College Football Position U: Offensive Line U
Welcome back to college football's Position U series.
Earlier in the offseason, Bleacher Report writers David Kenyon and Kerry Miller kicked off the series and detailed the college programs that have generated the most productive NFL players at the five positions listed below:
The series now continues with offensive linemen.
At every position, the discussion has several possible angles. Is your preference total NFL alumni? The number of players drafted from a certain position group? Actual NFL production? All of these measures are reasonable to use as a guide.
Throughout the Position U series, B/R's focus has remained on the third definition. While the total number of players was considered, on-field NFL production since 1970 shaped the final order.
Alabama Crimson Tide
John Hannah and Dwight Stephenson blocked their way into the Hall of Fame. Alabama also has longtime standouts Chris Samuels and Evan Mathis on the list of alumni. Since 2007—the start of the Nick Saban era—the program has produced Andre Smith, James Carpenter, D.J. Fluker and Ryan Kelly, among others.
Boston College Eagles
From about 1970-2005, Boston College seemingly had a longtime pro every few years. The list goes from John Fitzgerald, Tom Condon and Don Macek to Dave Widell, Tom Nalen and Ron Stone. In the last two decades, recognizable names include Damien Woody, Dan Koppen, Chris Snee and Anthony Castonzo. Overall, BC has five Pro Bowlers and two All-Pros in Nalen and Snee.
Lomas Brown, Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Pouncey have combined for 19 of the program's 20 Pro Bowl honors. Five others—Dan Fike, David Williams, Jeff Mitchell, Cooper Carlisle and Max Starks—notched 90-plus starts, and Marcus Gilbert should join them in 2020. It also helps to have Trent Brown, D.J. Humphries, Jonotthan Harrison, Jawaan Taylor and Jon Halapio currently in the NFL.
John Niland, Jay Hilgenberg, Mark Bortz and John Alt each reached multiple Pro Bowls during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. After a bit of a quiet period, Iowa has reclaimed a place in this conversation. Marshal Yanda, Bryan Bulaga, Riley Reiff and Brandon Scherff have developed into respected pros, and the next wave includes Austin Blythe and James Daniels.
LSU has a decent case for a higher spot. Kevin Mawae is a Hall of Famer, and Alan Faneca might be headed to Canton, too. Current linemen Andrew Whitworth and Trai Turner have combined for nine Pro Bowl trips. Dan Alexander, Todd McClure and Lance Smith all started at least 165 games in 12-plus-year careers.
Will Shields is the undisputed standout with 12 Pro Bowls, two All-Pro trips and one Hall of Fame bust. He's joined in Canton by Bob Brown and Mick Tingelhoff, who thrived in the 1970s. Richie Incognito has four Pro Bowls to his name, while Keith Bishop and Carl Nicks achieved two apiece. Dominic Raiola started 203 games.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
What the Irish lack in Hall of Fame recognition, they atone for in depth. Ten alums tallied 100-plus NFL starts, including Bob Kuechenberg and George Kunz—six- and eight-time Pro Bowlers, respectively. Zack Martin is approaching the 100-start mark and is a four-time All-Pro guard. And the group of current pros—Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson, Nick Martin and Mike McGlinchey—is stellar.
Mike Webster has a place in the Hall of Fame, and Joe Thomas should unquestionably be headed there, too. They headline a list of Wisconsin alums who enjoyed long NFL careers. Past standouts include Paul Gruber, Mark Tauscher and Jeff Dellenbach. Familiar current players are Kevin Zeitler, Ryan Ramczyk, Ricky Wagner, Rob Havenstein and the recently retired Travis Frederick.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State's depth of talent is ridiculous.
Jim Lachey and Hall of Fame tackle Orlando Pace both earned three All-Pro honors, while Pace and Nick Mangold landed seven Pro Bowl nods. Beyond that trio, eight more appeared in a Pro Bowl, and Andrew Norwell was an All-Pro choice.
Overall, the Buckeyes have 19 alumni with 80-plus NFL starts. Taylor Decker is trending in that direction, and both Pat Elflein and Billy Price have a respectable chance to join the group.
2. Michigan Wolverines
In every decade since the AFL-NFL merger, a former Michigan lineman has starred at the professional level.
The 1970s boasted Hall of Famers in Dan Dierdorf and Tom Mack, as well as 13-year starter Reggie McKenzie. The 1980s featured Mike Kenn—a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro—before Jon Runyan and his 192 starts in the 1990s and 2000s.
Steve Hutchinson put together a Hall of Fame career in the 2000s, and four-time Pro Bowl tackle Jake Long entered the NFL as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft. Over the last half-decade, Taylor Lewan has developed into a top tackle.
Other notable players are Jeff Backus, Jumbo Elliott, Jon Jansen and Jonathan Goodwin, who each started at least 122 games. Jon Giesler, Bubba Paris and Maurice Williams all reached 100 starts, too.
1. USC Trojans
USC's history of offensive linemen is absolutely stacked with elite talents, All-Pros and longtime contributors.
Bruce Matthews, Anthony Munoz and Ron Yary each have a plaque at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They combined for 32 Pro Bowl nods and 22 All-Pro honors in their illustrious careers.
Tyron Smith should have a case to join that group, boasting seven Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams. Regardless of that outcome, he's accompanied by All-Pro linemen Marvin Powell, Tony Boselli and Ryan Kalil and Pro Bowlers in Roy Foster, Don Mosebar and Matt Kalil.
Keith Van Horne, Ken Ruettgers, Derrick Deese and Steve Riley each started 127-plus games in the NFL.