We’ve been focussing on the skill players the first three days of our comparison series. Lots of jumping catches, breakaway speed and beautiful passing will be in the game Saturday. Today, we’re going to get down in the trenches and talk about what allows those plays to happen–The offensive line.
Both Ole Miss and Missouri are in the top half of the SEC and the national rankings in total offense. That all starts with great play from the offensive line.
Lets look at the big Hog Mollies for Missouri.
Missouri-Starting offensive linemen
Left Tackle: Justin Britt (6’6/315)
Left Guard: Max Copeland (6’3/300)
Center: Evan Boehm (6’3/315)
Right Guard: Connor McGovern (6’4/310)
Right Tackle: Mitch Morse (6’6/305)
Missouri has been pretty solid on the season at the offensive line position. They have allowed opposing defenses in the backfield to get tackles for loss only 53.0 times on the season which is ninth best in the SEC. They have also allowed 17.0 sacks this year which is seventh in the SEC.
The Tigers have one of the most electric offenses in the SEC and it’s mainly because of their stellar play up front. They rank 18th in the nation and second in the SEC in rushing yards per game with an average of 235.8. They also rank twelfth in the nation in points per game (41.3).
The main reason that the offensive line has been such a huge help to the running backs and quarterbacks is because of the line being ravaged by injuries last year. Missouri was forced to play second, third and sometimes players even lower on the depth chart as a result of all the injuries they suffered. So it’s safe to say that helped Missouri’s entire depth chart at offensive line become game ready by this season. And it has showed. Missouri has remained healthy all season on the offensive front so it hasn’t had to play some of those lower depth chart guys. But they do like to switch out linemen and when you have guys on the second and third string that have had significant playing time, that puts you at a real advantage.
The Tigers offensive line hasn’t faced very much competition this season. The best defensive line they have faced this year is South Carolina and they were able to run past the Mizzou line and get pressure on Maty Mauk. You could argue that Ole Miss has a better defensive line than the Gamecocks but we’ll save that for another day. Missouri’s offensive line will come ready to play, there’s no question about that. The question is will they be able to stop Isaac Gross and Robert Nkemdiche.
Ole Miss-Starting offensive line
Left Tackle: Laremy Tunsil (6’5/315)
Left Guard: Justin Bell (6’3/345)
Center: Evan Swindall (6’4/301)
Right guard: Jared Duke (6’7/377)
Right tackle: Pierce Burton (6’6/290)
It has been an up and down year for the Rebels on the offensive front. To start the year, the Rebels were 3-0 and imposing their will up front against everyone that they played. Then the rough patch of playing against Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M started. Against Alabama, the Rebels struggled to move the ball and the Tide was able to get to Bo Wallace several times and stop runs in the backfield. Then the next week, Auburn was able to do the same thing by getting to Wallace multiple times and shutting down the run game.
The Rebels may have lost the game to Texas A&M but the turnaround for the offensive line began that game as the Rebels were able to run and pass all over the Aggies. Then the next week against No. 6 LSU, the offensive line stood the Tiger’s ultra talented defensive line up and that allowed Jaylen Walton to rush for more than 100 yards and Wallace to complete 30 of 39 passes for 346 yards.
The last 4 weeks against LSU, Idaho, Arkansas and Troy, the offensive line has performed great. The only problem seems to be that they have a problem with false starts. Last week against Troy, Ole Miss had five false start penalties, all in the first half. It has been a problem throughout the year in spurts. They had a few false starts against Arkansas and a few other teams. But it seems to get corrected and the line plays lights out.
The biggest impact on the offensive line has come from true freshman Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil was the most sought after offensive line recruit in the country last year and ultimately decided to come to Ole Miss. He has been nothing short of spectacular all year long. He has locked down the left tackle position and only allowed one sack this season. And you could argue that the sack he gave up wasn’t really his fault. Ole Miss fans have been waiting a long time to see another great left tackle protecting their quarterback’s blind side since Michael Oher graduated and went on to play in the NFL. Tunsil has the potential to become one of the best offensive lineman that has ever come through Ole Miss.
Talent wise, the Rebels have the advantage on the Tigers on the offensive line pretty easily. But more goes into being a great offensive line than just talent. Currently the Rebels rank tenth in tackles for loss allowed in the SEC (56.0) and eleventh in sacks given up (22.0). They have a large task in slowing down a very fast defensive front in Missouri this weekend. Missouri has some of the fastest defensive ends in the league but with Tunsil at left tackle and Burton at right tackle, the Rebels matchup very well with those ends.
On paper if you look at the stats, Missouri is better than Ole Miss on the offensive line. But it’s blatantly obvious that Ole Miss has faced far superior talent this season compared to Missouri and even then, the stats are still pretty similar. The young talent on the offensive line is in Oxford and the Rebels have a decent amount of experience but maybe not as much as Missouri. It’s close, but Ole Miss having Laremy Tunsil locking down the left tackle position is what gives the Rebels the advantage.
Advantage: Ole Miss
Offensive Line-Ole Miss
Defensive Line-Coming soon (Friday 11/22)
–Justin Taylor, Associate Editor, HottyToddy.com
–You can email Justin at firstname.lastname@example.org