Big Ten Football: Ranking the Big Ten Left Tackles
Every Tuesday, the Big Ten Blog will rank the top players at each position for each team in the Big Ten. Today, we're going for the premier position on the line: left tackle. This list is subject to change, as offensive linemen switch positions often, but here's the way it stands as of mid-April.
12. Simon Cvijanovic, Illinois
Cvijanovic struggled mightily against the first-team defense in Illinois' spring scrimmage, and he just doesn't look physically ready for taking on the likes of an Ohio State or a Penn State defensive front.
11. Ralston Evans OR Charlie Chapman, Indiana
Evans was expected to be in the mix at tackle for Indiana as a true freshman in 2011, but he suffered a knee injury before the season and redshirted instead. He's still not practicing, and at 6'4" and 305, he doesn't have ideal size or range for taking on elite pass-rushers. Chapman practiced with the first team during the spring and looked OK.
10. Ed Olson, Minnesota
Ed Olson has a great deal of experience at left tackle, starting 18 games there over the last two seasons. He lost his starting spot to Marek Lenkiewicz late in the season last year, though, and there's a great deal of uncertainty pretty much everywhere on the offensive line at this point this spring. The Gophers have lots of bodies on the offensive line, but most are young, and Olson's experience might be a plus for him in 2011.
Which position on the offensive line is more important?
9. Trevor Foy, Purdue
It's likely Foy, a senior-to-be, slides over to the LT spot after starting at RT last year. Foy's 2011 backup is Justin Kitchens, a converted defensive lineman who's entrenching himself as the starting RT, so this likely augurs well for Purdue's hopes. The line's painfully thin, though, and Foy isn't exactly a crusher.
8. Brandon Scherff, Iowa
Scherff has the physical tools to succeed at left tackle, but he's still putting it all together. He spent 2011 in a mostly reserve role at left guard, starting three Big Ten games, and Scherff generally struggled there. He's only a sophomore in 2012, so he's got a high ceiling, but the consistency has to come quickly.
7. Adam Gress, Penn State
One of the heroes of Penn State's spring practice session was Adam Gress, who quickly established himself as a force at left tackle. He's made huge gains in strength and conditioning, and he frequently moved the point of attack forward for Penn State's rushing game on Saturday. That's good news, because a senior anchor at LT is critical for a retooling offense like PSU's.
6. Tyler Moore, Nebraska
Moore got out to just about the fastest start possible for a young lineman, graduating high school early to join the Huskers for the spring semester, then working his way into the starting lineup at left tackle for the first game of his freshman season. Moore bounced between tackle spots over the course of the year, though, and didn't live up to his potential. He's still phenomenally talented; it just needs to come through this year.
5. Dan France OR Skyler Burkland, Michigan State
Michigan has an embarrassment of riches on the offensive line this year (a sharp contrast from last season's disaster), so both France and Burkland are, essentially, returning starters. France started most of the season at left tackle, while Burkland was the starting right tackle before a nasty ankle injury ended his season in Week 3.
France is back and looking good at left tackle, but Dantonio has mentioned that he wants Burkland to start and has experimented with Burkland at LT and France at LG. Either way, the Spartans should have all they need to move the chains on the ground more reliably on the left side of the ball.
4. Patrick Ward, Northwestern
The Wildcats have to say goodbye to Al Netter, a four-year starter at left tackle. In his place will step Patrick Ward, who has moved from his starting role at right tackle to LT and shouldn't miss a beat. Ward is on a streak of 26 straight starts and has both the physicality and smarts to put together a monster senior year at LT.
3. Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
Mewhort is one of the leaders of an Ohio State line that's renewing a sense of competition under Urban Meyer. Mewhort was the Buckeyes' starting left guard last season before it was decided his size (6'6", 310) and nastiness were best suited for left tackle. He hasn't missed a beat there, and Meyer called Mewhort OSU's "best, most consistent lineman."
2. Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin
Bret Bielema decided to temper expectations for Wagner, a former walk-on, coming into this season. Oh, sorry, we mean the exact opposite: Bielema predicted Wagner would win the Outland Trophy. To be fair, as Bielema pointed out, every starting left tackle he's coached has won the Outland, so... yeah. Wagner is a weight room warrior who worked his way up from tight end to a road grader at 6'6" and 322, and he's still improving as a left tackle. Be warned.
1. Taylor Lewan, Michigan
The gap between Lewan and Wagner is razor-thin, but we'll give the edge in quality to the young man who has two years' starting experience at left tackle and still might have two to go. Lewan is 6'8" and can cover enough space that it's safe to leave him one-on-one against practically any rusher in the Big Ten.
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