With the departure of offensive linemen Paul Adams and Kevin Pendleton to graduation, Missouri football is reshaping its offensive line.
For the first time since Tre'Vour Wallace-Simms, Trystan Colon-Castillo and Yasir Durant entered the starting lineup in 2017, the Tigers are facing some questions there.
And so far, they're leaning on young talent to answer them, much in the way they threw that trio of untested players into the mix during fall camp two years ago. Three sophomores and a redshirt freshman are listed on the 2019 depth chart at left guard and right tackle, the two spots vacated by Adams and Pendleton.
Sophomore Hyrin White and redshirt freshman Bobby Lawrence hold the No. 1 and 2 spots at right tackle, while sophomores Larry Borom and Case Cook are listed at left guard.
Cook, though, has been taking reps behind Colon-Castillo at center for much of the first week of practices. Head coach Barry Odom said the left guard competition is still open despite that.
"They're both still battling in there. Both have good things that they bring to the table," he said.
But Odom can't deny that Cook brings depth to the center position, especially after senior Jonah Dubinski retired for medical reasons before the start of camp. Odom is impressed by the sophomore's football IQ; and while Colon-Castillo hasn't dealt with many injuries in his career, shoring up the depth there would be beneficial just in case. Cook's move to center would almost ensure Borom the starting job.
Borom is also changing positions, from taking snaps at right tackle last season to left guard now. He saw limited playing time last season, getting most of his minutes on special teams.
When the spring rolled around, though, Borom's name was there, listed in the No. 1 spot at left guard. Kelly Bryant seems to think the question of who the next left guard will be has already been answered.
"That spot, in the spring, there was a fight for that position, right there at left guard," he said. "(Borom) came in and filled that role and has been playing at a high level ever since."
Colon-Castillo had more high praise for the sophomore. He relies on that position perhaps the most, as Pendleton was a vocal piece of the line from there in years past, aiding the center on blocking calls.
"I think a lot of people sleep on how well he moves and how athletic he is. Really, really quick on his feet; got a really, really good twitch. It's the kind of things people don't expect," Colon-Castillo said.
And don't forget about White, the sophomore at the top of the depth chart as a right tackle.
"He's got that 'dog' mentality; he's got an effort mentality," Colon-Castillo said. "He's always playing to the end of the whistle, making sure he's getting a nice little last shove."
White was listed as the No. 2 left tackle in 2018, taking snaps behind starter Durant. The freshman saw important time on the field in the second half of the last-second win over Purdue, after Durant went down with an ankle injury.
But White is now being asked to step into the role day in and day out. And both he and Borom are tasked with filling spots formerly held by vocal veterans who helped the offensive line lead the nation in allowing the fewest tackles for loss the last two seasons.
It's not just about throwing a body in the open holes, either. Colon-Castillo said there's an unnoticed but important relationship to develop between the entire offensive line and a quarterback. Not only are they working on building chemistry among the new starting linemen, but between the whole line and a new quarterback.
Last year's leaders who would have helped create that chemistry are gone now. Durant and Colon-Castillo know that, and are doing what they can to fill the void Pendleton and Adams left.
"Our job is to make sure they're comfortable, make sure that if they have any questions, they come to us and we answer them," Durant said.
The Tigers know who they're missing on the offensive line, but they won't dwell on it for long. There's a season approaching, and a return to form for the offensive line could pay dividends for what should be a powerful rushing game with Larry Rountree III and Bryant.
"Losing guys like Kevin and Paul who saw a lot of games here, that's a big blow to a lot of teams. Hyrin and Larry have come in and it seems like we haven't missed a step," Colon-Castillo said.
Supervising editor is Michael Knisley.