As we close out our rankings for the offenses in the Big 12 we come to the unit that is often the deciding factor between a win or a loss. Whether it’s needing to protect the quarterback for that extra second, or pounding forward for three feet on fourth and one, the line is often the unsung hero or visible goat in the success or failure of an offense.
For the fourth time we have a unanimous selection for the top unit in the Big 12 Conference. Oklahoma becomes the first team to gain two top spots in our rankings (the Sooners also had the top spot at quarterback) as all four of the Heartland writes voted them number one. Beyond that we have a little disagreement on filling out the remainder of our top four, but we all agree that Texas Tech and Iowa State may be in a lot of trouble.
The points system was based on value of the vote. For example, a first-place vote was worth 10 points, second-place 9, third 8, and so on. Below the rankings is how our staff voted and some of their logic in doing so.
|Consensus Preseason OL Rankings|
— Kevin Brown (@nfldraftnik) July 14, 2017
The Sooners are stacked along the O-Line. They are returning 8 players with starting experience. Led by Orlando Brown, the front for Oklahoma is primed for success. The return of Cody Ford from injury will also greatly help the Sooners.
Kansas State has some great returning talent up front as well. Dalton Risner changed over to the right tackle position from center last season. This is a great option for the Wildcats to have in case of injury, as they have a guy who can play multiple positions. Abdul Beechman and Tyler Mitchell are two perfect guys for the running style of the Wildcats offense.
TCU comes in at number 3 on my list because of their experience. They are not only returning 6 players, but they are also all seniors. The Horned Frogs should have no problems keeping the QB safe this season.
The Red Raiders will be one of the youngest teams in the conference when it comes to the offensive line. They will rely on true freshman Jack Anderson to pick up some of the slack at the right tackle position.
Iowa State had four seniors last season, which means they have only one returning starter this year. The Cyclones could move up on this list at the end of the season if Jack Campos returns healthy from his injury last year.
There isn’t a school in the conference, and very few around the country, that can match Oklahoma’s depth and talent at the offensive line. Bill Bedenbaugh has done a fantastic job at developing, and stockpiling, “big uglies.” Led by All American Orlando Brown this unit is set as the best in the Big 12.
TCU, Texas, & Kansas State are all close to one another on the tier just below Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs have six seniors among their two-deep, making them the most experienced o-line in the conference.
Give me Texas with just a slight edge over Kansas State due to the Connor Williams factor. Behind OU’s Orlando Brown, Williams is the second best NFL prospect in the Big 12 along the o-line. He’s joined upfront by experience as well with Patrick Vahe and Zach Shackelford.
At the bottom of the list you could flip a coin between Iowa State and Texas Tech. Both of them are in dire straits and needing new faces to produce from day one. I’ve got the Cyclones last based solely on the fact that they are replacing four seniors from last year’s team.
Not many programs can match the talent the Oklahoma Sooners possess along the offensive line. With eight players gaining starting experience, not many can match the playing experience either. With Orlando Brown and Bobby Evans leading the charge, this unit appears to be one of the best not only in the conference but also the nation. Coming in behind Oklahoma is TCU for many of the same reasons — experience and depth. However, the Horned Frogs lack the talent level of the aforementioned Sooners.
To round out the top three, Kansas State will lean heavily on Dalton Risner. Expected to mesh well with youngsters like Scott Frantz once again on the field, the Wildcats have more than a handful of viable options in the trenches. In the system Bill Synder employs, fans can always count on a solid front line.
The bottom two are nearly interchangeable. Texas Tech looks toward an inexperience line to protect a quarterback in a pass happy system. It will be their success or their demise throughout the entire season. However, Iowa State isn’t in a much better situation. With one starter returning, how quickly can the newcomers settle into their roles on every single down?
The Sooners sit atop the conference in terms of talent on the offensive line, and it is pretty obvious why. Orlando Brown is one of the best offensive lineman in the country, which makes sense considering he has started all 26 games the last two seasons for Oklahoma. Along with Brown, the rest of last year’s starting frontmen return, so they should have no issue protecting quarterback Baker Mayfield and making a path for running the ball.
Kansas State falls in at number two due primarily to returning All-Big 12 offensive lineman Dalton Risner, who is already on the watch list for the Outland Trophy, which goes to the nation’s best offensive lineman. This Wildcat squad likes to run the ball, and the guys up front have plenty of experience from last season to continue with their dominance.
TCU has one of the most proven offensive lines in the country as they return six seniors who will start or at least see heavy play time. These big men have played a lot of time together, so while the rest of the offense is a bit of a question mark, this group should do a solid job at protecting the quarterback.
Texas Tech’s offensive line is questionable at best, and there is not a lot of experience to go around. True freshman Jack Anderson will likely start unless Nebraska graduate transfer Dwayne Johnson can work his way into the starting lineup, so the Red Raiders cannot feel too confident about protecting their quarterback in a traditionally pass-first (or maybe even pass-only) offense.
Iowa State falls to the bottom as they return only one starter in center Julian Good-Jones. If the newcomers for the Cyclones don’t get comfortable quickly, the offense could struggle to find the end zone.
|Heartland’s 2017 BIG 12 Preseason OL Rankings|
|Kansas State||TCU||TCU||Kansas State|
|Oklahoma State||Oklahoma State||Oklahoma State||Oklahoma State|
|Baylor||West Virginia||Baylor||West Virginia|
|West Virginia||Baylor||West Virginia||Baylor|
|Texas Tech||Texas Tech||Iowa State||Texas Tech|
|Iowa State||Iowa State||Texas Tech||Iowa State|