Senior center Evan Boehm may have this lack-of-respect thing at Missouri all figured out.
The Tigers went 48-19 in their final five seasons as members of the Big 12 Conference, and they've been 23-5 the past two seasons in the Southeastern Conference. In between, however, was Missouri's 5-7 debut year in the SEC, when the Tigers were ravaged by injuries on the offensive front and never got going.
"I think that affected the perception for sure, and not a lot of people realize that," Boehm said at this year's SEC Media Days. "Of course, when Missouri goes 12-2 and 11-3 and other teams have injuries, then that's why Missouri wins. It gets a little upsetting to hear that kind of thinking."
* Last season: 11-3 (7-1 SEC)
* Opener: Sept. 5 vs. Southeast Missouri State (4 p.m. on SEC Network Alternate)
* Fun fact: Missouri is 16-8 in SEC games since joining the league, while fellow newcomer Texas A&M is 13-11. The Tigers are 2-1 against the Aggies during this time.
* South Carolina
Boehm has started 40 consecutive games for the Tigers, including 28 straight at center. The injuries Missouri suffered in 2012 factored into the streak for the 6-foot-3, 320-pounder from Lee's Summit, Mo.
"I was a true freshman playing left guard and not knowing what was going on," Boehm said. "I was on the fourth string one day and turned into a starter overnight because of all the injuries that happened that year. I leaned on Elvis Fisher a lot that year, because he was a sixth-year guy.
"I had to learn on the go, and that first season helped me and this team as far as knowing we had been through the worst of the worst."
Taking some early lumps quickly gave way to success, as Missouri rolled to the 2013 SEC Eastern Division title and was within striking distance of the league championship until Auburn pulled away for a 59-42 win. Missouri was picked to finish sixth in the East before the 2013 season and fourth last year, when the Tigers repeated as division champs before being thumped 42-13 by Alabama inside the Georgia Dome.
The Tigers have been stout at receiver and especially at defensive end the past two seasons, but coach Gary Pinkel appreciates the stability that Boehm has provided in a more unheralded role.
"I've known Evan since he was 13 years old," Pinkel said. "His father is a high school football coach, and when you're a coach's son, you've just been a part of football your whole life. He came in with great leadership skills and was very competitive, and that's the way he is.
"He's had a phenomenal career thus far."
Boehm will help guide an offense featuring redshirt junior quarterback Maty Mauk, who has won 14 of 18 games as a starter, and senior tailback Russell Hansbrough, who last year rushed for 1,084 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
The bigger concern for this year's Tigers is defense, where longtime coordinator Dave Steckel is being replaced by Barry Odom and where backup plans are being made up front. Missouri has worked all year to develop replacements for departed ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden, but the unexpected scratching of tackle Harold Brantley because of a broken leg suffered in a June auto accident has added to Odom's challenge.
Missouri's top defender is senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers, who had a team-high 122 tackles last season, including 14 against Alabama.
"We have a lot of great athletes coming back," Boehm said. "We have six returning starters on both sides of the ball, and we've got some young guys who are stepping up. It reminds me of the teams we've had the past two years. We're setting standards for each other, and I'm just excited that the name of Mizzou is building."
That's certainly reflected in the predictions, albeit slowly. The Tigers are projected to finish third this year behind Georgia and Tennessee.
"We were watching a show the other day that referred to Missouri as a Cinderella team last year," Boehm said. "We went from 12-2 to 11-3 and we were still a Cinderella team. That's fine with us. People can keep doubting us and doing what they're doing.
"When you've won the SEC East back-to-back years and you're still getting projected third or fourth or fifth or sixth, it gives you more motivation to work a little harder."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
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