Team Position Rankings:

Most people will say that the most important position in college football is the quarterback, but in reality how significant can he be if he doesn’t have anyone to block for him?

The last two SEC champions – Alabama and Auburn – got solid quarterback play on their way to their conference titles, but they also had solid offensive lines in common as well.

Over in the East Division, Mark Richt and Georgia are looking for their first SEC title since 2005, which could finally be within their grasp, especially since the Bulldogs have two really good things going for them – the conference’s best running back in Nick Chubb as well as its best offensive line.

We’ve ranked the SEC’s offensive lines from top to bottom.


1. Georgia
Returning starters: 4

It’s not surprising that Nick Chubb is on many preseason Heisman Trophy lists, and this is the reason why. In addition to allowing only 12 sacks in SEC play last season, the Bulldogs’ blockers helped Chubb and his teammates average 5.5 yards per carry last year. Guard Greg Pyke and senior tackles John Theus and Kolton Houston are three of Georgia’s four returning starters, which probably makes new O-line coach Rob Sale the happiest guy in Athens, if not the entire SEC.

2. Arkansas
Returning starters: 4

This explains why Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams each were able to rush for more than 1,100 yards last season for the Razorbacks. Guard Sebastian Tretola and tackles Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland are three of the Hogs’ four returning starters, who helped Arkansas average 6.5 yards an attempt last season in non-conference games. And just like Georgia’s group did, Bret Bielema’s offensive line surrendered just 12 sacks in conference play. The former Wisconsin coach’s blocking philosophy is firmly entrenched in Fayetteville.


3. Auburn
Returning starters: 3

The emergence of Ole Miss transfer Austin Golson should soften the blow of center Reese Dismukes’ departure. Another positive is that right tackle Avery Young is the best of the Tigers’ three returning starters. The return of guard Alex Kozan from injury will be a big boost, and keep an eye on sophomore Braden Smith. It’s all good news for Auburn, which goes into this season loaded at running back.

4. Alabama
Returning starters: 2

The bad news is that with the departure of left guard Arie Kouandjio, right tackle Austin Shepard and right guard Leon Brown, the Crimson Tide has lost a combined 67 starts. The good news is that the two Alabama starters who are returning – center Ryan Kelly and left tackle Cam Robinson – are the among the best offensive linemen in the country. Look for Dominick Jackson to man the right tackle spot after playing in eight games last season, and the Tide expects redshirt freshman guard Ross Pierschbacher to make an impact.


5. LSU
Returning starters: 3

If only the Tigers’ quarterback situation were as stable as their offensive line. Tackles Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins – who both should be in contention for All-SEC honors – are two of LSU’s three returning starters. LSU loses a first-round talent at left tackle in La’el Collins, who had to drop out of this year’s NFL draft, but RB Leonard Fournette should still see plenty of holes on his way to a potential Heisman campaign.

6. Texas A&M
Returning starters: 3

Like Georgia, the Aggies have a new line coach in Dave Christensen. And like his counterpart, Christensen steps into a good situation, starting with his best lineman, center Mike Mathews, and senior Joseph Cheek and guard Germain Ifedi – A&M’s other two returning starters. The Aggies have lost a lot in All-American left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and fellow seniors Jarvis Harrison, Garrett Gramling and Ben Compton, who combined for 94 starts. But newcomerAvery Gennesy could fill their void at left tackle, and Jermaine Eluemunor could join him on the left side.

7. Missouri
Returning starters: 4

This group improved as the 2014 campaign went along, and switching Conner McGovern from right tackle to right guard was the main reason why the Tigers’ line played better over the second half. McGovern moves to left tackle this year. CenterEvan Boehm, who remains the line’s standout player, and the group is experienced. Mizzou improved its depth by adding junior-college transfer Malik Cuellar.


8. Ole Miss
Returning starters: 5

It’s unusual to have five starters back on your offensive line and still be in the middle of the pack, but there’s where Ole Miss group finds itself. Potential 2016 top 10 pick Laremy Tunsil leads this unit, which also returns four seniors with SEC experience. Don’t be surprised if true freshman offensive guard Javon Patterson, an outstanding run blocker, pushes one of his upperclassman cohorts for snaps.

9. South Carolina
Returning starters: 3

The Gamecocks return all three players from the right side of their line, but replacing guard A.J. Cann and left tackle Corey Robinson won’t be easy. Despite sitting out spring ball, tackle Brandon Shell returns along with guard Will Sport. Cody Waldrop also returns at guard and will be blocking for a new starting quarterback, which could be redshirt soph Mitch Connor.

10. Tennessee
Returning starters: 4

The 2014 season was a time of transition for the Vols’ offensive line, which entered last year with no returning starters, and it showed, as Tennessee allowed and SEC-high 43 sacks its rushers gained just 3.6 yards per attempt. Butch Jones has apparently recruited well, and four returning starters should help Tennessee improve upon its 7-6 mark from a year ago.


11. Mississippi State
Returning starters: 2

Dak Prescott obviously needs help, and touted junior-college recruit Martinas Rankin just might be the answer for the Bulldogs. He will help offset the loss of left tackle Blaine Causell, center Dillon Day and All-SEC guard Ben Beckwith. Senior Justin Malone will anchor a group that allowed just 15 sacks in conference play and helped its ball-carriers average five yards per attempt.

12. Kentucky
Returning starters: 4

The Wildcats need better blocking to showcase the many young, exciting skill players on the team. As it currently stands, Kentucky’s line has four returning starters, including center Jon Toth, who is the groups’ anchor, and guard Zach West, who could earn all-SEC honors this season.

13. Vanderbilt
Returning starters: 4

The Commodores feature something old – four returning offensive linemen – and something new – offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig – this season. Even with talented running back Ralph Webb, Vandy averaged only 3.3 yards per rush in SEC play, and its line surrendered 21 sacks on the season – and that was with for starters returning. The Commodores are counting on junior Andrew Jelks and center Spencer Pulley to step it up.

14. Florida
Returning starters: 1

New coach Jim McElwain won’t get much sympathy about having just one returning starter — Trip Thurman — on his offensive line, but he’ll obviously have to get over that in a hurry. True freshman Martez Ivey and FCS transfer Mason Halter will probably be counted on a lot, but line coach Mike Summers will have to do some creative work to build on the improvement that this group showed last year.