Projecting Every Conference's Best O-Line in 2022 CFB Season

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVJune 14, 2022

Projecting Every Conference's Best O-Line in 2022 CFB Season

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    Modern schemes have eased the burden on blockers, but there's still no substitute for an overpowering offensive line.

    As with any unit on the field, it's a piece of a much larger puzzle. However, a reliable group up front is often the foundation of a successful team. Last season, for example, the Michigan Wolverines rode a fantastic blocking unit to the College Football Playoff.

    And in 2022, the Maize and Blue should again flaunt one of the nation's best offensive lines.

    The choices are subjective but factor in returning players—including any transfers—and potential impact newcomers.

American: Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Throughout his successful five-year tenure, head coach Luke Fickell has repeatedly stressed that Cincinnati is driven by its linemen.

    And the 2022 campaign will be no different.

    Right tackle Dylan O'Quinn, right guard Lorenz Metz and center Jake Renfro earned first-team All-AAC honors last season, and each one is set to return. Left tackle James Tunstall and left guard Jeremy Cooper are back from last season's AAC title-winning team, too.

    Although the Bearcats must replace a majority of their skill-position production, it'll be reassuring to have an experienced group up front.

ACC: Pitt Panthers

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    New program, same story.

    Pitt secured its first-ever ACC championship in 2021, and all five starting lineman are coming back. From left to right, the blockers are Carter Warren, Marcus Minor, Owen Drexel, Jake Kradel and Gabe Huoy.

    However, the Panthers have depth, too. Matt Goncalves held a major role as a reserve tackle last season, and Blake Zubovic contributed at all three interior spots.

    Similar to Cincinnati, whether Pitt can rebuild the skill positions will determine its level of success in 2022. But this blocking unit will stabilize a new-look offense.

Big 12: Baylor Bears

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    If you haven't noticed a theme already, it's about to become clear. Baylor is also a defending conference champion with a bunch of experienced linemen.

    Left tackle Connor Galvin is the featured player after receiving third-team AP All-America recognition last season. Four more key contributors—center Jacob Gall, right guard Grant Miller and right tackles Khalil Keith and Gavin Byers—are back, too.

    Keith is likely to start at right tackle, placing Byers in a top reserve role. Mose Jeffery, who's expected to replace left guard Xavier Newman-Johnson, would be the only new first-stringer.

    The offensive line will drive Baylor's pursuit of a second consecutive Big 12 championship.

Big Ten: Michigan Wolverines

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    Michigan has a pair of vacancies after the departures of right tackle Andrew Stueber and center Andrew Vastardis.

    But it seems the Wolverines already have the answers.

    Most notably, they snagged Virginia transfer Olusegun Oluwatimi—a second-team All-ACC choice last season—to replace Vastardis. Right tackle will belong to either Trente Jones or Karsen Barnhart, though a timeshare is possible there.

    They'll slide in next to second-team All-Big Ten left tackle Ryan Hayes, left guard Trevor Keegan and right guard Zak Zinter.

    Michigan's unit took home the Joe Moore Award, which is given annually to the nation's top offensive line, in 2021. This season's group should again be a strong contender for the honor.

C-USA: UTSA Roadrunners

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    Gone is Sincere McCormick, the record-breaking runner who amassed 1,400-plus yards in consecutive seasons.

    His blockers are almost all back, though.

    Versatile guard Terrell Haynes, center Ahofitu Maka and right tackle Makai Hart landed All-Conference USA recognition last year. Kevin Davis played about half of the season at right guard, as well.

    While left tackle Spencer Burford leaves a sizable void, Demetris Allen stepped in for a start last season. He's competing with Ernesto Almaraz for the full-time job.

    Between this O-line, quarterback Frank Harris and a proven receiving corps, UTSA should have one of C-USA's most prolific offenses.

MAC: Toledo Rockets

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    Perceptions will change by October, of course. Sitting here in June, though, offensive line is a big question mark all around the MAC.

    Toledo finished just 7-6 last season and had an average year in pass protection, yet the offense paced the league in yards per carry and points per game. That's a good foundation with a fair bit of continuity up front.

    Mitchell Berg split time between left and right tackle in 2021, while Tyler Long started 12 games at right guard. Vinny Sciury and Michael Bergen shared the non-Berg snaps at right tackle, and 2020 starter Nick Rosi is back from injury.

    Given that defense is expected to be Toledo's strength, a high-level offensive line would probably send the Rockets to a conference title.

Mountain West: Air Force Falcons

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    Because the Falcons run a triple-option attack, their success is heavily dependent on the blocking unit.

    Spoiler alert: This unit can be fantastic.

    Last season, Air Force was a finalist for the Joe Moore Award. While right guard Hawk Wimmer and rotational right tackle Ryan Booth are gone, the rest of Air Force's offensive line is set to return.

    The first-string lineup will contain left tackle Everett Smalley and likely Kaleb Holcomb at right tackle. The interior group is less settled, though some combination of Isaac Cochran, Luke Hallstrom, Thor Paglialong and Ayden McCollough will typically be on the field.

    Finding the best five players is imperative, but Air Force has a variety of experienced options.

Pac-12: Oregon Ducks

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    Oregon must replace George Moore, but the Ducks still return five players who held substantial roles in 2021.

    In addition to first-team All-Pac-12 left tackle T.J. Bass and second-team center Alex Forsyth returning, guards Steven Jones and Ryan Walk are back alongside right tackle Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu. Dawson Jaramillo will be a key reserve again.

    That group of players, pending health, will handle the majority of the snaps. But if anyone gets hurt or struggles, eyeballs will be wandering toward a 5-star.

    Oregon snagged Josh Conerly Jr., who ranked 16th overall in the 2022 cycle. He could earn a top backup role quickly, especially since the Ducks lost four depth pieces to transfers.

SEC: Georgia Bulldogs

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    The short version? One way or another, Sam Pittman will probably deserve some recognition.

    Currently the head coach at Arkansas, he previously oversaw Georgia's offensive line. One of those two programs will likely have the SEC's best blocking unit in 2022. Arkansas is close behind, though our pick is UGA.

    Left tackle Jamaree Salyer and left guard Justin Shaffer are gone, but UGA has capable replacements. Broderick Jones occupied the LT spot for half of 2021, and Tate Ratledge initially won the right guard job before a foot injury ended his season in the opener.

    Additionally, both center Sedrick Van Pran-Grainger and right tackle Warren McClendon are locked-in starters.

    The main spot of intrigue is guard, where Ratledge and Warren Ericson are the favorites. But they'll have plenty of competition from Amarius Mims, Xavier Truss and Devin Willock.

Sun Belt: Appalachian State Mountaineers

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    Baer Hunter leaves a hole in the middle of the offensive line, but he's the lone departure from a unit that helped Appalachian State finish 10-4 last year.

    Left tackle Anderson Hardy, left guard Damion Daley, right guard Isaiah Helms and right tackle Cooper Hodges will reprise their roles in 2022. Hodges and Hardy earned first- and third-team All-Sun Belt recognition, too.

    Troy Everett, who redshirted but made three appearances in 2021, is the favorite to replace Hunter at center. Plus, veteran Luke Smith will be a key backup for the interior positions.

    The addition of four programs has heightened the level of competition in the Sun Belt, but this blocking unit should be a major part of App State remaining a top contender.

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    All recruiting information via 247Sports' composite. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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