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B/R CFB 150: Top 25 Offensive Linemen

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2017

B/R CFB 150: Top 25 Offensive Linemen

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    Arkansas center Frank Ragnow
    Arkansas center Frank RagnowEd Zurga/Getty Images

    Bleacher Report's CFB 150 is an annual ranking of the game's best players, regardless of NFL potential. Authors David Kenyon, Brian Pedersen and Barrett Sallee have studied, ranked and graded the top athletes in the country, narrowed that list and sorted by position.

    Here, Pedersen presents the top 25 offensive linemen.

    Other CFB 150 Positions

    Players in this group deserve praise as much as anyone in college football. The problem is, we usually only hear their names when they do something wrong, such as give up a sack or get called for a penalty.

    But without those beefy blockers up front, most teams wouldn't be able to put up big offensive numbers. Their work in the trenches is just as important as that of those running, throwing and catching the ball.

    The following rankings are based primarily on one's skills as a college player rather than how he would fare in the NFL. Though these players may be using this time to develop their game for the pros, their goals are centered on helping their teams succeed.

25-21: Moton-Dillard

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    Zach Banner
    Zach BannerHarry How/Getty Images

    25. Taylor Moton, Western Michigan

    Western Michigan's veteran offensive line fueled its perfect regular season and run to the Cotton Bowl as much as its talented skill-position players did. Taylor Moton, a 6'5", 328-pound senior, started all 14 games at right tackle after serving as the Broncos' starting right guard in 2015.

        

    24. Zach Banner, USC

    One of the largest players in the country at 6'9" and 360 pounds, Zach Banner put that size to good use in his third year as USC's starting right tackle. The senior allowed only two sacks in 2016-17, enabling redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold to have a breakout season.

        

    23. Brett Toth, Army

    Everyone on the Army offensive line bought into the triple-option system, which allowed the team to finish second in the FBS in rushing at 339.5 yards per game. Brett Toth, a 6'6", 276-pound junior, started every contest at right tackle and was the country's fifth-best run-blocking tackle, per Pro Football Focus.

            

    22. Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia

    How did West Virginia manage to overcome a rash of injuries to its ball-carriers to still average 228.4 yards per game on the ground? It had veterans like Tyler Orlosky up front creating holes for a slew of young rushers. The 6'4", 296-pound senior started every game at center, a position he'd owned with the Mountaineers since late in the 2013 season.

        

    21. Andre Dillard, Washington State

    One of three Wazzu linemen to make our list, Andre Dillard was the youngest and least experienced of the trio entering 2016 but performed like a veteran. The 6'5", 295-pound redshirt sophomore started all 13 games at left tackle. Despite allowing seven sacks and getting called for 14 penalties, he graded out as the No. 2 pass-blocking tackle in the nation, per Pro Football Focus, behind teammate Cole Madison.

20-16: Bisnowaty-Bolles

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    Bradley Bozeman
    Bradley BozemanWesley Hitt/Getty Images

    20. Adam Bisnowaty, Pittsburgh

    While not as widely heralded as fellow Pittsburgh offensive lineman Dorian Johnson, Adam Bisnowaty was equally effective in helping the Panthers have arguably their greatest offensive season in history. The 6'6", 305-pound senior yielded just one of Pitt's 10 sacks allowed while protecting quarterback Nathan Peterman's blind side.

        

    19. Bradley Bozeman, Alabama

    Considered by head coach Nick Saban to be Alabama's unsung hero in 2016, according to 247Sports' Charlie Potter, Bradley Bozeman started all 15 games at center. The 6'5", 319-pound junior did not allow a sack and never had a penalty called on him while helping to block for a rushing attack that averaged 245 yards per game.

        

    18. Chad Wheeler, USC

    Chad Wheeler, an oft-injured tackle, finished his career on a high note by starting all 13 of USC's games, allowing only one sack and drawing a single penalty in 2016. The 6'6", 310-pound senior started 47 contests for USC and this past year helped the Trojans rush for 200.7 yards per game, their best rate since 2005.

        

    17. Antonio Garcia, Troy

    An offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks in the country at 0.62 per game aided Troy's best season at the FBS level. Antonio Garcia wasn't responsible for any of those eight sacks, as the 6'7", 302-pound senior created a wall from his left tackle position.

        

    16. Garett Bolles, Utah

    A junior college All-American who transferred to Utah prior to the 2016 season, Garett Bolles started all 13 games at left tackle and graded as the nation's third-best run-blocker at that position, per Pro Football Focus. The 6'5", 300-pound junior struggled with penalties, drawing 17 on the year, but he yielded only three of the Utes' 27 sacks allowed.

Nos. 15-11: Zerblis-Feeney

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    Roderick Johnson
    Roderick JohnsonJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    15. Fred Zerblis, Colorado State

    A three-year starter for the Rams, mostly at right guard, Fred Zerblis helped pave the way for a run game that averaged 217.8 yards per contest for the program's best ground performance since 1997. The 6'2", 305-pound senior was part of a line that allowed only one sack per game, with none charged to him.

