Elvis Fisher ready for last stand ... again

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- With all due respect to much ballyhooed wide receiver signee Dorial Green-Beckham, he wasn't the biggest get for Missouri in 2012.

That title belongs to great grandpa of the program, left tackle Elvis Fisher. While Green-Beckham's commitment and signature caused coaches to do figurative backflips around Missouri's football facility, Fisher's return caused an eruption of even more excitement from the staff.

"That was the best recruit we signed," offensive coordinator David Yost said.

But it didn't come without worry. Fisher ruptured the patellar tendon in his left knee during preseason camp of what was supposed to be his final year, causing him to miss all of the 2011 season. He applied for a medical hardship, but already had four years under his belt. He redshirted in 2007 and was a three-year starter afterward.

"There was a slim opportunity for me to be able to get that," Fisher said. "A lot of guys don't get their senior year back."

Let alone a sixth year. Fisher said he spent the early part of 2012 discussing other options with his father and Mizzou coaches. One of those options was actually pursuing the chance of going straight to the NFL. He said he was "sweating bullets" until a trainer approached him in early February with news of a phone call from Mizzou's compliance office.

Fisher called compliance back, received word that the NCAA granted him a sixth year, then called his coaches, who already knew, his father and his girlfriend. Once the chitchat finished, he went right back to work at skill improvement with his teammates.

It was business as usual for Fisher and it will be again this fall.

The 6-foot-5, 295-pounder went through some spring drills at full speed, but took it relatively easy for the most part. It's not like he needs a lot of practice. What he needed was the chance to strengthen his knee.

"I take it as I don't have to take practice as hard as I can," Fisher said. "I just want to go out there and have fun and focus on the little things I need to do to get my knee better. I'm not trying to push myself to hurt myself. I'm trying to push myself to be able to play on Saturdays and perform."

This spring, Fisher said he looked to strengthen his quads and hip flexors in order to be more stable and take pressure off his knee. He still has trouble planting on his knee when he's running, but said that will come with summer running and working with the strength staff.

"I'm actually really darn comfortable with it," he said.

And that's a good thing because Mizzou needs him anchoring its line as the Tigers move to their new home in the SEC. Fisher understands that he and his line mates will be tested more in the SEC and that means that strength and communication are two areas that have to improve up front. This isn't a very big line, so the weight room will be a second home, and three starters from last year are gone. Sure, there's experience, but not a ton.

The biggest thing this line will have to adapt to, Fisher said, is the amount of defensive line talent it will face.

"When you look around a league like the Big 12, every team has like one or two linemen that are really good," he said. "In the SEC, their whole line is stacked."

With that comes some pressure, but Fisher said he's making sure he keeps his teammates play their games and don't listen to all the outside noise.

"You have to go out there and play your game and not worry about all the hype, if they're first-round draft picks, whether they're going to win, or Missouri sucks. You can't listen to all that," Fisher said. "We're just going to keep practicing the way we're practicing and give them hell."

And more hell can be given with a healthy Fisher back.