2013 Spring Preview
Position Watch - O Lines
key 2013 spring offensive line battles
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It's not going overboard to suggest that this is the most important overall area in college football to keep an eye on.
Alabama's offensive line might have been full of NFL
talent, but it didn't dominate for a full regular
season and didn't really start to kick it in until
it absolutely had to, blasting away on Georgia in
the SEC championship and destroying Notre Dame for
the national title. Now it's about making all the
right pieces fit, and while it's asking a lot to hit
another grand slam like last year when the coaching
staff moved all-everything left tackle Barrett Jones
to center, and while you don't get better by losing
the best offensive lineman in the draft - guard
Chance Warmack - the pieces are in place to quickly
Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is an almost certain top
five pick in next year's draft, while guard Anthony
Steen should be one of the nation's biggest blasters
for the ground game. After that come the question
marks, starting at center where sophomore Ryan Kelly
has to do the near-impossible and take over for
Jones. He's not as big, and he can't take on the
same leadership role, but he's a talent. Arie
Kouandjio is trying to come back healthy to step in
at one of the guard spots, but can his aching knees
hold up? JUCO transfer Leon Brown is expected to
step in immediately and be a possibility at right
tackle even though last year's backup to Fluker -
junior Austin Shepherd - could grab the gig with a
2. Boise State
The difference between an 11-2 season and a 13-0 perfect season was a running game that came up with a season-low 37 rushing yards in the loss to Michigan State and just 112 yards in the loss to San Diego State. While the Bronco line was tremendous in pass protection, it was wildly inconsistent when it came to generating a push for the running game. However, it was a cohesive group of veterans that didn't make a slew of big mistakes. This year, it's going to take some reworking up front, and the moves could mean the difference between a BCS bowl and a trip to Las Vegas or a home bowl.
Senior Matt Paradis returns at center and all-star
Charles Leno is back for his final year at left
tackle, but guards Joe Kellogg and Michael Ames are
gone along with right tackle Brenel Myers. Senior
Spencer Gerke can play either center or guard, and
with six games of starting experience he should be
ready to fill in for Kellogg on the left side. The
hope is for veteran Jake Broyles to stay healthy
enough to take over the right guard spot, while
sophomore Rees Odhiambo needs to establish himself
at right guard.
How soon can Patrick Kugler - the nation's top tackle prospect - and Kyle Bosch - one of the nation's best guards - be available? Taylor Lewan decided he wasn't quite ready to be a multi-millionaire and returns at left tackle - everything else should fall into place from there.
Also helping the cause is the return of senior right
tackle Michael Schofield, who despite being a pure
right tackle might have been destined to take over
on the left side if Lewan had left early. However, the interior of the line has to undergo an overhaul losing guards Ricky Barnum and Patrick Omameh along with center Elliott Mealer.
And now the fun begins.
The Wolverine offensive front was terrific in pass
protection and did a good job of getting Denard Robinson loose for the ground game. Blasting away up the middle is going to be the focus with star talent Kyle Kalis looking to take over one of the guard spots and Joey Burzynski getting a shot at the other opening, even though he's built to play center and could kick to the middle.
Bosch will be in the hunt right away for one of the
guard jobs, but this spring it would be nice if the
inside could everyone can spend the summer jelling.
When last we saw the Florida offensive line, it was doing its best to see how many times
quarterback Jeff Driskel could get flattened.
Louisville destroyed the Gator front five that was
fantastic at pounding away with the running game,
but miserable when it came to pass protection. This
offseason, it's not just about finding some new
guys, it's about building up the depth. Left tackle
Xavier Nixon is gone along with guard James Wilson,
and now it's up to the rest of the three returning
starters to serve as steady anchors. Junior tackle
Chaz Green and senior guard Jon Halapio should be
set on the right side, but either one, or both,
could end up moving over to add more experience on
the left. However, Halapio needs to come up with a
steadier year and has to show he's ready to be more
consistent. Jonotthan Harrison is the anchor at
center, and he needs to be a rock with versatile
backup Sam Robey gone. D.J. Humphries has the upside
to grow into the left tackle job, but he has to get
bigger and stronger after playing at a thin 6-6 and
275. Senior Kyle Koehne is the favorite to take over
one of the guard jobs, and he could be tried out at
5. West Virginia
While all the focus and attention is on the loss of quarterback Geno Smith and high-octane playmakers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, the decent offensive line has to deal with almost as many changes.