        

    14. Ethan Pocic, LSU

    Ethan Pocic played center, guard and tackle for LSU during his career, though the 6'7", 302-pound senior spent most of his time in the middle with 27 starts, including 11 in 2016. Last season, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the ninth-best run-blocker at his position, and he did not yield a sack.

        

    13. Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh

    Four national organizations, including the American Football Coaches Association and Sporting News, tabbed Dorian Johnson as an All-American at left guard. The 6'5", 315-pound senior's blocking on the interior helped Pittsburgh score a school-record 40.9 points per game as the Panthers allowed 0.77 sacks per contest, tied for third-best in the country.

        

    12. Roderick Johnson, Florida State

    A starter at left tackle since midway through his freshman year, Roderick Johnson was tasked with protecting new quarterback Deondre Francois' blind side and did so splendidly. Of the 36 sacks Florida State's line yielded, just three came through the 6'7", 311-pound junior.

        

    11. Dan Feeney, Indiana

    The 6'4", 305-pound senior moved from right guard—his position since starting as a true freshman in 2012—to right tackle for the final five games of 2016. The shift didn't change his career-long trend of rarely allowing a sack, as he yielded just two in 3,355 snaps, per his Indiana bio.

10. Pat Elflein, Ohio State

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Pat Elflein was nothing if not versatile and willing to do what was needed for the team during his Ohio State career. A two-year starter at guard in 2014-15—splitting time at both positions—Elflein moved to center for his senior season to finish with 41 consecutive games started.

    The 6'3", 300-pound senior was the veteran presence in the middle of a line that was young and inexperienced everywhere else, though his relationship with quarterback J.T. Barrett made it all work. The Buckeyes averaged 245.2 rushing yards per game in 2016, the same number they managed the year before when Ezekiel Elliott was around.

    Elflein was responsible for only three of the 28 sacks OSU's line yielded last season, and he allowed just eight over his final three years.

9. Cam Robinson, Alabama

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The top returner from our 2015 ranking of the best offensive linemen, Cam Robinson dropped from seventh to ninth. The slip came because of the strength of the position across the country and because of how Alabama's offense changed.

    The use of a dual-threat quarterback instead of one more inclined to hang in the pocket meant the 6'6", 310-pound junior had to block in a different manner than in the past. However, that versatility should help him when he heads to the NFL.

    Robinson only allowed one sack in 484 dropbacks in 2016, per Pro Football Focus—one of two times quarterback Jalen Hurts was hit by someone Robinson was assigned to—after allowing seven sacks the previous season. He remained strong as usual in blocking for the run, as Alabama ranked 12th nationally in rushing offense at 245 yards per game.

    A pair of false-start penalties in the national championship game and a season-worst run-blocking grade in the Peach Bowl weren't the best ways for Robinson's career to end and soured what was otherwise a solid junior campaign.

8. Nico Siragusa, San Diego State

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    Lance King/Getty Images

    After almost every game this past season, as Donnel Pumphrey was either moving toward becoming the FBS career rushing leader or after he achieved that mark in the Las Vegas Bowl, San Diego State's star running back would make sure to give credit to those who helped make it possible. Though Pumphrey would refer to the entire offensive line, Nico Siragusa deserved the most praise.

    A 6'5", 330-pound senior who started 42 games, including 41 straight to end his career, Siragusa was SDSU's left guard for but a handful of snaps the last two seasons. His run blocking made it possible not just for Pumphrey to rush for 2,133 yards in 2016 and more than 6,400 for his career, but also for junior Rashaad Penny to top the 1,000-yard mark and for freshman Juwan Washington to average more than eight yards per carry.

    Named a USA Today All-American, Siragusa drew only two penalties all season in grading out as the third-best run-blocking guard in the country, per Pro Football Focus.

7. Cole Madison, Washington State

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    At first glance, 16 quarterback pressures allowed over 13 games is on the high side for an offensive tackle. Then again, when your team throws the ball 664 times in a season, it's not such a bad number.

    Cole Madison has been Washington State's starting right tackle for all but four games the last three years, and in 2016 he allowed only three sacks as the Cougars averaged 362.5 passing yards per game to rank third in the FBS. His overall grade from Pro Football Focus of 35.1 was third-best among tackles.

    Just as important, Madison was only flagged for penalties nine times on 1,033 snaps last season.

6. Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    The average college football fan will only know of Forrest Lamp because he capped his superb college career by catching a lateral and scoring from nine yards out in Western Kentucky's Boca Raton Bowl win over Memphis last month. But there's much more to what made Lamp such an integral part of the Hilltoppers' success—not just in 2016, but throughout his career.

