March 16, 2011

Snap Decision

The most important thing in offensive football is something most people watching a game never even notice.

"They've got to snap it. That starts every play," said Missouri offensive line coach >Josh Henson. "If the snap is bad…"

"They always tell us snap then block. Make sure the snap gets back there," said Missouri's starting center, Travis Ruth. "That in itself is quite a bit. Don't want to mess that up cause then you don't have a play."

Indeed, if the ball never gets to the quarterback, nothing else happens. And in Missouri's offense, the start of the play is even a little more dicey.

"The snap is a little more delicate thing in our offense because it's always got some space to travel," Henson said. "It always changes. All the snaps are perfect in pre-game and then when you get somebody in front of you and you've got to come off the ball and you're not thinking about the snap, you're thinking about blocking the guy."

Center is the only position on the offensive line at which Missouri is in search of a new starter. Tim Barnes started for the last three seasons, following up Adam Spieker, A.J. Ricker and Rob Riti, who all started four seasons. Fifteen years, four players. It is continuity unmatched at virtually any position on any team in college football.

Adding to the difficulty in finding a new center is the simple fact that very few players have played the position before coming to college.

"Ever since we've been here, we always seem to have less centers than the other positions," said Ruth, who was a tackle at Jefferson City High School. "They try to transform other guys during summer and tell them to work on it. Some guys have it, some guys don't."

The explanation for the lack of centers is simple.

"A lot of times what you'll find, if a guy plays on a team and he's 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, unless he's on a team with really big guys, he's gonna be a tackle. You're gonna put your biggest guys at tackle or guard, and your best players," Henson said. "You'll end up with a smaller kid at center on your high school team. A lot of kids that you recruit, there's not a ton of them that you recruit to college that played center in high school. They're doing other skills, so a lot of it, they've got to learn when they get here."

Either Ruth or Britt is likely to win the job as Missouri's starting snapper. But it is no guarantee…and it is also possible the man that doesn't get that spot could still find himself as a starter somewhere else.

"We're gonna rate our top offensive linemen, 1-18 or whatever it is," Pinkel said. "If you're in the top five and you're a second-team player, the next day, you're going to be moved up to the one offensive line at some position."

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