RANKINGS - OFFENSIVE LINE
It was hard
to be impressed with Miami's offensive line last year considering
they didn't look as good as usual, but then again, even some NFL
lines didn't look as good as these hogs. Despite any drop off the
Canes' line did do a better job with run-blocking and were easily
one of the top offensive lines in college football last year. For
the 2003 season, things only get better. Everything starts off with
All-American candidate RT Vernon Carey. The 350-pound mauler might
very well be switched to guard. The reason for the switch has to
do with 6'7'' Eric Winston, now showcasing his athletic ability
at left tackle. Carlos Joseph moves from left tackle to right, and
Chris Myers, last year's starting guard, will be someone to keep
an eye out for. Looking to fill in at center will be Joel Rodriguez
who's seen plenty of time as a backup.
Why #1? While few teams can run block at Miami's level, none of
them can pass block as well.
It isn't by
coincidence that Auburn simply plugs in running backs and they all
succeed. Returning at left tackle will be 6'6'' Mark Pera. Opposite
Pera at right tackle is 6'9'' Marcus McNeil who had a sensational
freshman year in 2002. The versatile Danny Lindsey along side 350-pound
Monrenko Crittenden at the right guard spot leads the middle of
the line. Troy Reddick as the only lineman with no starting experience
at the other guard spot.
#2? Most of us are aware of Auburn's run blocking ability but how
many of us knew they gave up fewer sacks than Michigan's OL?
A big reason
for all of Alabama's success last year has to do with the sensational
play of their line, which allowed their running backs to run for
an outstanding 5.7 yards per carry average. Returning from this
unit is All-American Wesley Britt at left tackle with stand out
guard Justin Smiley and right tackle Evan Mathis. Filling in for
the departed Marico Portis will be 350-pound right guard Dennis
Alexander who saw action in every game over the last two seasons.
If there is reason for concern anywhere, it is clearly at center
where a lack of experience could be an early issue. Nevertheless,
look for Alabama to rival Auburn for best OL in the SEC.
Why #3? With a new offensive scheme, sack totals should decrease
while still being as dominant as ever on the ground. Their only
weakness could be depth in the interior.
have been made since the departure of Mark Magino. All credit should
go to coach Kevin Wilson. What was seen as a major weakness as early
as 2001 is now going to be the offense's biggest 2003 strength.
Returning starters Jammal Brown and Wes Simms make up the Big 12's
best pair of bookend tackles, and Vince Carter is one of the nations
most promising at center. Guards Davin Joseph and Kelvin Chaisson
look to become qualified full time starters.
#4? The Sooners should have no problems opening lanes up for Kejuan
Jones, but will keeping Jason White's jersey be a problem? Probably
only against the better defensive lines they face.
5. Southern Cal
This time last
year no one would have predicted it, but USC will finally field
a quality Offensive Line. The men from Troy (suburb of L.A.) hope
their monumental improvement from September to January will continue.
It should with four returning starters. At the tackle spots will
be the damaging duo of All-Conference tackle Jacob Rogers and freshman
All American Winston Justice. At center will be the versatile Norm
Katnik with Lenny Vandermade at left guard opposite freshman Fred
Matua, their best option at right guard.
#5? While this unit may not look as good as it is early on due to
some inexperience at quarterback and running back; it still should
pick up where it left off vs. Iowa
Just Missed: Boston College
Year after year, Boston College produces 1000-yard rushers and NFL
caliber lineman. Last year was no exception as the Eagles gave up
and impressively low total of 14 sacks while allowing 5'9'' scat
back Derrick Knight to rush for 1400+ yards. Despite losing 2 starters,
the Eagles return one of the countries best guards in Chris Snee
and two solid starters in right guard Augie Hoffmann and left tackle
Leo Bell. Sophomore Pat Ross will fill in nicely at center, as Keith
Leavitt moves back to right tackle after seeing some action on the
Could be there: Michigan
While the individual
talent on the Michigan line is top notch, their performance as a
whole must improve. What was once a staple in the Michigan offense,
their dominating ground attack, has of late been rather nonexistent.
With three excellent starters returning from last year's line, look
for an improvement on a mediocre 3.8 yards per rushing attempt.
Making up the returning starters are All-Big Ten and All-American
candidates Tony Pape at right tackle and David Baas coming back
at left guard. At center, David Pearson returns for his senior year
along with sophomores Matt Lentz at left guard, and Adam Stenavich
at left tackle