Okay, so maybe arguing which team has the best offensive line is not the most common bar room discussion.
In a world dominated by pretty boy quarterbacks and explosive running backs, people often forget about the big uglies up front.
The offensive line, though, can make or break a college football team. They are the engine that runs the machine and, no matter how shiny the rest of the offense may look, a faulty line will hold a team back from its desired success.
The ACC has some impressive offensive linemen heading into 2010, but their success ultimately depends on their teammates' ability to block assignments and read coverages.
As a result, as opposed to breaking down the individuals that deserve recognition, these power rankings will focus on the overall lines for each team in the ACC. It rewards not just talent, but depth.
So, without further adieu, the top offensive lines heading into 2010 for the ACC. Let the debate begin!
Losing both offensive tackles and a guard is bad enough, but the loss of quarterback Riley Skinner means problems for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in 2010.
The good news is that running back Josh Adams is talented and experienced, but coach Jim Grobe will need to use him early and often as he works in his new offensive players.
However, when you take an experienced back who will be seeing lots of reps with a line that needs time to gel, usually the results are not going to be pretty.
The Demon Deacons better hope they get things together quickly because after the first two weeks, Wake Forest has Stanford, Florida State, and Georgia Tech in successive weeks.
2010 might be a rough year for Wake Forest, but as they develop their passing game, it should improve. Keeping their center, Russell Nenon, will be important for he can help set the tempo of the game. As he builds a relationship with whoever the new quarterback will be, Wake Forest will be on the right track.
Until that time, though, expect the offensive line to be challenged.
Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is gone and that means the pressure will be on the Duke offensive line to step up; otherwise, whoever takes over the reigns of the Blue Devil offense better get used to seeing his face planted on the turf.
Outside of the departure of Jarrod Holt, Duke does bring back most of its offensive line. Dave Harding, a redshirt freshman, looks to be the likely replacement, and the coaching staff seems to be high on his potential.
Still, even the best offensive line can look bad with a poor quarterback under center, and the Blue Devils have big question marks around this line. Sean Renfree's health is limiting his time this spring and further complicates who will replace Lewis.
Jay Hollingsworth, a junior running back, is fighting hard to keep his spot on the depth chart with Desmond Scott and Josh Snead hot on his heels. Duke was a pass-happy offense in 2009 and will need a radical shift in 2010 if they look to continue to build on the success of Dave Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils were dead last in the ACC in rushing offense.
Duke will need to find balance next season, and the pressure will be on tackle Kyle Hill to keep the new quarterback upright. Otherwise, expect the boys of Durham to take a step backwards next season.
On one hand, it must be fun blocking for Russell Wilson. The senior quarterback is not only a strong passer but also mobile enough to avoid contact from oncoming defenders.
In other words, it makes life easier.
However, youth will be served this season for the Wolfpack. The current depth chart shows three sophomores, a freshman, and a senior on the offensive line for North Carolina State in 2010. Without question, this is the least experienced line the ACC will have.
The Wolfpack will not only have growing pains at the line but also with the running game. With the departure of Tony Allen, the pressure is on Curtis Underwood Jr. and Brandon Barnes to complement the passing game of NC State.
However, the two have a combined 279 yards for their career and will have to prove their worth early and often next season.
While the line does have some solid talent and a great quarterback under center, offensive lines are about continuity and camaraderie. It will take time for this new unit to gel.
If the Wolfpack cannot add a running dimension to their game, it could make their work even harder as they are forced to pick up more and more blitzes.
Still, with all that talent, when the young boys do grow up, it will make NC State a team to believe in.
In the last decade, offensive line was probably one of the strongest positions for the Virginia Cavaliers.
Whether it be Branden Albert, D'brickashaw Ferguson, Brad Butler, or Eugene Monroe, Virginia offensive linemen saw themselves as highly-prized prospects in the NFL Draft.
Well, those days seem long gone. It's no surprise that Virginia struggled mightily last season when you consider just how porous the line was. The Cavaliers gave more sacks than any other team in the ACC last year.
Now, it's not all the fault of the offensive line. The quarterback situation was in constant flux, the offensive coordinator battled former coach Al Groh over which schemes to use and what sets to rely on, and the running game was led by a fullback.
In truth, Virginia's line should have expected these problems, even if Will Barker's downward spiral was surprising.
