April 13, 2009

Young Tiger tackles have bright future

There are plenty of well-publicized replacements on this Missouri team. With the most decorated senior class in Tiger history out the door, much is made of young players who will have to fill sizeable shoes. But in all the talk of new players stepping in, you don't hear many questions about right tackle Dan Hoch. Hoch, a true sophomore, is slated to inherit the spot manned the last couple of seasons by Colin Brown. Perhaps the lack of attention is a nod to the confidence his teammates have in the Harlan, IA native.

"He's gotten a lot better," said left tackle Elvis Fisher. "He came in last year as a true freshman and did great as a backup. This is his year to step up and I think he's doing that."

Hoch has always had the size to be a Big 12 lineman. He came out of high school at 6-foot-6 and 302 pounds. But for the last eight months, Hoch has been focused on adding skill to that natural size.

"Probably technique," he says of his biggest improvement. "I've just been working on my feet a lot more and body position. I do have a pretty good body, I've just got to use it better."

By the time the season rolls around, the sophomore tackles should be well-tested. Each day in practice, they face what Gary Pinkel called this weekend the best group of defensive ends he has had at Missouri. Between starters Jacquies Smith and Brian Coulter, and with the spring emergence of redshirt freshman Aldon Smith, Fisher and Hoch are tested daily in practice.

"I've got Jacquies and Aldon every day. Those two, I don't think there's anyone faster," Fisher said. "They're fast, strong, they're going to be real good. And they rotate. I'm out there for ten plays, every five they rotate so they've got a fresh guy out there."

The battles on the edge of the line should be entertaining to watch as spring ball comes to a close this week.

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