Have you ever seen a good team with a bad offensive line? What about a bad team with a good offensive line? Any offensive player worth his weight that excels in the spotlight will tell you it is the guys in the trenches who keyed their success.
With that introduction out of the way here are our top five offensive linemen from the Big 12 over the last decade. We’d like to offer a huge thanks to our guest writers who chimed in on this one.
Of course we also want to give you the opportunity to let us know where you agree or disagree. Drop a note in the comments section and let us know where we may have missed out.
Gabe Ikard – Oklahoma
Ikard was the guy who literally could do it all. A two-way player in high school (Bishop McGuinness – OKC) , he was listed as the 15th best tight end prospect in the nation by Rivals for the class of 2009. He was also named the Little All-City Defensive Player of the Year by the Oklahoman. He would play neither of those positions for the Sooners though.
As a redshirt freshman he started 12 games at left guard for Oklahoma during the 2010 season. In 2011 he played the first three games at left guard and then moved to center for seven before ultimately coming back to left guard for the final three games. His versatility along the line earned him first team All-Big 12.
He finished his career at the center position, earning first team honors again in 2012 and 2013 to become just one of three offensive linemen over the last decade to be named as a three-time first team All-Big 12 player.
Dalton Risner – Kansas State
Risner was a good player from the moment he arrived at K-State. He started every regular-season game of his career. He was recruited as a true center prospect, and he excelled at that position as a freshman. Team needs forced him to right tackle, where he showed his versatility by developing into one of the best linemen in the Big 12. K-State fans remember him for setting the edge on runs and RPOs on a team that was committed to running the ball and for literally dragging runners into the end zone, refusing to let them be stonewalled. In the passing game, rarely gave up as much as a quarterback pressure, much less a sack. Opposing players could neither outsmart nor out-physical Risner. He won post-season awards all four years of his career and was just the fourth offensive lineman in Big 12 history to earn first team all-conference honors in three consecutive seasons. Dalton was a determined player, and he proved it at two positions.
K-State fans also remember Risner for his determination to lead and to care about the community. His teammates elected him team captain three times. He volunteered regularly at Buttonwood Special Needs Home and was a Big Brother to a child with leukemia, He formed his RiseUp foundation to promote good works while he was still in college. None of it was for show. He always set a positive example. He was effusively cheerful and said that of all his accolades, he was proudest of being named a finalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award. K-State fans know the statement was not empty pandering; he really meant it. Above all,Risner was a genuine, good person–unselfish, honest and focused on the greater good in everything he did as a Wildcat. He might have epitomized Coach Bill Snyder’s familiar “16 goals for success,” which are really goals for life as much as for sports, more than any other player who ever played at K-State.
Another thing we’ll all remember is Dalton catching a touchdown pass on a tackle-eligible play on Senior Day. It was set up beautifully, with Risner catching the ball just behind the line of scrimmage and sprinting 11 yards to the end zone, daring Texas Tech Red Raiders to stick their noses in and tackle a rampaging giant. Alas, it was nullified by an illegal touching penalty. Fist-shake at you, Big 12 Refs. – Written by Luke Sobba from Bring on the Cats
Orlando Brown – Oklahoma
Starting off his collegiate career as a surprise signee with the Oklahoma Sooners, Orlando Brown entered the next phase of his life with elite size. Quickly developing into a formidable force, the offensive lineman quickly garnered attention in pass protection capabilities. Essentially removing pass rushers from the game regardless of tactic, Brown elevated his game to new heights. Utilizing angles and arm length like no other player in recent memory, Brown remains one of the best to ever play in the Big 12 at the position. – Written by Rich DeCray from Heartland Sports
Lane Taylor – Oklahoma State
Offensive linemen are easily the most underrated players in all of American football. They do a lot of work in the trenches so that skill players can get the glory. Great quarterbacks know who the real heroes are, and running backs that pile up the stats know better than to let the big fellas up front go without some appreciation.
Lane Taylor is truly an unheralded hero for Oklahoma State football from the last decade. Taylor started on the front line for the Cowboys as a freshman in 2009 making an impact early. He was eventually a part of one of the greatest Oklahoma State football teams of all time as he helped the Cowboys to a 12-1 record as a junior in 2011, and he was selected as First Team All-Big 12 as a senior in 2012. – Written by Zachary Low from Heartland Sports
Kelechi Osemele – Iowa State
Kelechi Osemele rightfully deserves to be on the All-Decade Team, even if he only actually played a couple seasons in the decade. He was the most dominant run blocker in the league during his career for a team that punched above its weight class in the running game. His pass protection was more than good enough as well, but his explosion in the running game is what vaulted him to early-round NFL draft status. His physical explosion of the line and his impressive upper body strength was overwhelming enough to send most defensive ends backward right off the snap. He’s probably the greatest offensive lineman in Iowa State history and a talent that would transcend generations due to his dominance in the run game. Until Iowa State has a top tier offensive line, he’s the guy that most well-informed Cyclones would take from the past to put on their current team. It’s really a shame that he wasn’t featured on more successful teams, as he likely should have been considered for an Outland Trophy or two during his career. – Written by Levi Stevenson from Wide Right And Natty Lite
Spencer Drango – Baylor | A two-time selection for Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year (2014, 2015), Drango had the highest pass-blocking efficiency in college football according to Pro Football Focus. He allowed only three quarterback hurries, and just a single QB hit—against Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah—all season, giving him a nation-leading 99.2 pass blocking efficiency.
Nate Solder – Colorado | Like Gabe Ikard, Solder was recruited as a tight end, took a redshirt his freshman year of college and then switched positions. After starting on the offensive line for his final three seasons of college he bulked up from 6-7/230 as a freshman to 6-9/305 as a senior. In 2010 he was named as a finalists for the Outland Trophy.
That’s it for our offensive line selections. Let us know where we hit or missed.
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