Offensive Line

The Wolverines spent last fall attempting to find continuity here two weeks in a row. A youth movement, along with that lack of continuity, displayed a few dents in the Maize & Blue armor. Often, youth movements are also a precursor for more beneficial times, as we will soon see in Ann Arbor, where four of five "hulksters" return for '05. If accolades (solely) determine these rankings, Michigan is an easy choice for top billing. Four of the down linemen, if you include TE Tim Massaquoi, received all-Big Ten honors last December. Two of them, OT Adam Stenavich and OG Matt Lentz, are NationalChamps.net preseason all-Americans. Injuries severely continue to hamper this unit, even through the spring, as Stenavich has been seen flopping from left to right tackle while Jake Long is still ailing. Filling the center position (left void by David Bass) is the key. LG Reuben Riley has been getting reps now at center. If the position jockeying can stabilize, this group has the size and potential to take Michigan to even greater levels. You can argue statistics, but when looking at the 2004 season, most were wondering what the Wolverines were going to do with a lack of a big running back as Chris Perry departed. No problem, insert freshman Michael Hart and watch his Heisman campaign grow as this unit helped the team make their "run for the Roses".

Quarterbacks in/and the Jeff Tedford system are not the sole reason Cal has been so successful as of late. Most people don't realize how Cal had more TDs rushing (30) than they did passing (27). Try glancing at J.J. Arrington's numbers last fall (over 2000 yards rushing), or, for that matter, the team overall rushing statistics. Cal - one of only 12 (I-A) teams to consistently gain over five per try - averaged 6.1 yards per carry to lead the nation this way. Many of those eye-popping yards can easily be traced to their offensive front. As scary as this may sound, the next version is likely to be even better. Aside from the loss of OG Jonathan Giesel, four of five starters return and they are all upper classmen. Two seniors from this group are NationalChamps.net preseason all-Americans. Center Marvin Philip, who was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy last fall (started every single game), and OT Ryan O'Callaghan - with his big, bruising style of play - are primary reasons why you (will likely continue to) see RB Marshawn Lynch currently in our Top 20 Heisman list.

The surprise return of dominant OG Max Jean-Gilles (NC.net first-team all-American) only cemented this experienced unit as the Dawgs' strength. Jean-Gilles is a physical specimen whose work ethic ensures that he will be an Outland Trophy favorite. Every starter returns on this group of juniors and seniors that will be that much better in '05. Injuries to guards Josh Brock and Bartley Miller forced Nick Jones into a reshuffled lineup; he responded by being named SEC Offensive Lineman of the week vs. Kentucky as he started every game. Healthy, the line has two-deep quality everywhere. At an average of 6'5", 308, they'll be as big as anyone, too. Junior OT Daniel Inman is poised for stardom and all-SEC honors, as is TE Leonard Pope. Like Inman, Pope (NC.net first-teamer) is a monster at 6'7". His sticky hands make him the best target in the redzone after averaging a TD per game down the stretch in '04. The line will benefit from QB D.J. Shockley's speed so as to be among the best in sacks allowed.

Coach Mack Brown apparently saw the writing on the wall a few years ago as Texas continually failed to live up to preseason billings. Questions abounded concerning the team's physical toughness, and its front line comparisons to other elite Big XII units. They improved last year such that, once again, the expectations for this fall may be the most inflated since Coach Brown arrived. The front line unit(s) is/are a prime reason. Tackles Jonathan Scott (NC.net first-team all-American) and Justin Blalock are back, as are guards Kasey Studdard and Will Allen. The only player missing from this mammoth offensive line is center Jason Glynn. Offensive linemen don't rack up the personal numbers, but there is a stat that speaks volumes about this group - Texas was second nationally in rushing at 299.2 yards per game (the team's most since the Earl Campbell days). There will be no letdown, and in fact, the depth on this unit is the best on the team.

Southern California
If you're searching for even one weakness on the Trojans' offense, you should stop reading now. This line is still downright intimidating. After finishing in the top three in Pac-10 pass and rush offense, there's not much this line of supposed question marks won't continue to do well. Aggressiveness has led to improvement every year under Pete Carroll (a high of 4.7ypc in '04), and with the experience on Leinart's blindside, expect this crew to allow even fewer than (2004's total of) 25 sacks. As strong as senior RT Taitusi Latui is, he still has to take a back seat to a former preseason all-American, Winston Justice, who had been suspended all of last season. Added experience and chemistry, plus a 260lb. stud TE like Dominique Byrd (37 catches), makes this big unit impossible to dominate. Jeff Byers (yes, the 2003 Gatorade National H.S. Player of the Year as a center) is now a starting guard. Folks, this reigning two-time National Championship team has everyone back on the OL. While Matt Leinart may have skipped the draft and a chance to play for the 49'ers, we're not quite sure (on paper) if San Francisco could piece together a better front to play behind.

Just missed: Boston College, Louisiana State, Minnesota, Virginia Tech


May 23- Wide Receivers
May 16 - Offensive Line
May 12 - Defensive Backs
May 4 - Linebackers
April 28 - Defensive Line