Well, now Virginia has a new coach in familiar face Mike London and yet another offensive scheme to learn. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers return four out of five starts and are bolstered by the play of Austin Pasztor.
While the team under-performed, the talent is there and under the right guidance, Virginia's offensive line may be in store for some good play. In truth, it is not nearly the question mark that will hang over quarterback and running back next season.
If quarterback Marc Verica can return to form and running back Dominique Wallace can live up to off-season hype, the offensive line can get the opportunity to step up in 2010.
However, until coach London can bring in some playmakers on offense, it could be awhile before the line gets the credit it deserves.
Let's face it, by the end of last season, North Carolina's offensive line was in shambles.
Injuries had plagued the Tar Heels and forced quarterback T.J. Yates into the worst season of his collegiate career. Still, despite the injuries, North Carolina still had the ninth and 10th best rushers in the ACC last season in terms of total yards.
The hard-hitting Ryan Houston can help erase mistakes made by the offensive line by simply running over defenders. Shaun Draughn helped rack up the rest of the yards.
Indeed, North Carolina has one of the best backfields in recent memory and they will have Jonathan Cooper running the show at center. Cooper is a sophomore who spent last season at guard and will need his fellow guard Alan Pelc to return healthy after missing spring practice.
North Carolina still has plenty of question marks on the offensive line and is the biggest weakness heading into next season. Can they stay healthy? Can they complement the playmakers brought in by Butch Davis?
With new players in new positions and with injuries limiting continuity, it will take time, something that the Tar Heels will not have when they open the season against LSU.
Fortunately, Davis brought in some talent and their early admissions will give the Tar Heels some depth. If they will gel into a successful unit, though, remains to be seen.
While the Terrapins struggled last year, it was certainly a good season for Bruce Campbell.
The junior offensive tackle overcame relative inexperience and a mediocre team to become a draft sensation since he decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. He may even be the first ACC player taken.
As a result, the Terrapins have two spots on the line to rebuild and an inexperienced quarterback to protect with the graduation of Chris Turner.
Fortunately for Maryland, Da'rel Scott and Davin Meggett are a superb one-two punch at the running back position for the Terrapins. If they are to continue their stellar play next season, look for the pressure to be on Paul Pinegar.
The 6'4" 290 lb. junior has played tackle, guard, and even taken snaps at center this spring and will be expected to fill many roles next season for Maryland.
The consummate glue guy has some impressive skills and will need to play well if the Terrapins want to erase memories of disappointments in the past few years.
The Yellow Jackets built their success in 2009 around their offensive line.
Sean Bedford worked his way into the starting line and became an All-ACC performer in the process. The rising senior center will help run the offense along with Josh Nesbitt, but when he looks to his side, he will be seeing at least two new faces.
Georgia Tech has already lost two starters on the offensive line and will likely lose Joseph Gilbert as he transfers to pursue an MBA. That leaves tackle Austin Barrick as an experienced veteran to complement Bedford.
The Yellow Jackets run a very specific scheme, one that came under fire by the Virginia Tech coaching staff after their loss last season. The pressure will be on Paul Johnson and company to find replacements that seamlessly gel into the offensive line and can learn the system quickly.
Considering all the other starters that have to be replaced on the team, Georgia Tech will have its hands full in 2010. With a new line, new receivers, and inexperienced running back options, Nesbitt will have to pull a Superman act or face doomsday next season.
Offensive tackle Ed Wang left the Virginia Tech Hokies after a four-year campaign of non-stop success. He and fellow senior Sergio Render captured two ACC titles and an Orange Bowl victory over Cincinnati before last season's dismantling of the Tennessee Volunteers in the Chick-fil-a Bowl.
Yet, things have gone south for Wang after he left Blacksburg. The NFL scouts openly called out his poor form and execution, condemning not only his knowledge of the position but those who were in charge of developing those skills at Virginia Tech.
Sure, we all know that Tim Tebow's mechanics put Florida under the microscope but this is a similar situation for a team that has also seen a great deal of success in conference.
Now, Tech must replace two starters on the line and help provide holes for one of the best running tandems in the country.
Jaymes Brooks, one of the top prospects in the commonwealth of Virginia has pressure to step up his game as a rising junior. He stepped up big as a freshman in the Orange Bowl and played well beside the big names last year, but can he take his game to the next level?
