Big 12 Football: Power Ranking Every Team's Offensive Line
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With the Big 12 being the epitome of a passer's league, having a quality offensive line is imperative to a team's success.
Last year, two of the three best offensive lines in the Big 12 won the conference. Kansas State's group ranked 15th nationally in sacks allowed with just 15, while the Oklahoma Sooners were 18th in that category with 15 allowed.
The big guys up front in 2013 will be especially important with eight schools starting a different quarterback on Week 1 than they did a season ago.
With that, here are the power rankings for the Big 12's offensive lines.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
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Last season wasn't all that great for the Kansas Jayhawks, and the offensive line sure didn't help matters.
The Jayhawks ranked ninth in the Big 12 and 68th nationally in sacks allowed with 26 on the season. That's over two per game on average.
Not only did the unit struggle last year, but the Jayhawks are losing a lot of starters from that group, including left tackle Tanner Hawkinson, a fifth-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals.
In all, the Jayhawks lose over 100 combined starts from their offensive line, according to Paul Myerberg of USA Today. That certainly doesn't bode well heading into 2013.
Charlie Weis is filling in the gaps of his offensive line with as many as three junior college transfers to try and put some sort of experience in the unit. The JUCO guys that could step in and start include Ngalu Fusimalohi, Mike Smithburg and Pat Lewandowski.
With so few key returners on a unit that wasn't even that good in 2012 anyway, the Jayhawks have the worst offensive line in the Big 12 in 2013.
9. West Virginia Mountaineers
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Not only did the West Virginia Mountaineers lose virtually all of their playmakers from their offense last year in Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, they also lost all of their interior offensive lineman.
The Mountaineers also have a new offensive line coach in 2013 in Ron Crook after 2012 offensive line coach, Bill Bedenbaugh, joined the staff at Oklahoma, according to Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The biggest loss from the offensive line in Morgantown is center Joe Madsen, who started for four years at the position.
Right now, according to Menendez, the top-two contenders for the spot are redshirt-freshman Tyler Orlosky and senior Pat Eger.
However, the Mountaineers' front line really needs to improve on its 2012 numbers, which weren't good. West Virginia gave up 22 sacks last season, which ranked eighth in the Big 12.
Like the Kansas Jayhawks, the Mountaineers are a unit that loses a lot of starters after not being very impressive in 2012. This season will be an uphill battle at virtually all fronts of the offense for West Virginia.
8. Texas Tech Red Raiders
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The Texas Tech Red Raiders were tied with three other teams in the Big 12 for fifth place in sacks allowed last season, as the unit gave up just 19.
However, the unit lost a lot of players from last season. According to Kyle Kensing of SI.com, the only senior projected to start on the front line for Texas Tech is Rashad Fortenberry.
The offensive line will be extremely new in Lubbock this summer, as five National Signing Day players are expected to join the unit for the Red Raiders, according to Mike Graham of the Dallas Morning News.
Regardless of the experience or expected starters for the Red Raiders, new coach Kliff Kingsbury will need the unit to be impressive early. With new quarterback Michael Brewer taking the reigns from Seth Doege, Brewer will need protection in order to get acclimated with being a starting QB in the Big 12.
However, with so many new players from a unit that was average amongst Big 12 teams in in 2012, the Red Raiders don't boast a good offensive line. At least not right now.
7. TCU Horned Frogs
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The TCU Horned Frogs have high hopes in 2013. With QB Casey Pachall returning to the team and one of the best defenses, Gary Patterson could have his team competing for a Big 12 title.
However, the biggest issue Patterson will have to address is the offensive line.
Losing interior lineman James Fry and Blaize Foltz was a big blow to the Horned Frogs this offseason, and replacing them is a big task for Patterson.
Last season, the Horned Frogs allowed 29 sacks, the most in the Big 12. That also put TCU at 83rd nationally in sacks given up. However, that problem had more to do with the play of inexperienced quarterback Trevone Boykin.
In four games last year, Pachall was only sacked three times. That meant in the last 10 games for TCU, Boykin allowed himself to be taken down 26 times.
Jamelle Naff is projected to replace Foltz, according to ESPN's David Ubben. Eric Tausch and Joey Hunt will also play big roles on the line in 2013.
While the Horned Frogs offensive line lacks depth heading into the season, if they can be as successful as they were early in the year in 2012, they could be just good enough to allow Pachall and company to propel TCU to a title in 2013.
6. Iowa State Cyclones
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While the offense has had problems over the past few years in Ames, the one thing the Iowa State Cyclones can bank on in 2013 is its offensive line.
Paul Rhoads' team returns four starters to the front line in 2013, according to ESPN's David Ubben, and they'll be asked to lead a group that will have yet another new starting quarterback to start the season.
