2013 Spring Preview - More Top OL Battles
Missouri OT Justin Britt
Missouri OT Justin Britt
Posted Mar 16, 2013

More key position battles this spring - The Offensive Lines

2013 Spring Preview 

Position Watch - More OLs

- Top ten key 2013 spring offensive line battles

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New head coach Ron Turner's No. 1 priority will be to improve a line that was a total disaster in pass protection and struggled too much for the ground game. He has other things to work on with seven starters gone off the defense and with more pop needed from the skill players, but it all has to start up front with all five starters gone. There's size coming back with 318-pound junior Jordan White able to play either guard spot and 300-pound David Delsoin getting a look somewhere in the interior, but tackle is a big concern with undersized Aaron Neilsen needing to establish himself at one of the tackle jobs. Junior Donald Senat has the inside line at the starting center gig.

It's not really fair to totally dump on a head coach if his first season goes poorly, but Tim Beckman needs a big Year Two and he needs his line to be better after finishing last in the Big Ten in sacks allowed and doing little for a bad ground game. Nine starters return on offense and there's plenty of skill talent to play around with, but the two lost starters are up front with center Graham Pocic and left tackle Hugh Thornton the two best blockers. Simon Cvijanovic spent last season at right tackle and will move over to the left side, but it's going to take some time to find the second tackle and develop the depth.

The Kansas season might have been a total disaster, but the offensive line did its part for James Sims and the ground game paving the way for 212 yards per game. That's partly because the Jayhawk O couldn't throw the ball a lick, but the line, for the most part, did its job. Unfortunately, left tackle Tanner Hawkinson is gone along with left guard Duane Zlatnik and veteran center Trevor Marrongelli. Senior guard Randall Dent and tackle Asiam Sterling spent last year starting on the right side and could each move over to the left side. Charlie Weis went after some JUCO transfers for the line, but none of them are considered world-beaters - they'll likely be used for depth. Dylan Admire served as the understudy behind Marrongelli, while Luke Luhrsen and Gavin Howard will try to show what they can do at guard.

Kent State
The Golden Flashes finished 18th in the nation and second in the MAC in rushing, helped by a line that helped keep quarterback Spencer Keith healthy. Keith is gone along with six other offensive starters, but speedy running back Dri Archer returns to carry the attack. Now he needs a line to run behind. Senior center Phil Huff is a good one to anchor the new front five, but left tackle Brian Winters and left guard Josh Kline are both gone. Senior Pat McShane could move from right guard to left, but the right side could be an issue with solid tackle Kent Cleveland finished. Senior Max Plunkett will likely step in at one guard spot and junior Terrell Johnson is set to take over one of the tackle jobs, but depth will be an early issue.

A big problem with Missouri's inaugural season in the new conference was the mediocre play of an offensive line that couldn't seem to generate any sort of a push and was a disaster against the better SEC fronts. This is an experienced and bigger line, but it has to show this offseason that it's ready to be more powerful. Gone is leader and longtime mainstay Elvis Fisher at left tackle, but 6-6, 320-pound senior Justin Britt should be able to add more bulk now that he's back and healthy. Sophomores Evan Boehm and Brad McNulty are back at left guard and center, respectively, and senior Max Copeland added a little weight at right guard. Junior Mitch Morse is back at right tackle, but he has to be more consistent in pass protection

There's a real, live buzz about Northwestern football after its terrific ten win season helped by a line that led the Big Ten in fewest sacks allowed and paved the way for the nation's 19th-ranked ground game. Venric Mark and Kain Colter return in the backfield to crank up the rushing production, and there's a good center to anchor the line in junior Brandon Vitabile along with right tackle Jack Konopka, who'll almost certainly move over to the left side once he returns healthy. Also out this spring is Paul Jorgensen, the backup at left tackle who'll get a longer look at the right side this summer. On the plus side, several options like Shan Mertz and Eric Olson will get a chance to show what they can do. Not helping is the absence this spring of Matt Frazier, the backup right guard who's almost certain to step in and take over unless the talented Adam DePietro is ready.

Southern Miss
It takes a total meltdown to go 0-12, but the O line wasn't necessarily the problem last season. The pass protection was horrible at times, but the front five did a decent job for the ground game - it was the rest of the offense that couldn't produce. Left tackle Jason Weaver is gone along with guard Joe Duhon and center Austin Quattrochi. Right tackle Darius Barnes is also finished, but senior Vincent Brown was a good part of the rotation last season and can fill in at either tackle spot. New head coach Todd Monken has to figure out which guys go in the right spots with Rashod Hill getting a long look at left tackle and Taylor Peterson and Jonathan Guerry being tried out at guards. Sophomore Jordan Greene was the main backup at center, but he needs to get bigger.

With the move up in class and with a Big East schedule to deal with, any hope of getting to a bowl game starts up front. The wildly inconsistent offense found something over the second half of the season and closed out strong, but now the offensive line that was so mediocre for the ground game and so lousy in pass protection has to come up with some key replacements. Step One is to improve the pass blocking to keep quarterback Garrett Gilbert upright, and that means undersized left tackle Ben Gottschalk has to become a star and sophomore Taylor Lasecki has to be a leader in the middle. The raw bulk is gone with 311-pound left guard Jordan Free and 313-pound right tackle Bryan Collins gone, and veteran Blake McJunkin is also finished at right guard.

A big reason why the Trojans had the nation's eighth-ranked passing attack and 11th overall offense was a line that kept quarterback Corey Robinson clean. The steady line was full of seasoned veterans who knew exactly what they needed to do. This year, things will change in a big way with four starters gone and only junior Terrence Jones returning at right tackle. He could move to the left side if needed to replace Jarred Fleming, but the hope is for sophomore Tyler Lassiter to take over. The loss of bulk is the biggest issue with 328-pound left guard Andrew Phillips needing to be replaced, and top backups Caleb Carbine and Jimmie Arnold coming in at around 275 pounds last season. The biggest key will be to find a center to replace Andrew Phillips - Carbine was the main backup last season.

Western Michigan
The defense is in place with nine starters returning, and there are some decent skill players ready to shine now that they're getting their chances. The offensive line, though, is going to require some work and developing after a strong year in pass protection. Veteran right tackle Dann O'Neill is done after holding down the job for three years, and veteran guards Kasimili Uitalia and John Deyo are also gone after starting 35 games between them. The biggest problem could be at center where longtime starter Kevin Galeher is gone, but junior Jon Hoffing has a little bit of experience. James Kristof was the main backup at both guard spots, and he has to shine as the starter on one side, while veteran Terry Davisson needs to be a start at left tackle. 

- Top ten key 2013 spring offensive line battles