College Football Teams That Will Own the Line of Scrimmage
It may be an old adage, but it remains true to this day; football games are won in the trenches.
Sometimes, with all of the points being scored in college football, it is easy to forget that the offensive line plays a major role in how efficient an offense is. And look no further than two-time, defending national champion Alabama to see how important a strong defensive line is to the overall success of a defense.
Some teams are fortunate enough to be strong at the point-of-attack on both sides of the ball. As you might expect, those teams will be hovering around the top of the BCS standings come December.
There are some teams that are strong on one side of the line, whether it is Tennessee's offensive line, or Virginia Tech's defensive line, however, there is a reason they won't be among the nation's best teams in 2013. They struggle in the trenches on one side of the ball.
Will your favorite team dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball this season? Here are the top-five offensive line/defensive line combinations in college football for 2013.
The Longhorns finished 2012 with a record of 9-4. Most observers felt that was a down season. They will be better than that in 2013, good enough, perhaps, to win the Big 12.
The Longhorns return 19 starters, including all five offensive linemen. Two starters return on a talented defensive line, most notably senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Jeffcoat's return is important as he missed seven games in 2012.
On the offensive line, the Longhorns are led by an outstanding pair of senior guards; Trey Hopkins and Mason Walters. They should easily open holes for a running game that hasn't quite been the same in recent seasons.
With Jeffcoat back, the defensive line could be an elite group. The other starting defensive end, Cedric Reed, is big, athletic and looks like the next great Longhorns' pass-rusher.
Sophomore Malcom Brown, at 6'4", 315 pounds, should dominate offensive guards easily with his combination of strength and athleticism.
4. Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish have arguably the best defensive line in the country in 2013. This group was a big reason for Manti Te'o's success last season.
Led by senior defensive tackle Louis Nix and junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt, the Irish have a group capable of dominating every game. Each player could stake their claim as the best at their individual positions in all of college football.
Sophomore Sheldon Day is the other starter at defensive end in the Irish's 3-4 alignment. He received quite a bit of playing time as a freshman in 2012.
The Irish return three starters from last year's solid unit. They will need this group to be strong after losing their starting quarterback and top two running backs from last year.
Zack Martin and Christian Lombard are as good of a pair at offensive tackle as there is in the country.
The Crimson Tide sent three of their offensive linemen to the NFL, two of which went in the top 15 of the draft, and their nose tackle, yet remain firmly on this list.
Losing Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker were tough blows for sure, but replacing All-American Barrett Jones is perhaps the toughest to replace. Jones played all across the line during his career and was good at every stop.
One would think losing that much talent would deplete a team's roster and ruin their chances to compete for the national title. Not for the Crimson Tide.
Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio returns and is a potential first-team All-American. Guard Anthony Steen is a future NFL player and sophomore Ryan Kelly could be the Tide's next Barrett Jones. This is still a good group.
On the defensive line, a host of good and experienced players return. Defensive end Ed Stinson led all Crimson Tide defensive linemen with 8.5 tackles-for-loss in 2012 and is back to lead this unit.
Brandon Ivory is the latest player that will step in at nose guard. He will pick right up where Jesse Williams left off. Jeoffrey Pagan will start at defensive end opposite Stinson.
A pair of young players, LaMichael Fanning and Dalvin Tomlinson, will be the next future stars for the Tide.
2. Florida State
The Seminoles, like Alabama, lost a host of good players to the NFL after the 2012 season. Florida State's top three defensive ends from last season are now gone.
Fortunately for the Seminoles, injuries to Tank Carradine and Brandon Jenkins last year allowed younger players to play. That included former top recruit, Mario Edwards.
Timmy Jernigan and Demonte McAllister are the starters at defensive tackle. Jernigan had 46 tackles from the defensive tackle position as a backup in 2012. He is an extremely active player and should be an All-ACC player in 2013.
On the offensive line, the Seminoles lost tackle Menelik Watson to the NFL. Outside of that, the other four starters return and they are a good bunch. This group is one of the best in the country led by left tackle Cameron Erving and center Bryan Stork. Erving is a future NFL first-round selection.
Outside of Stork, the entire starting offensive line are juniors.
Florida State is getting closer to returning to prominence each season. With a strong group up front on both sides of the ball, the Seminoles are much closer than many realize.
When former head coach Jim Harbaugh departed for the NFL, many thought Stanford's run at the top of the Pac-12 would come to an end shortly thereafter. That hasn't been the case, in part because of Stanford's ability to recruit well on the offensive and defensive lines.
The Cardinal have four starters returning on the offensive line. In all, nine of the top 10 offensive linemen from 2012 are back. Senior David Yankey, the Pac-12's top offensive linemen last season, will likely play left guard in 2013.
Kevin Danser was a second-team All Pac-12 selection last year and returns at right guard. Right tackle Cameron Fleming is entering his third season as a starter and is a potential All-American.
Sophomore Andrus Peat is expected to be the left tackle. At 6'7", 308 pounds, Peat is a massive physical specimen, yet has the necessary movement skills and agility needed to play the left tackle position.
The defensive line is almost as good. The Cardinal run a 3-4 scheme led by Ben Gardner. Gardner, a first-team All Pac-12 selection, passed on the NFL for one more season in Palo Alto.
Junior defensive end Henry Anderson also returns and can move between defensive end and defensive tackle with equal effectiveness. David Parry is a solid nose tackle and the Cardinal have good depth behind him.
Stanford is loaded with several freshmen and sophomores on the defensive line and they should be tough to handle in the trenches for years to come.
This team is set up to compete for multiple national championships. They could make a run at their first national title since 1926 as early as this year.