The focus for the Cyclones will be the rushing attack of James White. The offensive line will absolutely play a huge role in White's success as they'll be the guys opening up the holes for him.
The Cyclones have a lot of question marks heading into the year and wins may be few and far between once Big 12 play starts.
But if Paul Rhoads wants to finally take the program to the next level in 2013, it will start with the offensive line.
5. Oklahoma Sooners
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Losing the best blind-side protector in the Big 12 and the second overall NFL draft pick in Lane Johnson seems like a tall task for Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners.
But with a plethora of returners and four offensive line signees in the 2013 recruiting class, the Sooners should be just fine up front offensively in 2013.
One of the biggest players that will step up for the Sooners will be JUCO transfer Andrew Feo. Center Gabe Ikard will also play a big role.
The play of the offensive line will be crucial in Norman this season as quarterback Blake Bell will likely replace four-year starter Landry Jones. Any time there's a new signal-caller in town, it's the offensive line's job to protect him and get him comfortable.
Running back Damien Williams will also be looked upon for production, and the offensive line will have to lead the way for him.
While you can never truly replace Lane Johnson, Oklahoma's offensive line will be just fine in 2013.
4. Texas Longhorns
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If the Texas Longhorns want to give QB David Ash a chance to be elite and want to chase a Big 12 title, the offensive line will have to live up to its hype.
According to Kyle Kensing of SI.com, the Longhorns have perhaps the best interior in all of college football. Mack Brown also has all five starters from last year's line returning.
However, the talent didn't turn into elite numbers last season. In 2012, the Longhorns were fourth in the conference, at the edge of the top half, in sacks allowed with 16. That placed Texas 23rd nationally.
The Longhorns are entering into a new era of up-tempo offense this season. That means not only the five starters, but quality depth along the line will be crucial. Look for tackle Kenny Estelle and guard Sedrick Flowers to be the main guys to come off the bench.
The Longhorns will enter 2013 with lofty expectations and it may be a make-or-break season for Mack Brown.
If Texas wants to finally get back into the BCS bowl mix, the offensive line will have to set the tempo.
3. Baylor Bears
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The offensive line for the Baylor Bears was bolstered dramatically when left tackle Cyril Richardson announced that he would return for his senior season.
Now Richardson, a potential top-10 pick in the 2014 draft according to Kyle Kensing of SI.com, will anchor an offensive line that will look to keep last year's hot finish in Waco going into 2013.
The Bears, a prolific offensive team over the past few season, will have a new quarterback in Bryce Petty. Protecting him so that he gets comfortable will be a priority.
Art Briles has a strong starting five on his offensive line, but depth may be the biggest issue.
According to David Ubben of ESPN, the team lost Troy Baker to injury in the spring, a huge blow to the Bears.
Nevertheless, if the Bears can get Petty acclimated and give running back Lache Seastrunk just enough holes to break open some big runs, this unit will be the cornerstone of a team looking to be a dark horse for a Big 12 title.
2. Kansas State Wildcats
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The offensive line for the reigning Big-12 champion Kansas State Wildcats was vastly underrated last season. With most of the hype going to Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein, the line went virtually unnoticed.
However, Bill Snyder built his team around the offensive line in 2012. And this season, the Wildcats return five offensive linemen with starting experience, including four who started in the Fiesta Bowl.
The anchor of this squad is center B.J. Finney. Once a walk-on, Finney is now an All-Big 12 center and one of the best in the nation at his position. And with Snyder using nearly countless formations in his offense, consistency out of the center position is vital.
Other key returners for the Wildcats include Cornelius Lucas, a possible NFL draft pick, and Tavon Rooks.
Like so many other teams in the Big 12, the Wildcats will have a new signal-caller in 2013 as Daniel Sams and Jake Water vie to replace Klein this summer.
Whoever gets the job, the new QB will have plenty of protection behind a solid offensive line that will make the transition much easier.
1. Oklahoma State Cowboys
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For the past two seasons, the Oklahoma State Cowboys have boasted one of the best offensive lines in the country.
In 2012, the Cowboys led the Big 12 with the fewest sacks allowed (12). That number also ranked 12th nationally.
However, head coach Mike Gundy lost two critical pieces of his line from a year ago in Evan Epstein and Lane Taylor.
Now, sophomore Devin Davis will start and left tackle and Parker Graham, who started at that position a season ago, will move to left guard, according to ESPN's David Ubben.
Both those guys are quality players, and Gundy knows how to build an offensive scheme around his front five.
This year's offensive line will have probably its biggest role in the past few years. With running back Joseph Randle gone and an unproven quarterback in Clint Chelf taking over, the line will need to provide some consistency to get those guys comfortable.
Nevertheless, this offensive line gives the Cowboys their best chance at making a run for the Big 12 title.