Last week, I wrote a little bit about the difficulty in determining the general usefulness of a TE. Specifically, for a position that has multiple uses and skills, it is extremely difficult to say who is the best by a fair and objective criteria. Specifically, we like to talk up the guys with lots of catches and touchdowns, but we often overlook those who block, take up space, and make life difficult for Defensive Coordinators.
Today I am embarking on Offensive Line (by myself, so feel free to mock my personal lack of football watching), and it has a similar difficulty for me. First off, it is probably unfair to put all Linemen in the same category, but for the sake of both time, and my sanity, I wanted to group them all together and kind of rank based on what I have read going into this year and what little I remember/know from last year. There is a chance I forgot someone as there aren't a ton of schools represented here, but I do have some reasons up front for that. Here are those reasons before I get to much further:
- Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, and Purdue are just confusing to me on the Offensive Line. All four looked to be disjointed at times last season, and there just isn't a lot of returning, 'jumps out at you' players in my opinion. I mean, I don't watch enough of any of these teams to say that with 100% certainty that there is nobody that deserves to be here, but I think that between some changes in coaches, some uncertainty about offensive identity, and really not a ton of starpower, these teams just miss out on sending players to this list.
- I am putting Minnesota in a slightly different category as I think they have some talent, but not quite enough to make this list. They're more of a good line that should be pretty good this season, but still don't have a single player that I think is good enough to make the cut. Again, I am probably wrong about this, but since we're trying to narrow this down to the best of the best, I'm not putting a Gopher on here.
- Northwestern is just going to be replacing everyone it seems. They always have some guards who can get out and run, and I think they can probably replace some talent that graduated. Still, since I couldn't come up with any names and there doesn't seem to be any huge buzz that would make me think otherwise, I'm going to just assume Northwestern's line is just okay. Once again, I'm prepared to be yelled at.
So with that in mind, let's take a look at the best of the best Offensive Linemen in the B1G this next year. So uh, yeah, feel free to yell at me if you don't like my picks...
1. Taylor Lewan (OT) @TaylorLewan77
So here's the thing with Lewan. First off, he probably should have gone to the NFL last year because he could be making like $20 Million or so. He's already a Top 15 player, and there's a strong chance he will repeat as the best OL in the B1G. He's an All-American. The thing is, he wanted to play another year and have fun. I cannot blame him for any of this because he's a young guy still, and there is an excellent chance he's going to make bank next year still. I don't need to say much about him being number one because let's all be honest, he deserves the spot.
2. Spencer Long (OG)
Okay, this is more than just a homer pick. Long is an All-American caliber lineman with accolades from the media, coaches, and pretty much everyone who watched football (which might not include me, but I digress). Nebraska is an active offense that requires a ton from their Guards, and Long is somebody that rises to the occasion. He's a big reason Nebraska's rush offense was so destructive at times, and honestly, he brings a lot to the table for NFL scouts. The Huskers look to have a strong offense is 2013, and a big part of that success will be focused on Long leading the offensive line.
3. John Urschel (OG) @mathmeetsfball
He was the Penn State player representative on the Spring conference call for the Leader's division, he was an All-B1G Offensive Lineman, and he loves math. There are just a lot of reasons to like him, and as BOB puts his schemes into a more complicated place this year - in theory - it will be wonderful to have an anchor at Guard who can get out and run block, and stay back and pass block. Last year's Penn State team was not messing around on offense, and the ability to turn the tempo up depends on guys like Urschel stepping up to the plate. He was quite willing, and I expect him to make a strong case for being drafted next year. Did I mention he loves math? Because that's still awesome.
4. Andrew Norwell (OG)
This list is certainly heavy with experienced starters. Norwell is a standout on the Buckeye line (ugh, that sounds like something a SID would say, doesn't it?), and with Urban's offensive machine preparing to go into year two, one can only assume Norwell will be featured even more. There is very little I can say about his technique because I did not carefully watch his every move, but he was another one of those all-conference guys who stands out, so let's just leave it at that.
5. Ryan Groy (OT/OG) @disGROYer79
What list would be complete without a Wisconsin lineman on it? Seriously, these guys seem to grow on trees in Maidson, and Groy is another one of those dudes you'll see on Sundays one day. He's fast, he's strong, he's smart, and he is violent on the field. Also, his twitter handle is disGROYer! But yeah, Wisconsin seems to be in good hands up front again, and this Senior leader will be a huge cog in Gary Andersen installing his newer spread offense in Madison. Can Groy continue to excel at Tackle like he has at Guard? That remains to be seen, but he has all the tools to succeed. I'm guessing those backs in Wisconsin don't mind running behind guys like Groy.
Next Man Up: Jason Spriggs (OT) @jason_spriggs
WHAT IS THIS SORCERY THAT HAS INDIANA INCLUDED ON EVERY POSITION SO FAR?!?!?!
Okay, glad that I got that out of my system. Spriggs locked down the Left Tackle position for the Hoosiers as a Freshman last year, and he got some love from various places around the media-world for his ability to pave the way for a pretty impressive Indiana offense. Now a Sophomore - and more of a known quantity - Spriggs has the chance to really make some noise for a team that nobody will be overlooking anymore. Next year at this time, I fully expect Spriggs to be on the Top Five. Of course, that's generally what happens when you're an underclassmen on a list like this.