1. Oklahoma: The Sooners have every starter back, led by monster Left Tackle Orlando Brown. The beast is 6-8, 360 with a mean streak. Bobby Evans is the other tackle and he was outstanding as a freshman last season. Evans is 6-4, 315 with a bright, bright future. At the Guards, the situation is just as good if not even better.
Ben Powers transferred in last year after one season in Junior College and then started 10 games. The other Guard, Dru Samia, is one of the best in the country. The 6-5, 305 Californian played Right Tackle in 2015 and he started off there last year before the emergence of Bobby Evans allowed him to move inside to Right Guard. Former Walk-on from Mesquite, Texas Erick Wren is back at Center and the 6-1, 330 Texan has a year’s starting experience going into his senior season.
Bob Stoops shocked the world by retiring just out of the blue this summer, but he left the team with some talent for his replacement Lincoln Riley With no head coaching experience, the young Riley has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to perform. But, at least he starts with some talent on hand.
2. Clemson: The Tigers return 4 out of 5 starters up front. Left Tackle Mitch Hyatt is back for his 3rd season and more than likely his last. The baby faced Hyatt started from the moment he arrived at Clemson. The 6-5, 295 Hyatt is among the best in the country at his position. Returning to Left Guard beside Hyatt is Taylor Hearn who started last season and obviously went up against some pretty Tyrone Crowder is the largest Offensive Lineman at 6-2, 340 and he was first team All ACC last year. At the other Tackle, Sean Pollard was forced into playing time last year and he made the best of it. The 6-5, 315 sophomore to be had some struggles, but he got better. The new Center is the 6-4, 316 Justin Falcinelli who is a redshirt junior and has had plenty of mop up duty. The Clemson Tigers lost a lot of players at the skill positions, but they have a lot of talent and experience in the Offensive Line to help.
decent players in the national title game. Hearn is 6-5, 325 and able to hold his own against most anybody. At Right Guard, senior
3. Alabama: Return 3 starters, but Alabama is Alabama and will continue to roll. Incredible true freshman Right Tackle Jonah Williams is moving to Left Tackle to replace 1st round pick Cam Robinson. Williams is just busting at the seams with natural, God given talent and he’s one of the best in all of college football already. They only return 3 starters, but Center Bradley Bozeman is another good one going into his senior season. Bozeman is 6-5, 320 and could be one of the better Centers in the nation. Ross Pierschbacher is back at Left Guard and he was a freshman All American last season. The Alabama offense had a lot of young players last season and they are not going away any time soon. Lester Cotton, a hometown guy, is the new Right Guard. He started 5 games last season at both of the Guard positions so he has plenty of experience. Beside him, at Right Tackle in place of Williams should be Matt Womack. Another college football giant at 6-7, 320, Womack played in almost every game last season as a back up. He will be a redshirt sophomore this season.
It’s Alabama, so of course there is plenty of quality depth.
4. Washington: Return 4 out of 5 starters and the guy that is considered not a starter actually started 4 games. It’s a good unit after being shredded by Alabama in the playoffs. Their best player is Left Tackle Trey Adams who is going into his junior year and will be a 3 year starter. He came in rather light, but is now about 6-8, 320. Adams could be a 1st round pick if he decides to come out this year, but maybe a 2nd rounder. At Center, Coleman Shelton is back for his fourth year as a starter. Although he has started for 3 seasons already, they were not all at Center. He has started at every position on the Offensive Line. But, he has been at Center since last year. Right Tackle Kaleb McGary has been a starter about as long as Trey Adams and the 6-7, 310 McGary is of similar size. Right Guard Andrew Kirkland started 5 games last season and 7 seasons as a sophomore, so he has plenty of experience. He also has good size and bulk at 6-4, 310.
Left Guard will be Nick Harris and he is a bit undersized at 6-1, 270. But, he did start 2 games at Left Guard and 2 at Right Guard last season as a true freshman. These guys got beat up in their playoff game, but hopefully that will help them out in the long run with the need to get better.
5. Florida State University: The Seminoles’ Offensive Line struggled early last season, but they seemed to pull it together later on in the year. These guys had better be good because they open the season with Alabama in the brand new Atlanta Falcons’ football stadium. The strength of the Offensive Line should always be at the Left Tackle historically. With Roderick Johnson leaving for the NFL, the Seminoles are looking for a solid replacement. The giant 6-8, 290 Josh Ball seemed to be the answer, but word out of the Seminoles camp is that Right Tackle Rick Leonard has been moved over to the Left Tackle and his back up, who started several games last season moves up. When Leonard was struggling with the pass rush during his first ever season to play Right Tackle, then 6-8, 320 junior Brock Ruble replaced him and performed well enough. For now, it should be Leonard and Ruble at the two tackle spots with Ball still learning. Landon Dickerson is just a man child at the Right Guard position. He was lost for the season last year with a knee injury, but I predict he will be an All American by the time he is finished with college football. He is just a beast.
Monstrosity of a man, Cole Minshew is 6-5, 340 and expected to be the other Guard when the season opens. He is a redshirt freshman with no experience which is why they probably replaced Ball because they didn’t want two freshman on the all important left side of the line. At Center, the starter may be the experienced Alec Eberle or the redshirt freshman Baveon Johnson. The fans want Johnson, while the coaches would probably prefer the more experienced Eberle because the players are never totally as bad as the internet fans love to say. Jauan Williams, Ethan Frith and Derrick Kelly provide quality depth. If the Seminoles survive Alabama in game one, they have a good shot at going on a run.
