COLUMBIA — After last season’s 39-38 loss to Oregon State in the Brut Sun Bowl, left tackle Tyler Luellen vowed that he would not cut his hair until the team’s next loss. As the 2007 campaign began and the Tigers’ remained unbeaten, the Bethany native’s golden locks grew. He kept his word after the Tigers’ lost 41-31 at Oklahoma last month.
“I promised myself that I would cut it if we lost, and I didn’t plan on losing,” Luellen said. “But, shoot, things happen.”
Like his hair did over that six game stretch, Luellen has grown in his five years in the Missouri program. He arrived as one of the state’s top recruits and one of the best offensive high school tackles in the nation. He was a bit smaller, if you consider someone who is 6 feet 7 inches and 250 pounds small.
As a fifth-year senior, the 295-pound Luellen is an important cog on the offensive line. As the left tackle, Luellen has been the blind-side protection for former quarterback Brad Smith and current starter Chase Daniel. In other words, if Luellen’s blocking isn’t up to par, the quarterback isn’t going to see what is about to hit him.
To Daniel, who refers to Luellen as “TyLu”, Luellen is what makes the offensive line go.
“He is the unquestioned leader and breaks the guys down,” Daniel said. “Your blind-side tackle is a guy you have to trust, and I completely trust him. He hasn’t let up a sack all year I don’t think, and if he did, it’s probably my fault.”
As important as the long pass was to the team last week against Colorado, the improvement of the ground game has been one of the bigger stories for this Tigers team for the last month. As one of the unit’s leaders, he said that the conversation among the line about what they see on the field has picked up significantly and has really aided them in being able to open up holes for the team’s numerous ball carriers.
“For us its been communication,” Luellen said. “We’re making better calls and communicating better and picking up the right guys, and that has helped our backs run better.”
Luellen has also helped improve his defensive line counterparts. For defensive end Stryker Sulak, who has practiced against Luellen for three years, Luellen’s importance on the outside of the line is not something that can be diminished or replaced quite so easily.
“He’s big-time on the outside and the older guy on the outside like (center Adam) Spieker is on the inside,” Sulak said. “You usually want to put your best tackle on the blind side and he does a real good job of keeping things under control out there.”
And since the loss to Oklahoma, Luellen’s facial hair has gotten out of control. He says he would like to let it grow for the season’s stretch run. But unlike the hair on his head, a loss is not the only thing that will get him to pick up a razor. With his final game at Faurot Field coming up on Saturday, he figures shaping it up wouldn’t be a bad idea.
“I figure with Senior Day coming, I’d clean it up a little,” Luellen said.
MORE AWARDS FOR DANIEL: On Tuesday, quarterback Chase Daniel was recognized as the 2007 recipient of the 2007 Carl O. Bauer Award from the Missouri Athletic Club, given to the top amateur sports figure in the St. Louis area. Daniel will be honored at the Jack Buck Awards Banquet in St. Louis on December 12.