    The 6'4", 300-pound senior started 51 games in four seasons, 48 at left tackle. His streak of 42 consecutive starts was snapped in September when a leg injury caused him to miss two games. But after he returned in October, he only allowed two quarterback hits and one hurry while drawing a single penalty all season.

    "In tough times, he's going to come through for us," former Western Kentucky co-offensive coordinator Brian Brohm, now at Purdue, said after Lamp's return, per Brad Stephens of the Bowling Green Daily News.

    Lamp showed great blocking skills regardless of the scenario, handling run and pass assignments equally well. He was also key to Western Kentucky's heavy use of the screen pass, as Pro Football Focus graded him as the second-best tackle in that area.

5. Will Hernandez, UTEP

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    UTEP Athletics

    Never heard of UTEP's Will Hernandez? Don't feel bad, not much attention was put on the offensive line of a team from Conference USA that went 4-8 and lost 41-7 at Texas in its only game against a power-conference opponent. But amid that poor team performance was a tremendous individual one put forth by the 6'3", 330-pound junior who has started 37 games at left guard for the Miners.

    Pro Football Focus named Will Hernandez the top pass protector in the FBS for 2016, and it noted he last allowed a sack in Week 2 of the 2015 season. In 378 pass-blocking snaps this season, he not only didn't yield a sack, but his team's quarterbacks also got hit, hurried or pressured from his direction just once.

    On the run-blocking side, Hernandez helped open plenty of holes on the interior for junior running back Aaron Jones, who gained 1,773 yards and scored 17 touchdowns on just 229 carries.

    "UTEP's Hernandez was the best run-blocking guard in the nation by a considerable margin," PFF's Gordon McGuinness wrote.

4. Connor Williams, Texas

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Wonder how Texas running back D'Onta Foreman went from relative unknown to a 2,000-yard rusher in the course of one season? He had reliable blockers like Connor Williams opening holes and setting the edge for him in 2016.

    Williams, a 6'6", 288-pound sophomore, has started all but one of the Longhorns' games the past two seasons, and in that time he's helped Texas average nearly 235 rushing yards per contest when he's played. One of Texas' lowest per-carry rushing outputs this past season happened to be when Williams sat out a September game against UTEP because of injury.

    A freshman All-American in 2015, Williams was a consensus All-American pick in his second year as he not only thrived in run blocking but also in pass protection by allowing one sack (in the season finale against TCU).

3. Cody O'Connell, Washington State

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    Associated Press

    Interior linemen tend not to be as integral to pass protection as those on the edge, but Washington State's offense is an exception to that rule. With the linemen split wide, WSU required guards such junior Cody O'Connell to backpedal and block as if they were playing tackle. In his first season as a starter, O'Connell excelled.

    The 6'8", 354-pounder graded as the second-best pass-blocking guard in the FBS, per Pro Football Focus, which is saying something with the amount the Cougars threw. O'Connell played 649 passing snaps, and only one sack and one quarterback hit came as a result of his play.

    A unanimous All-American as well as a finalist for the Outland Trophy, O'Connell's blocking on run plays and screens was strong. Wazzu only gained 120 rushing yards per game, but that was nearly 50 percent better than in 2015, when O'Connell was used only on special teams.

2. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    A staple on the interior of Arkansas' line for the past two seasons, Frank Ragnow moved from guard to center in 2016. The shift paid off for everyone involved. Pro Football Focus tabbed the 6'5", 319-pound junior as the best offensive lineman in the country.

    In 949 offensive snaps this season, he did not allow a sack—though quarterback Austin Allen took 35 sacks on the year—and in 26 career starts Ragnow has never allowed his QB to get taken down behind the line of scrimmage.

    Ragnow's run blocking became an art form, as he opened holes up the middle for 1,300-yard rusher Rawleigh Williams III and backup Devwah Whaley, both of whom averaged more than five yards per carry. Per PFF, Arkansas averaged 6.4 yards per carry on runs between center and left guard.

    "He's a very, very strong kid," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said, per Jason Kersey of SEC Country. "An incredible football player."

1. Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Ryan Ramczyk didn't think he was good enough to play major college football when he graduated from high school, but after one season in the FBS he's the best there is. Not bad for a player who began his career at Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point and transferred to Wisconsin in 2015, sitting out that season per NCAA transfer rules.

    The 6'6", 314-pound junior started all 14 games at left tackle in 2016 and rarely disappointed. Best known for his run blocking, his Pro Football Focus grade of 31 in the area was 5.6 points higher than any other tackle as he helped the Badgers average 203.1 rushing yards per game.

    Wisconsin didn't throw much, but when it did, Ramczyk gave quarterbacks Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston ample time. He allowed one sack all season, with opponents managing just three QB hits.

                   

    Statistics courtesy of CFBStats and recruiting information courtesy of Scout unless otherwise noted. Advanced stats provided by Pro Football FocusAll slides written by Brian J. Pedersen. Follow the author on Twitter at @realBJP.

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