guard, becoming the first true freshman to start on the offensive line at Missouri under Pinkel.
"He's going to be learning on the run a little bit. But he's a guy who's certainly capable," Pinkel said.
Pinkel said there are several factors that make it difficult for a freshman on the offensive line. Most don't have the size and strength necessary. But Boehm, who is listed as 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds on the team's website, is better equipped than most.
Pinkel also said it is not easy to learn the position because of the "multiple" formations that defenses line up in.
At Monday's media day, Pinkel said he expects Southeastern Louisiana, the Tigers' opponent in the opener on Saturday at Memorial Stadium to run a 30 defense, which he says allows them "to do a lot of different things" that could test Boehm.
"He's going to make some mistakes. We understand that. But he was a state wrestling champion. He was a national recruit and lives up, ability-wise, to a national recruit. A lot don’t. But he does. We're very fortunate to have him help us."
Pinkel also said he thinks cornerback Kip Edwards and safety Braylon Webb will both see action in Saturday's game against Southeastern Louisiana. Edwards and Webb have both missed significant time in training camp because of injuries.