Late August is no time for the pragmatic fan in college football. We spin even the simplest of words spoken by coaches in post workout interviews as signs and omens of greatness.
“What did he mean by saying the five-star freshman WR looked loose?”
We partake gladly of the Kool-Aid that is served through our favorite message board each night.
After all, if your cousins best friends’ wife does palates with the offensive line coach’s wife then what you read in the paid member forum HAS to be true. Doesn’t it?
Yet this is the best time to be a college football fan, even in the hell we all now know as 2020. We already have bought our favorite prediction magazines and poured over the projected starting positions .
We already have a few hundred dollars hidden away from our spouse in the basement to burn on over/under wagers that will keep us interested in watching ACC football when Clemson isn’t playing.
In other words, simply….We are ready!
And yet with this feeling of invincibility and certainty comes the pragmatist to crash the party.
There’s always one in your circle of friends, isn’t there? There’s always one Doomsday Dan that logs on to your fan site to simply stir up mud in the water.
But every team has one, a flaw that is. One flaw that even the most Rabid fan must admit is the unknown to this year being a bang or a bust.
We can always look back in hindsight and see it once the season is over, sometimes after the first game is finished.
That Kool-aid sugar rush that slowly begins to make our head throb. We should have known, we knew it was the weak link between our agile QB and lightning quick receivers.
The Offensive line.
The O-line when you talk with people who do football for a living is the most critical unit on the offense.
They aren’t flashy, they get only nominal credit in any given play, and we usually only know of their existence with a false start, or a holding penalty.
Yet, it is the offensive line that opens the holes for our stud running back to hit the afterburners. It’s the O-line that keeps the QB from reading progression trees through his ear hole.
Simply stated, the least talked about and perhaps least known group on any team is this O-line.
And so with this I give my rankings of the Big 12 teams offensive lines as units.
Big 12 Offensive Line Rankings
1. Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners return all five starters back to the roster from 2019, including two players on our Preseason All-Big 12 Team in Creed Humphrey and Adrian Ealy. This is crucial because it’s the only Big 12 team that can boast such a thing in 2020. Person of Interest: Keep an eye on massive 6’6” Sophomore Stacey Wilkins to bust out for a big year.
2. Texas Longhorns
The Longhorns as always are loaded with talent. They lose two starters including center Zach Shackleford, but they still a solid crew this year that can overcome some early mistakes with Sam Ehlinger as their quarterback. Person of Interest: Tackle Samuel Cosmi, who made All-Big 12 Honorable Mention last year, but he’s a projected First-Team selection in 2020.
3. TCU Horned Frogs
TCU lost three linemen to the NFL after 2019, but Coach Patterson has a way of magically reloading his trenches year after year. With the shortened practice period leading up to play, I’ll be careful and take better coaching over projected stars. Person of Interest: Colorado State transfer T. J. Storment. If he can play up to expectations then TCU may be better than projected.
4. Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys return three starters to their offensive line, and pick up 2018 ALl-Big 12 player Josh Sills from West Virginia. This was a close choice between TCU and OSU for the third spot, but I think OSU can be one of the most improved O-lines from Week 1 to Week 10 (Can we please get 10 games?). Person of Interest: WVU transfer Josh Sills. If he is plug-and-play ready, OSU may turn some heads.
5. Iowa State Cyclones
Although ISU was depleted of four starters, they return two really solid starters with Trevor Downing and Colin Newell. Basically they were 5th by default. Person of Interest: Brock Purdy will be the key in helping the line adjust through the first few games with his feet. Much like how David Montgomery made a so-so line a non-factor with how he played, Purdy can help this line gel early on with his leadership.
6. Baylor Bears
Baylor’s offensive line got a big boost this week with Jake Burton transferring over from UCLA. Dave Aranda has praised the position group in recent media appearances, he’s noted they still don’t have as much depth there. There are several starters back including Connor Galvin and Xavier Newman-Johnson, however its a unit that allowed Charlie Brewer to get smoked last year, giving up the most sacks in the Big 12. Person of interest: Xavier Newman-Johnson who is the most experienced lineman and is making the move from guard to center.
7. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Guard Jack Anderson anchors this line as a possible All-American candidate, but there are holes around him that must be addressed with three starters gone. The interior is the strength of this line and it’s the tackles that need to see some new faces step up and fill in, with Zach Adams and Casey Verhulst the frontrunners at tackle. Person of Interest: Center Dawson Deaton who has 14 career starts and with Anderson should create a strong interior to keep Alan Bowman upright.
8. West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers offensive line struggled mightily last season as WVU had the worst running game in the Big 12. The lineup in the interior of the line returns after tackles Kelby Wickline and Colton McKivitz graduated. That trio of Michael Brown, James Gmiter and Chase Behrndt started together the final three games of 2019, and must show vast improvement and carry the line as the team works in two new tackles. Person of Interest: Guard Michael Brown, who is 6’3”, 345 pounds, and has developed nicely, but now must step up as a senior leader.
9. Kansas State Wildcats
Kansas State doesn’t return a starter on its O-line for the first time in 31 years. Josh Rivas is expected to be the leader of the youngest offensive line in the FBS this fall. New faces to keep an eye on include Logan Long that came in that just switched to tackle, Kaitori Leveston is in the mix, plus Ben Adler, Christian Duffie, Noah Johnson and others. Person of interest: O-Line coach Conor Riley who enters his second season at Kansas State in 2020. Last year he had four All-Big 12 selections, but his skills will be tested much more this fall.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
Like Texas Tech, the interior appears to be set, but the tackles are an unknown. Malik Clark, Api Mane and Adagio Lopeti/Chris Hughes should handle the interior and all three are seniors, but the uncertainty at tackle could cause this offense serious trouble as it also tries to work in a new quarterback. Person of Interest: Tackle Nick Williams. At 6’8”, 300 pounds and the former No. 11 recruit in the state of Missouri, he’s an intriguing prospect and at this point any guidance or help at the tackle position for KU will be welcomed.
**Want to win a $25 gift card? Go sign up here and join our conversation! The best poster each week wins a gift card to your favorite establishment!**