Individual Position Rankings

It’s never easy to rank offensive tackles.

There are not tangible numbers to place on them except perhaps sacks allowed — but sacks aren’t always an offensive lineman’s fault, either. Sometimes it’s on the quarterback. Or the play call. Or maybe a running back missed a chip block.

Here are the Top 10 SEC offensive tackles for 2015:

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10. Jerald Hawkins, LSU: The 6-foot-6, 309-pound junior has big shoes to fill at left tackle because he is replacing La’el Collins, a two-year starter at the line’s most important position. (Collins was expected to be a first-round pick in this year’s draft. But he went undrafted when his name was linked to an investigation into the murder of his pregnant former girlfriend. Collins eventually signed with Dallas.) Last year, Hawkins started all 13 games at right tackle. He ranked second among all LSU offensive linemen in total snaps with 834 and had 43 knockdowns.

9. Brandon Shell, South Carolina: The 6-foot-6, 328-pound senior will get a look at moving to the left side of the line this fall to protect the quarterback’s blind side after playing right tackle for most of his career. Shell did miss spring ball after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder in the offseason to repair a torn labrum. He has made 36 career starts in the last three seasons, most on the squad.

8. Denver Kirkland, Arkansas: The 6-foot-5, 340-pound junior is moving from right guard to tackle and will protect quarterback Brandon Allen’s blind side on the left. His move shifts Dan Skipper (see below) to the right side. Kirkland participated in more than 750 snaps and averaged an offensive line grade of 79 percent. He allowed only one sack on the season and was penalized just three times.

7. Dan Skipper, Arkansas: This guy is a monster at 6-foot-10, 331 pounds. Skipper, now a junior, started all 13 games at left tackle last season and was named Associated Press All-SEC honorable mention. Skipper participated in more than 700 snaps and led the offensive line with a grade of 80 percent in more than 50 snaps.

6. Vadal Alexander, LSU: Alexander was a left guard last season, where he was a second-team All-SEC pick by the coaches, and now moves to right tackle. Alexander was named a preseason first-team All-SEC and is on the Outland Trophy Watch List. The most experienced starting offensive player on the team, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound senior ranked second on the team last season with 75.5 knockdowns, and he was third in total snaps played at 757.

5. John Theus, Georgia: The 6-foot-6, 313-pound senior shifted to left tackle last year and started all 13 games for an offense that led the conference with an average of 257.8 rushing yards a game. Theus is on the preseason All-SEC first team and he’s among’s top 50 senior prospects for the 2016 NFL draft.

4. Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M: The 6-foot-5, 325-pound junior pondered heading to the NFL after last season but apparently wasn’t happy with a second-round grade. Ifedi started 11 games at right tackle, missing games against Auburn and Missouri due to a knee injury. With 24 career starts entering 2015, Ifedi is the Aggies’ most experienced player on offense.

3. Avery Young, Auburn: The 6-foot-6, 305-pound junior contemplated declaring for the NFL draft after last season as well. He moved around on the line in 2014, playing both guard spots and right tackle. He’s penciled in at right tackle this season, where he has made 19 career starts. Young is the younger brother of Chicago Bears defensive tackle Willie Young.

2. Cam Robinson, Alabama: The 6-foot-6, 326-pound sophomore last year became the first true freshman to start at left tackle for the Tide since Andre Smith in 2006. He was a first-team Freshman All-American. Robinson finished with 32 knockdown blocks while surrendering just three sacks in 861 snaps. Is Robinson or Laremy Tunsil the top tackle in the country? It will be fun watching this one play out.

1. Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss: On Mel Kiper’s first Big Board for the 2016 draft, he has Tunsil at No. 2 overall behind Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa. Tunsil’s 2014 season ended gruesomely as he suffered a fractured fibula in the Peach Bowl loss to TCU. He also had a domestic violence charge in late June stemming from an incident with his stepfather. This week, both Tunsil and the stepfather dropped those charges. There also remains an ongoing NCAA investigation after the stepfather alleged that Tunsil committed NCAA rules violations. Right now, Tunsil is eligible but that’s something to watch. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound junior is on preseason watch lists for the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award and a preseason All-American. Tunsil, who has started at left tackle since early in his freshman year, has given up just two career sacks.