Best of the Bunch: Offensive Line
Written by Curt Popejoy on 07/25/2010
I love watching offensive line play. I suppose as a former lineman myself, I hold a special place in my heart for the big uglies. And when you see an elite player, you know it. Seemingly every year a player or two step into that arena. And so it’s with a heavy heart that I say as of right now going into the 2010 season, I don’t see that type of player I the country right now. Lots of talented players, but no one with that “it” factor. What this means for me is, when I am looking for the best offensive line in the country, including that uber talented player isn’t going to be part of the equation. So instead I look at things like returning starters and upper classmen with starting experience and how productive their offense was.
Meeting those requirements is not an easy chore this year. Lots of potent offenses replacing starters. Some lines with plenty of experience but not the offensive numbers to back it up. There are really only 3 schools that I saw last year, that going into this year, I am looking at their offensive lines and think that if I am an offensive skill player, I would want these 5 guys in front of me, ahead of all the others.
The first are the Georgia Bulldogs. Last season Georgia didn’t have a stack of 5 star talent at QB and RB. And they lost their best lineman, left tackle Trinton Sturdivant very early on. But they came together as a unit and were able to really crank up the run offense on the back half of the season, with nearly 6 yards per carry and something close to 245 yards per game. This year, all these guys, plus Sturdivant should be back. That makes up 155 career starts in the SEC.
Next I am including the Florida Gators. Even though they did lose C Maurkice Pouncey to the NFL, the talent is still in place. Remember the name Xavier Nixon. The young OT is a star in the making. Across the board the Gators are making adjustments of LAT (Life After Tebow), but the offensive line won’t feel the pinch. In fact, I think with new QB Jeff Brantley and all those dominant skill players, you will really see them shine in traditional pass protection and in the run game.
Lastly, it’s the obvious one I suppose. The Ohio State Buckeyes. They seemingly always have a great offensive line and this year is no different. They have over 90 career starts returning to the lineup and because of lineup changes last season, they go about 11 deep. Watching them gel as a unit the last half of the season give Buckeye fans a lot of hope for the coming season that the 240 rush yards per game they got last year in that stretch can be repeated. Plus you can never overstate how hard it is to block for a mobile QB like Terrell Pryor. For every long run he breaks off, it puts so much heat on the lineman to maintain the blocks when it seems like the plays are constantly breaking down.
All 3 of these units are great. And while none of them have a Joe Thomas type talent on the roster, they have all shown the ability perform great against tough competition. But in the final analysis, the unit that I give the nod to is the one that combines a ton of experience along with the ability to generate great offensive numbers, despite not having the elite skill players behind them. That’s why the Georgia Bulldogs are the Best of the Bunch.
How the rest of my top 10 shakes out…
8. Florida State
Last Edited: 07/25/2010