While the Hokies still have a great deal of depth, the question will be who can step up and lead the unit? Can the Hokies continue to implement a smash-mouth policy that allows them to control the time of possession and put Bud Foster's defense in position to hold a lead and blitz the team into submission?
It certainly helps that the offensive stars can take the pressure off the big guys up front. If the unit can develop leaders, Virginia Tech may once again lead the pack in the ACC.
While Randy Shannon has helped bring in an influx of young talent, Joel Figueroa is the experienced anchor of the offensive line in 2010.
The Miami offense had a resurgence last season, finishing fourth in total offense at just under 400 yards per game. Of course, that will not continue if the injury bug persists like it has so far this offseason.
Figueroa, alongside Brandon Washington and Orlando Franklin all sat out of the spring game as quarterback Jacory Harris nursed his injured thumb.
As a result, the Hurricane scrimmage was more of a sprinkle and a few question marks have begun to arise as to how this offense will fare in 2010. Sure, football may be several months away but this young team can use as much practice as possible.
While the talent is there, Miami has to continue to develop and build a consistent offense for next season. For even though the Hurricanes put up impressive offensive numbers, they still had some clunkers that derailed the momentum of their season.
Against the Hokies, Miami mustered 209 total yards of offense. When they took on Wisconsin in the bowl game, their offense was just 249 yards. If Miami wants respect, they have to be able to move the ball against the best defenses.
Granted, Harris needs to cut down on interceptions but the offensive line needs to continue to improve. That way, Miami can punish opponents into submission and keep their offense on the field.
If Miami gets healthy, look for a big run in 2010.
Four returning starters to the offensive line for the Clemson Tigers entering 2010.
Chris Hairston anchors the line at left tackle, a senior that not only plays hard but stays healthy for his team. He is the most experienced option on the line, but he is not alone in that regard.
While every starter has experience under his belt, the question is just how much more can each improve. Offensive line coach Brad Scott has been under fire by Clemson fans; poor recruiting and lackluster development has fans believing than a man who has never had a prospect go above the fourth round may not be right for the job.
Mason Cloy is out until the summer with an injury, and it will be important for Clemson to build some depth for it will be needed next season. Will Clemson continue to improve its pass protection while mixing up run schemes in a post-C.J. Spiller era?
After all, Clemson cannot be successful if it just relies on half of the line to do the job of the entire unit. The Tigers need to be tough and manhandle squads the entire game, something that was missing in 2009.
In 2010, Clemson will go as far as their line takes them.
The Eagles offensive line stepped up big last season, thanks in large part to Anthony Castonzo.
While most offensive linemen may be overlooked by the national media, Castonzo made a name for himself on a team full of undervalued guys. The offensive tackle was a freshman all-American and made the first team All-Sophomore team by the College Football News.
Last season, he made the first team All-ACC and helped lead a tremendous rushing attack with Montel Harris and led a unit that gave up the second fewest sacks in the conference.
When you consider that they were only behind the triple-option offense of Georgia Tech, the feat becomes even more impressive.
Castonzo seemed like a surefire NFL star, but he returns to Boston College as the biochem major continues his studies and continues to eat defensive linemen for lunch.
His partner in crime, Rich Lapham also can cause havoc and gives hope to fans that Boston College will once again be in competition for the ACC title.
While the Eagles have a great deal of experience and depth to rely upon, it is also has a standard of excellence. Considering what they were able to do last season, the Boston College offensive line should continue to soar in 2010.
Returning all five starters, the Florida State offensive line appears to be in the best shape it's been in years.
Despite a disappointing record last season, the Seminole offense continued to roll. Quarterback Christian Ponder put up solid numbers before an injury cut short his senior season. As the senior signal-caller returns, he is fortunate to have a line in front of him that only gave 20 sacks all of last year.
That number was just one behind Boston College and Clemson for second place in the ACC.
Running back Jermaine Thomas also used the line to explode for 832 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore. When your team has the third best pass offense and the fourth best rush offense in the ACC, you know your offensive line is versatile.
Florida State's line was led by second team All-American and first-team All-ACC Rodney Hudson. Despite battling an MCL and toe injuries that limited his playing time, Hudson still helped lead the line with experience and solid play.
In total, the starting five for the Seminoles have 142 starts under their belt. The result is a scary combination for opponents.
In 2009, all five starters received nomination for all-ACC honors by the coaches in the conference. If that does not prove you are the best offensive line in the ACC, what does?