The resume of the Missouri football team’s offensive line reads longer than its grocery list: two preseason All-Americans, three preseason All-Big 12 Conference candidates, six returning starters, eight letterwinners.
“We think we’re pretty good two-deep, pretty solid, it’s a close battle,” Dave Christensen, the MU offensive line coach said.
At weakside guard, junior Joe Gianino and sophomore Tony Palmer are competing for the starting spot. At the beginning of preseason practices, Gianino (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) sat ahead of Palmer (6-2, 303) on the depth chart. Sunday, Palmer and Gianino took turns playing with the first string during an 11-on-11 drill toward the end of practice.
“Those guys are both experienced, the competition’s great,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “It makes them work hard. They’re both going to play, but they both want to start. I wish we had that situation with every position.”
Palmer was a fourth-team All-American as a freshman and Gianino gained 15 pounds in summer workouts after moving up on the depth chart during spring practices.
“You can never have too much depth, especially on the offensive line,” senior center A.J. Ricker said.
Ricker and senior tackle Rob Droege are preseason All-American candidates and junior tackle Scott Paffrath started every game in 2002. Pinkel said Paffrath (6-5, 290) is athletic enough to block blitzing Big 12 cornerbacks.
“You have to really be athletic and quick, because of the speed coming off the corner,” Pinkel said. “He’s a very good athlete to start with, obviously skill-wise, he’s developed with coach Christensen, he’s done a good job of that. He’s also gotten stronger.”
Senior Cliff Young (6-2, 300) started at both strongside and weakside guard in 2002 and was named the team’s most improved offensive linemen at the end of spring practices.
SOME FIRSTS: In full pads for the first time in August, MU practiced on the grass practice fields behind Tom Taylor Building. The Tigers spent the first four practices on the new FieldTurf on Faurot Field. Pinkel said the drills stayed mostly the same.
“It really wasn’t any different except for one drill, the only drill that’s different really is inside run, so other than 14 plays, it was really the same thing,” Pinkel said. “With shoulder pads on you get most of those things done anyway.”
MU will practice twice today, the first of five two-a-day practices. Pinkel said six or seven of the practices will be on the practice fields before the Tigers’ first game Aug. 30 against Illinois.
“The good news is these fields are in as good as shape as they’ve ever been in,” Pinkel said.
Pinkel said during the season, the team will practice Sundays and Thursdays at Memorial Stadium and Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the practice fields.
SEEING RED: Junior tight end Victor Sesay wore a red “no-contact” jersey and didn’t participate in most workouts. At Saturday’s practice, Sesay collided with cornerback Terrence Curry and twisted his right knee. Tailback David Richard, linebacker Emmett Morris and defensive lineman Zach Kauflin continued to wear red jerseys.