Ranking 2014 position groups by team: Offensive Line
Breaking down every team’s roster with an emphasis on experience and potential impact, here’s a team-by-team look at the SEC’s best position groups along the offensive line heading into the 2014 season.
Note: These are based on every team’s roster up front on offense, not individual player rankings.
- SEC’s best players by position
- Team Position Rankings: Quarterbacks
- Team Position Rankings: Running Backs
- Team Position Rankings: Wide Receivers
- Team Position Rankings: Offensive Line
- Team Position Rankings: Defensive Line
- Team Position Rankings: Linebackers
- Team Position Rankings: Defensive Backs
14. Kentucky: No team in the SEC gave up more sacks than the Wildcats last season, but Mark Stoops hopes a group that returns four starters uses that as a motivational tactic for better production this fall. Darrian Miller’s the senior anchor at left tackle.
13. Tennessee: Don Mahoney’s got his hands full this season. Tennessee’s offensive line coach is replacing all five of his starters up front with a ton of inexperience. Center Mack Crowder and guard Marcus Jackson are the only players who have started games for the Vols, combining for only six. JUCO transfer Dontavius Blair looks the part as an immediate option at left tackle, but former walk-on Jacob Gilliam has performed with more poise during fall practice and is the likely starter.
12. Arkansas: Finding a player to take over all-league center Travis Swanson’s leadership responsibilities is a question that won’t be answered in August, but the Razorbacks are hoping sophomore starters Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper, who took their lumps as true freshmen, step into more featured roles. Cameron Jefferson started at left guard for UNLV last season and is battling for the same position at Arkansas with Luke Charpentier.
11. Vanderbilt: While the Commodores are still getting used to life without Wesley Johnson, a four-year starter and fifth-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers, there’s substantial depth up front for the first time in several years. Spencer Pulley, who started every game at right guard last season, leads a quartet of veterans including junior Jake Bernstein and senior center Joe Townsend.
10. Georgia: David Andrews is an All-American candidate up front on a line that’s veteran-heavy despite three new starters. John Theus and Kolton Houston are proven players at tackle and guard who have 28 combined starts during their careers. Coach Mark Richt said this week he expects true freshmen Isaiah Wynn and Dyshon Sims to see immediate playing time.
9. Ole Miss: Left tackle Laremy Tunsil is one of college football’s best sophomores at his position, but questions concerning who will fill the other tackle spot has been an intriguing storyline during fall camp. Assistant coach Matt Luke recently said Robert Conyers and redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin’s going to get a chance at that spot. Austin Golson, who played in 13 games last season as a true freshman, was expected to see increased playing time but transferred to Auburn during the offseason. Juniors Aaron Morris and Justin Bell will start for the Rebels on the interior.
8. Florida: No one’s happier to turn the page on last season more than Will Muschamp who saw two of his top blockers’ 2013 campaigns cut short due to injury. Fifth-year senior Chaz Green’s back from a torn labrum and D.J. Humphries returns to full strength after missing the last five games with a banged up knee. The two dominant tackles along with Max Garcia, Tyler Moore and Trenton Brown should provide more than enough time for Jeff Driskel to operate in Kurt Roper’s new-look offense.
7. Alabama: Though not as strong up front as perfectionist Nick Saban would like coming in, the potential’s there for the Crimson Tide’s offensive line to be one of the SEC’s most impressive units by the end of the 2014 season. Austin Shepherd started every game at right tackle last season while Ryan Kelly’s on the Rimington watch list at center. True freshman Cam Robinson’s a future star, but getting to an elite level as a first-year player against some of the Western Division’s fierce pass rushers is unlikely.
6. Mississippi St.: Offensive line coach John Hevesy’s strength is developing players and his 2014 group’s expected to build quite a wall for Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs’ attack. Dillon Day, Brian Beckwith and Blaine Clausell return to their respective positions in the trenches, but the void left by All-SEC guard Gabe Jackson remains in question. Sophomore Jamaal Clayborn looks to be the guy and has shown improvement this fall.
5. Missouri: The Tigers won’t have to worry about a dip in production after left tackle Justin Britt’s departure to the NFL. Junior center Evan Boehm is this unit’s best player alongside senior left tackle Mitch Morse at a loaded line of scrimmage. Mitch Hall and Taylor Chappell are competing for the starting job at right guard.
4. LSU: You’d be hard pressed to find another blocking tandem in the SEC better than veteran tackle La’el Collins and guard Vadal Alexander, LSU’s leaders up front. Collins’ decision to skip the NFL for a final season in Baton Rouge will pay dividends for the Tigers in a run-heavy offense led by Terrence Magee and Leonard Fournette. 2013 starters Jerald Hawkins (tackle) and Elliott Porter (center) are back as well.
3. Auburn: Three-year Reese Dismukes (center) and Chad Slade (guard) are back to lead the nation’s top-ranked rushing offense along with tackle Patrick Miller. There aren’t many elites who can lose a dominant tackle like Greg Robinson and recover from an unexpected season-ending injury to Alex Kozan, but the Tigers have the personnel.
2. Texas A&M: Cedric Ogbuehi, who we consider as the SEC’s top offensive lineman, is a gargantuan tackle and future cornerstone NFL star. Though rarely mentioned, Jarvis Harrison’s another Aggie in a leadership role and is tied with Ogbuehi with 30 career starts. Center Mike Matthews is a budding star who started every game last season along with tackle Germain Ifedi.
1. South Carolina: The sky’s the limit for the Gamecocks’ offense this season under the direction of Dylan Thompson and Mike Davis who will perform behind one of South Carolina’s most talented offensive lines in program history. All-SEC and All-America caliber guard A.J. Cann enters his senior campaign with 38 career starts, the most for any Gamecock. The permanent team captain is helped out by massive veteran tackles Brandon Shell and Corey Robinson who each hover in the neighborhood of 6-foot-7, 335 pounds.