Center Evan Boehm leads Missouri's experienced line
Minutes before the team took the field, the senior center was told he'd been elected one of four captains. It's a fitting honor for Boehm, who has started every game his first three seasons.
''When you see those four or five guys walk across the field to shake hands for the coin toss, you want to do that,'' said Boehm, who was born in Lee's Summit, Missouri, and grew up rooting for the Tigers. ''You want to be that kid.''
Coach Gary Pinkel wasn't surprised Boehm was elected.
''He loves the responsibility,'' Pinkel said. ''The first thing he does is lead by example. He's done that since he got here. We're excited about having his leadership.''
Missouri is coming off consecutive SEC East titles. The Tigers went 11-3 last year and open Sept. 5 against Southeast Missouri State.
Boehm is part of a tested line. Tackle Connor McGovern has made 28 career starts and guards Taylor Chappell and Mitch Hall also have started. The big loss was Mitch Morse, a second-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs.
''Other years, we've always had good offensive lines, but the most experience wasn't always on the line,'' said McGovern, a senior.
''We've got a lot of leaders on the offensive line,'' Hansbrough said. ''They're helping the younger guys, and they're making some pretty big holes in practice.''
Missouri averaged 237 yards rushing last season, second most in the SEC. It ended the season by rolling up season highs with 335 yards rushing and 585 total yards in the Citrus Bowl victory over Minnesota.
Since the end of the 2014 season, the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Boehm has trained extensively to improve hip flexibility and speed. He'd been prodded by McGovern and Morse.
''Connor and Mitch are the two biggest (physical) freaks I've ever seen,'' Boehm said. ''It's just freakish how well they can do some of these things. They definitely made me better. They pushed me to become what I am.''
Boehm and McGovern have participated in the NFL's early-entry evaluation process. Boehm is listed as the fifth-best center available for next year's draft and McGovern is rated 14th at guard.
They're trying to follow recent successes by Morse and Justin Britt, a second-rounder in 2014 who started for the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks.
''I know that a lot of people don't associate Mizzou with offensive line, but the past couple years we've been trying to fix that,'' McGovern said. ''Hopefully we can make Mizzou an offensive line place just as much as it is a defensive place.''