6. Penn State: The Nittany Lions had Offensive Line problems from the time they went on probation and the lack of numbers up front. Least that was the excuse given. Now, it’s different.
A lot of credit was given to Left Tackle Ryan Bates last season, but Bates also started at Left Guard and that is where he is supposed to play now according to the depth charts I have seen. The 6-4, 310 Bates was superb last season as a freshman and obviously was named a freshman All American. Replacing Bates at Left Tackle is 6-4, 310 senior Brendan Mahan. But, depth is still a problem because Bates is still listed as Mahan’s backup at Left Tackle.
At Center, the Lions have Connor McGovern. The 6-5, 315 sophomore to be McGovern was also on some freshmen All American teams last season and has a bright future. Penn State was a really young team last season with 27 freshmen playing at least some of the time and Right Guard Steven Gonzalez, all 6-4, 345 of him, started 3 games as a redshirt freshman. At Right Tackle should be either senior Andrew Nelson or junior Chasz Wright. This Offensive Line has come a long way, but it still has a ways to go and it’s still fairly young.
7. Texas: Yes, Texas. They have had Offensive Line problems for so long it’s hard to believe that could change. But, many people think that Texas Left Tackle Connor Williams is the top Offensive Lineman in the country and will be the first Offensive Lineman taken in the next draft. The 6-6, 315 Williams is very athletic with something of a lean, mean frame. His sidekick for the 3rd year in a row is Left Guard Patrick Vahe who is a great run blocker. The road grader is 6-4, 325 and going into his true junior season. Returning at Center is Zach Shackleford who came in and started in the spring before his freshman season. The 6-4, 305 Shackleford was just what Texas was looking for up front. At Right Guard, redshirt junior Jake McMillon is a converted Defensive Lineman and outside of him Right Tackle will be fought over by 6-9, 315 Tristian Nicholson, 6-4, 310 Denzel Okafor or 6-6, 305 Elijah Rodriguez. The Longhorns have had recent issues, but their Offensive Line seems to have risen above. Last year’s 2,000 yard rusher D’Onta Foreman is proof of the improvement.
8. Auburn: Interesting things are happening at Auburn led by the arrival of transfer Quarterback Jarrett Stidham. The Offensive Line has made a change, or two and should be another team improvement. The all important Left Tackle position returns Darius James for the second season. The former 5 star recruit and Texas transfer, James didn’t work out at Texas. But, he surely has at Auburn. He was a backup as the season began, but took over the starting role for the last 8 games. James has good size at 6-4, 325 and was formerly a Center.
Marquel Harrell at Left Guard, was a back up last season. But, 6-5, 315 Center Austin Golson is in his 3rd season as a starter after transferring from Ole Miss. Right Guard is listed as 6-4, 330 Mike Horton, who was the Tigers’ 6th lineman in jumbo packages last season. But, he might not start because of Florida State Graduate Transfer Wilson Bell. Bell is a monster at 6-5, 355 and was a starter for the Seminoles until super young Dickerson came around.
Right Tackle for the Auburn Tigers should be the outstanding Braden Smith. Playing Right Guard the past few seasons, maybe the Tigers felt he could do more good things at Tackle. He is an outstanding Offensive Lineman with great feet. At 6-6, 300 Smith has very little body fat for his size and position and he moves so well. He was really dominating at Guard and should be as well at Tackle.
Auburn should be one of the more improved teams in the country. Should Alabama be worried? Maybe.
9. Arkansas: The Razorbacks have a chunky head coach that puts a premium on line play, which is good. It’s other things about him that drive a lot of folks to dislike him. The Hogs’ Offensive Line returns 4 out of 5 starters and they could be pretty good. Probably, their best player is Center Frank Ragnow. As a 4 year starter, the 6-5, 320 Ragnow provides plenty of leadership for the other Offensive Linemen. Plus, he’s a talent in his own right. He was the All American Center last season by most lists. Johnny Gibson returns at Right Guard for the Hogs. The monstrous 6-4, 335 Gibson started last season when he was healthy, otherwise Texas grad transfer Jake Raulerson was in there and Raulerson is back as well. Left Guard is the European beast Hjalte Froholdt. The 6-4, 320 Froholdt had some struggles, but is coming on. 6-6, 335 Brian Wallace returns at Right Tackle after starting 10 games there last season. He looks like a pretty good Tackle.
The Hogs lost Left Tackle 6-10 Dan Skipper who was a 4 year starter. In his place, the 6-6, 300 Colton Jackson steps up. Time will tell whether that position will be in good hands. Jackson is a sophomore. The Razorbacks will continue to play from behind in the SEC West with Alabama and Auburn also on this list.
10. Colorado: Surprise, the Buffaloes are here again. Last season’s Cinderella story ended with an ugly beating in San Antonio, but the Buffaloes of Colorado are back for more this year with some really good talent returning. Left Tackle Jeromy Irwin is the real deal. The 6-5, 295 Irwin proved to be one of the best in the West a season ago and he’s back for more this year. He missed all of 2015 with a knee injury and bounced back in 2016 to have a great season. Garrad Kough started some as a freshman back in 2014, and after that he has started most of the Buffalo games. Last season he was the starter at Left Guard for 10 games before injuring his ankle and sitting out the rest of the season. Jonathan Huckins takes over at Center after being a back up at Guard last season and playing for Kough when he was lost for the season. The 6-3, 300 Tim Lynott was named a 1st team freshman All American last season after starting the entire season at Right Guard. Sophomore Right Tackle Aaron Haigler is 6-7, 270 and started last season as a redshirt freshman. Colorado has a nice Offensive Line with these 5 guys and none of them should be expected to leave early for the NFL.