Step One was finding a new coach for the line, and
Dana Holgorsen came up with Ron Crook, whose job it
is to come up with the right combination for the
interior of a line that was way, way too
inconsistent. Junior Quinton Spain is set at left
tackle and Curtis Feight should be set on the right
side, but center Joe Madsen and guards Josh Jenkins
and Jeff Braun are gone. The hope is for JUCO transfer Stone Underwood to take over for Madsen, but he doesn't get off the bus
until this summer, so it'll be a fight this spring
to see if someone else - like Tyler Orlosky - can
take the job by the horns. Finding guards could be a bigger issue needing senior at Eger to be a rock at one of the spots while hoping someone emerges from the pack to grab the other job.
The problems of the first half of last season and the team's offensive woes were blamed on the mediocre play of the line. Forget that defenses didn't respect the bad passing game and loaded up to stop the run, the line
was considered the problem with Bret Bielema making several changes
to the lineup and canning OL coach Mike Markuson to try getting more production.
Under new head man Gary Andersen and line coach T.J.
Woods, the line and style won't be changing much,
but there will be a little bit of juggling to fill
in the gaps. Guard Kyle Costigan and tackle Rob
Havenstein are back on the right side, but
Havenstein could move over to the left to replace
Ricky Wagner. The bigger fight will be at center
with sophomore Dan Voltz getting the first shot to
replace Travis Frederick, who left early for the
NFL, but versatile guard Dallas Lewallen will be
tested out at left tackle while also getting a
little bit of work in the middle. The goal for the
new staff is to get the starting five in place as
soon as humanly possible to start working on
developing the rest of the offense, but that can't
happen quite yet with Costigan trying to heal up from knee surgery.
7. Notre Dame
Somewhat quietly, the offensive line was one of the
key parts to the run to the BCS championship.
Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the defense
during the regular season and then the epic
performance by the Alabama offensive front in the
title game. This offseason, the Irish offense has to
unearth a few new running backs while hoping for
Everett Golson to become an even bigger playmaker,
but the line has to do its job by first replacing
center Braxston Cave and guard Mike Golic Jr. Zack
Martin will be on the All-America short list at left
tackle and Christian Lombard is steady on the right
side, but it's Chris Watt who has to shine as the
lone returning starter in the interior. Watt is
solid at left guard, and now it should be up to
versatile junior tackle Nick Martin to take over the
right guard job. Matt Hegarty is expected to return
healthy and step in at center, but he's not a sure
thing. Sophomore Ronnie Stanley will be the key
backup at tackle while junior Conor Hanratty will
fight for one of the guard jobs.
8. Texas Tech
The Red Raider line did its job in pass protection allowing a mere 19 sacks on 594 passing attempts, but the offense and the quarterbacks had a lot to do with that. There wasn't much of an emphasis on the ground game, but when the line had to generate a push, it did its job. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury has the receivers in place, and quarterback Michael Brewer should be good with a little bit of time, but the line has to get everything in place with three
very big starters gone - now the hope is to get
lighter and more athletic. The Tech offense can't
run unless the tackles are doing their jobs, but
LaAdrian Waddle is gone on the left side and the
massive Terry McDaniel is finished on the right.
Terry Keenan is almost 50 pounds lighter than
McDaniel, and Rashad Fortenberry is roughly 55
pounds lighter than Waddle. Junior Beau Carpenter
and sophomore Le'Raven Clark should be set at
guards, but Jared Kaster needs to step up and
produce when given the chance at center in place of
There's an outside chance that no unit in America will improve faster than the Auburn offensive front that's full of talent, youth and potential. All five starters return - all underclassmen last year -
and there's a world of upside with offensive line
coach J.B. Grimes needing to turn this group into a
quicker bunch that's more in shape. Gus Malzahn
wants to get his offense moving, and he has the
right mix of players to do it. However, it's going
to take the entire offseason to get everything in
the right spot. Center Reese Dismukes was a terrific
recruit who should grow into the leader up front,
while tackles Greg Robinson and Patrick Miller have
the the size to go along with the talent at guard
with John Sullen back on the left side and Chad
Slade on the right. After allowing the most sacks of
any SEC team and with struggles paving the way for
the running game, the pressure will be on.
Bret Bielema isn't going to stand for anything less than a dominant offensive line, but it could be a little while until he has the right parts in place.
The recruiting class was full of some excellent
prospects, but no one's expecting giant Dan Skipper
to be an answer right away. However, JUCO transfer John McLure is being brought in to fill a hole immediately. Last year's front five was a disaster for the SEC's worst ground game, even with Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis in the backfield.
The pass protection was fine, but Bielema wants his
offense to flatten people. Guard Tyler Deacon and
tackle Jason Peacock are gone, and now it's up to
big guard Alvin Bailey, center Travis Swanson and
tackle David Hurd to be more physical and be
stronger with a green group of running backs to
key 2013 spring offensive line battles