Regardless of how many quality players you have at the offensive skill positions they're only going to be as good as the offensive linemen allows them to be. If they're unable to block, create holes and wear down their defensive counterparts then you, as a fan, are in for a long afternoon or even worse a long season. Today's Friday Forum focuses on ranking the big uglies of the Big 12.
Look out for the Big 12 North's big uglies (no offense intended to any former/current O-lineman in our audience)! The top four spots go to the North Division, two of which I would venture to say are pretty big surprise.
1. Missouri - With four of five returning starters and considerable talent at both tackle spots and at center, Mizzou takes the top spot on my list. Somewhere Derrick Washington and Blaine Gabbert have big smiles on their faces.
2. Nebraska - Nobody that just jumps up and grabs you, but in the mold of the great Husker lines of the past a group that just gets the job done. A little undersized at a couple spots (center being one), this line will need to be consistent in opening up lanes for the talented backfield because they learned last year they cannot rely on whoever winds up at QB.
3. Colorado - This ranking is mainly due to all five starters returning, but that does not mean the Buffs don't have talent across the O-line. LT Nate Solder has the potential to be one of the better tackles in the conference.
4. Iowa State - The Cyclones return four starters and have considerable size across the front line as well. They have several versatile guys who could shift to another spot should injuries dictate and that can be invaluable.
5. Oklahoma - The dreaded "potential" word abounds when it comes to OU's offensive line. There is certainly no shortage of talent and after all the injuries last year, they come in more experienced than expected. However, they're going to have to prove it on the field before they deserve consideration any higher than this spot. That said, I believe we see significant improvement across the line in 2010 and it could even become on of the team's main strengths.
6. Texas A&M - Very similar situation to OU, meaning they have the potential to be very good but could just as easily struggle. Mike Sherman has snagged several highly regarded O-line recruits in the last couple years and 2010 could be the year the Aggies start to see the dividends from the recruiting trail.
7. Texas - I know most UT fans are of the opinion they don't rebuild they reload, but they would be mistaken when discussing their offensive line heading into 2010. Between the inexperience of the replacements and the shift in offensive philosophy, those not in denial should expect the UT line to struggle throughout the season. Projected starter Tray Allen's offseason injury certainly doesn't help things either.
8. Kansas State - Four of five guys back who have to do one thing well, block for RB Daniel Thomas. Seriously though, K-State will have to pass the ball eventually and they will have the bodies to do it. Coach Snyder is known for liking massive offensive linemen and the line definitely fits that bill (not one starter under 300 lbs.)
9. Kansas - The Jayhawks line struggled throughout most of last year, but they were young and inexperienced. The experienced gain from last year has created a sense of optimism for KU headed into 2010 and considering what they lost at the skill positions on offense, they'll take confidence wherever they can find it.
10. Baylor - As long as they can keep their star QB from getting murdered, do they really have to do anything else?
11. Texas Tech - Coach Tubbs will have his hands full trying to mold the O-line into guys who don't just line up five yards apart from each other and have a seven yard head start in pass protection because the QB is in the gun every single down.
12. Oklahoma State - The Pokes were decimated by graduation and have to replace almost everyone across the O-line. They've got some JUCO kids, some kids who've been shuffled around, basically they've got some serious trouble when it comes to the guys up front.
1. Missouri - I have to agree with JTE on this one, the Tigers are tops in the Big 12. Missouri returns four starters from last season and they're all juniors and seniors. This group only gave up 20 sacks in 2009 and the key to them remaining productive in 2010 will be the ability of Austin Wuebbels to return to form after shoulder surgery.
2. Nebraska - The Huskers also have four returning starters but the Tigers got the nod because Nebraska is doing a bit of reshuffling along the line. Mike Smith seems to be out at left tackle and JUCO transfer Jermarcus Hardrick in.
3. Kansas State - You didn't think that JTE and I were going to agree on everything did you? The Wildcats have four of running back Daniel Thomas' friends returning up front this year. Unfortunately they don't have much of anything else coming back.
4. Oklahoma - The good news is that this group couldn't be more disappointing than they were last season. While the hope is that they allow the offense to thrive once again there isn't a lack of talent to work with. The Sooners have six guys back this season with starting experience.
5. Kansas - In a good news/bad news situation the Jayhawks have all five of their starters back from 2009. What they're hoping is that they've bulked up and learned how to work as a cohesive unit since then.
6. Texas - The Longhorns lost the entire left side of their line from last season and only return two starters overall. Kyle Hix and Michael Huey are talented but will have to adjust to moving from the right to the left side of the line, The good news for Texas is that their o-line will feature six seniors.
7. Iowa State - The Cyclones are yet another group with four returning starters back in 2010. There's some shuffling going on there as well including moving Ben Lamaak from guard to center.
8. Texas A&M - The Aggies only return two starters from `09 and are looking like they'll have freshmen playing the tackles.
9. Texas Tech - The left side of the line and the center position has been reshuffled and the right side still seems to be unsettled.
10. Colorado - The Buffs are the only team in the conference to return all five starters on the line but the problem is that they were the worst line in the Big 12 last season.
11. Baylor - All five of Baylor's o-linemen are 300-plus in pounds. I wonder how fast they are?
12. Oklahoma State - Sophomore Lane Taylor is the Cowboys lone returning starter from 2009.