It’s that time again! As we try to navigate through the next two months that lead up to the start of the college football season we’ll be looking through the various Big 12 position rankings and discussing which teams have advantages and which teams have a lot of work to do. As always we’ll start with the big money position and discuss the signal callers.
This time around the Heartland Sports writers give their take on the offensive lines across the conference, ranking them from first to worst. Then they are asked to defend their top three and bottom two rankings.
The consensus rankings below come from a points system. A first place selection is worth 10 points, second place is 9 points, and they continue in descending order with tenth place equaling 1 point.
|Heartland Sports Consensus Offensive Line Rankings|
|2. Iowa State||34|
|4. Kansas State||29|
|5. Texas Tech||22|
|7. Oklahoma State||16|
|8. West Virginia||12|
Unanimity – We agreed across the board on two offensive line units. We agreed that Oklahoma was #1 and Kansas was #10. Everything in between seems to be debatable.
Almost Agreed – We were really close with agreeing across the board with TCU at #5 and Texas Tech at #6. However, one “off vote” for each resulted in the two schools tying for #5. We were also pretty close to being unanimous with Baylor at #9…which is where they eventually ended up.
All Over The Place – We weren’t really out of sync much with this set of rankings. We did seem to have some trouble trying to figure out where Oklahoma State and West Virginia belong. Each of them received votes for three different placements.
Individual Thoughts And Rankings
1. Oklahoma | Sooner football is notorious for cranking out NFL-level offensive linemen. As if they weren’t going to be good enough this season with 3 returning starters (all seniors), including Marquise Hayes, a preseason All-Big 12 selection, Oklahoma will start Wanya Morris, a transfer from Tennessee who is also a preseason All-Big 12 pick.
2. Iowa State | The Cyclones follow the Sooners as a close second for top offensive line in the conference. The Iowa State offensive line is extremely experienced, and Trevor Downing and Colin Newell are both preseason All-Big 12 selections. Newell was an All-Big 12 selection last season, and Downing had a fantastic freshman year in 2019 before getting injured in last year’s season opener. Also, don’t forget about Derek Schweiger, a senior right guard who was a Second Team All-Big 12 selection last year.
3. Kansas State | The Wildcats rarely have a high-powered offense, but one thing they do well is protect their quarterback and move the ball on the ground. Kansas State returns their entire starting offensive line, a group that gave up just 14 sacks in 10 games last season.
5. Texas Tech
7. Oklahoma State
8. West Virginia
9. Baylor | The Bears didn’t have the worst offensive line in the Big 12 last season, but that’s only because Kansas was literally one of the worst in the country. They finished last in the conference in running the ball, and they gave up 31 sacks in 9 games, but there is a silver lining in the fact that they have 2 seniors and 2 graduate transfers starting for them.
10. Kansas | The Jayhawks allowed 47 sacks in 9 games last season, an average of 5.22 per game, nearly a half a sack worse than any other team in Division I-A football. With 3 senior starters on the front line, Kansas can hope for improvement, but it’s hard to see them getting THAT much better in just one year.
1. Oklahoma | The Sooners will be returning 3 starters from their offensive line a year ago. In addition, they picked up Tennessee transfer Wayna Morris. Oklahoma has had one of the best O-lines in the country for several years now. I strongly feel like the same will be true for the 2021 season.
2. Texas | The Longhorns made some coaching staff moves during the summer. With Steve Sarkisian coming from Alabama, he brought over his offensive line coach Kyle Flood. He will be walking into a great situation with four starters returning from a year ago. Texas was able to run the ball extremely well last season thanks to their offensive line. It should be no surprise to see them have similar success this year.
3. Iowa State | Iowa State will have arguably the most experienced O-line in the Big 12. In total, their offensive line has a combined 93 starts. Colin Newell will lead the way in the trenches coming off of an All-Big 12 first team selection in 2020. They aren’t the most talented bunch, but they work together efficiently.
5. Kansas State
6. Oklahoma State
7. Texas Tech
9. West Virginia | The West Virginia coaching staff has their work cutout with their O-line in 2021. They are one of the most unproven groups in the conference. They’ve definitely got some guys they can develop in Zach Frazier and transfer Doug Nester. However, only time will tell if these guys can mesh and turn into a great line.
10. Kansas | The Jayhawks have struggled in the trenches for many years now. This year they will be returning some experience. That being said, that returning experience gave up over 5 sacks per game last season. They are sure to make improvements this year, but will it be enough?
1. Oklahoma – The Sooners may not have put up the best averages on the ground in 2020. However, it wasn’t due to a lack of talent in the trench. Returning three starters from last year alongside a couple of transfers ready to play, this group appears to be the strongest of the conference. Given Bill Bedenbaugh’s track record, this is a group that could be one of the best in the country by season’s end.
2. Iowa State – Anchored by All-Conference Selections Colin Newell and Derek Schweiger, the Cyclones averaged over five yard per carry on the ground. Pacing the rest of the league with only 14 sacks surrendered, this is a group that should be one of the most experienced in the country. It may not have the same talent as some others but talent doesn’t always win the battle. Look out for a hungry group on the line this year from ISU.
3. Kansas State – A group that felt the most pressure due to the loss of the starting QB, KSU’s line refused to give up. Noah Johnson earned All-Conference honors and all five starters are returning which includes Josh Rivas. The experienced set of individuals also surrender only a league best 14 sacks — albeit over 10 games. It speaks volumes of the tradition and the expectations at the position moving forward.
5. Texas Tech
7. Oklahoma State
8. West Virginia
9. Baylor – This group gave up a whopping 31 sacks last year through nine games. It’s the second worst number in the conference. Additionally BU ranked last in yards per carry. Inconsistent at best, this group has only one way to go…up!
10. Kansas – The expectation around KU football is for each position to struggle. It’s not different at the offensive line as rebuilding the group is a tall task.
1. Oklahoma | Last year was deemed to be a bit of a down year for Oklahoma’s offensive line but by season’s end PFF had them ranked as the No. 8 offensive line in the country. The Sooners return a ton of talent along the line (including three senior starters) and Bill Bedenbaugh went to the transfer portal to bring in reinforcements in Wayna Morris (Tennessee transfer) and Robert Congel (Arizona transfer).
2. Texas | This is where Steve Sarkisian must lay the foundation of his Longhorn rebuild. Texas will be breaking in a new quarterback in 2021 and a strong offensive line will go a long way towards the overall success of the new general on the field. With four returning starters ready to go this fall Sark should have the least concerns about this unit than any other on the offensive side of the ball.
3. Iowa State | The Cyclones are also going to be incredibly strong up front in 2021 and the gap isn’t huge between them and Oklahoma. Center Colin Newell, a member of the All-Big 12 First Team last season, and Derek Schweiger, was a Second Team selection in 2020.
4. Kansas State
5. Texas Tech
7. West Virginia
8. Oklahoma State
9. Baylor | This offensive line actually rivaled Kansas for the worst in the conference last year and both schools have a lot to prove as they enter the 2021 football season. Offensive success for these programs literally rides on the shoulders of the men up front.
10. Kansas | I’m not changing my stance on Kansas. Until the Jayhawks prove it on the field they will be last in every single one of my position rankings.
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