Ranking the SEC's top 10 offensive linemen of 2014
Offensive linemen will never receive the credit they deserve.
Their physical battles in the trenches often go unnoticed by fans and media members caught following the ball, and runners who follow gaping holes will always be more appreciated than the big uglies who created the hole in the first place.
However, this year’s crop of offensive linemen in the SEC rivaled some of the best in recent years. Six teams in the conference averaged better than 209 yards per game on the ground, and nine teams limited opponents to fewer than two sacks per game in 2014.
It’s time to show the SEC’s offensive linemen the love they deserve, and that’s exactly what we’ve done by ranking the top 10 linemen in the conference this season:
Two super centers
10. Max Garcia, Florida
9. David Andrews, Georgia
Florida’s offense was one of the more inept units in the SEC this season, but Max Garcia was one of few bright spots, shining bright from the center position in 2014. Garcia was once an offensive guard who was asked to move to center out of need amid a slew of injuries along UF’s line. He moved inside, a far different position than any other on the line, and proved himself to be one of the best centers in the SEC. He’s as versatile and durable as he is productive, making him hard to ignore when discussing the best offensive linemen in the conference. … One of the few centers in the SEC more reliable than Garcia was Georgia’s David Andrews, who has started 39 straight games dating back to the start of the 2012 season. Andrews has been a part of some dominant Georgia lines, and he played a major role in helping Todd Gurley run for more than 900 in just six games and Nick Chubb rush for more than 1,000 yards in just seven starts. Georgia boasted the No. 2 rushing attack in the SEC, and Andrews was the consistent leader of the line that helped make it all possible.
Related: Associated Press All-SEC teams
Can you spell that again?
8. Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
7. Arie Kouandjio, Alabama
Texas A&M has had a history of producing NFL-caliber offensive linemen in recent years, and it appears Cedric Ogbuehi is the next in line. The senior offensive tackles is a highly regarded draft prospect, and although he had his ups and downs in 2014 he still proved to be one of the most capable tackles in the SEC, earning all-conference honors from the Associated Press and the league’s coaches. … Alabama’s Arie Kouandjio will likely follow his brother, Cyrus, to the NFL when the Tide’s playoff run comes to an end this winter. Arie allowed just two sacks in his first year as a starter in 2013, and was even better in 2014 as part of an offensive line that led the way for the SEC’s No. 2 offense. Kouandjio was a first-team All-SEC selection by the coaches and the media, and is expected to be one of the top guards in this year’s NFL Draft.
Related: SEC Coaches’ All-SEC teams
6. Vadal Alexander, LSU
5. A.J. Cann, South Carolina
LSU left guard Vadal Alexander was a Freshman All-SEC selection as an offensive tackle in 2012, then promptly moved inside to guard and continued his domination of opposing defenses from the interior of the Tigers’ line. He’s only a junior but is already regarded as one of the best draft prospects at the guard position, should he choose to forgo his senior season at LSU in favor of beginning a pro career. … South Carolina’s A.J. Cann was the star of an offensive line that paved the way for one the SEC’s highest-scoring offenses. The Gamecocks struggled through much of the season after beginning the year No. 9 in the polls, but Cann never struggled, putting in plenty of unrecognized work from the interior of the offensive line. He was a first-team All-SEC selection by the league’s coaches, and a second-team selection by the Associated Press. It can be tough to appreciate a great guard masked by an under-achieving team, but Cann was exactly that in 2014 and we’re appreciating him with the No. 5 spot in this list.
Two terrific tackles
4. La’el Collins, LSU
3. Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
LSU is the only team in the SEC to place two linemen on this list, and for good reason. La’el Collins was a force to be reckoned with at left tackle, and along with Alexander the Tigers’ offensive line paved the way for LSU to rush for more than 219 yards per game while allowing the second-fewest tackles for loss in the SEC. There were few tackles in the SEC more consistent than Collins this season, and opposing pass rushers were neutralized each and every week by the monstrous pass protector. Like most of the other names on this list he, too, will likely go on to have a productive NFL career once he’s drafted this spring. … Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil was once a five-star prospect considered among the best recruiting steals in recent Ole Miss history. In just two years of college ball he’s proven that five-star rating to be accurate, dominating some of the best pass rushers in the nation with little help from his teammates. The Rebels often left Tunsil on an island in 2014, giving help to the other side of the line amid its struggles this season. Nevertheless, Tunsil held down the left side of the line like a true all-conference performer, and his play never regressed even when playing with an injured shoulder in the Rebels’ final few games of the regular season. Tunsil has one more season standing between him and NFL eligibility, and he’s certain to blossom into one of the best Ole Miss linemen of all-time by the time his college career comes to an end.
Related: The SDS All-SEC team
The best of the best
2. Reese Dismukes, Auburn
1. Ben Beckwith, Mississippi State
The top two linemen in our annual rankings earned their spots at the top not just through their stellar play up front, but also through their unmatched value to their respective teams. Reese Dismukes has led Auburn’s offensive line from his center position since before Gus Malzahn arrived on the plains, and the Tigers offense has been dynamic with Dismukes serving as the anchor up front. Auburn spreads the field and does a lot of creative things on offense, and all of that is made possible through Dismukes’ consistency in making line calls and reading opposing defenses before snapping the ball. He’s a finalist for the Outland Trophy as well as the Remington Trophy, and for good reason. His 49 straight starts speak for themselves, and he’ll go on to have a fine career at the next level. … The only lineman more valuable to his team is Mississippi State guard Ben Beckwith, who has been the SEC’s best guard in 2014. Beckwith rarely blows an assignment, and he helped the Bulldogs rush for nearly 240 yards per game this season. When center Dillon Day was suspended for a game in the middle of the season, Beckwith slid inside to Day’s spot despite not having played the position since his senior year of high school in 2009. Just as he was as a guard all season, Beckwith was virtually flawless as a center, and Mississippi State beat a then-top-10 Texas A&M team to remain unbeaten at the time. A former walk-on, Beckwith was reliable and always took the right approach in practice or in a game, making him an easy choice for No. 1 on this year’s list.