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Spring Fling 2015: Big Ten's Best Offensive Linemen

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It was a banner year on offense for the B1G, with multiple power programs setting new school records. Ballcarriers and throwy and catchy guys are cute and all, but nobody runs or passes for so much as a yard without creases to hit and protection to stand in.

I'm not going to tell him how goofy that helmet looks. You see how big that dude is?
I'm not going to tell him how goofy that helmet looks. You see how big that dude is?
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

1. OT Jack Conklin, RS Junior, Michigan State

The latest Dantonio diamond-in-a-coal-mine special, Conklin went from less-than-anonymous recruit headed to prep school to a grayshirt to taking over the starting left tackle spot to projecting as a first-round NFL pick. In his career, he's seen the likes of Randy Gregory, Joey Bosa, DeForrest Buckner, and Shawn Oakman line up across from him, yet his career sacks allowed can be counted on one hand and he consistently grades out at an elite level. He and center Jack Allen will be cornerstones of the Spartan front line, and could allow MSU to match or surpass last year's school-best offensive numbers.

2. OT Jason Spriggs, Senior, Indiana

Pressed into starting duty as a true freshman in 2012 due to the dire state of Indiana's roster on Kevin Wilson's arrival, Spriggs proved from his first snap to be one of the rare offensive line prospects ready for duty without benefit of a redshirt. Accolades have eluded him, presumably due to the fog of anonymity which generally hangs over Hoosier football. However, consensus 1st team All-B1G RB Tevin Coleman doesn't make it to 2,000 yards without a talent like Spriggs to run behind. Indiana struggled badly after Nate Sudfeld's injury, but Spriggs wasn't responsible for pre-snap reads or going through progressions.

3. OG Pat Elflein, RS Junior, Ohio State

Elflein was thrust onto the scene at the end of the 2013 season, when the guy he was backing up, Marcus Hall, was ejected from the Michigan/OSU game and gave the double-barreled salute to the Big House (as one imagines many a visiting player has dreamed of doing). Hall's ensuing suspension made Elflein the starter at RG as the then-undefeated Buckeyes prepared for the B1GCCG. Although OSU came up short there, Elflein played excellently, and with Taylor Decker, he made the OL's transition from '13 to '14 nearly seamless despite massive turnover. Now, with most of the line returning, Elflein lends stability and crushing lead blocks in that counter game that's still giving Oregon fans nightmares.

4. C Dan Voltz, RS Junior, Wisconsin

It wouldn't be an OL list without one of the Badgers' maulers. If it's unusual in general for offensive lineman to start early in their careers, it's even less common at Wisconsin, which relies more heavily on development than most similarly successful programs. Yet Voltz took over the starting center job as a redshirt freshman, and, when healthy, has lived up to the legacy at the position as Wisconsin continues to break its own impressive rushing records. Voltz has had some injury issues, though, and the Badgers will need him to assume a much larger leadership role up front with three seniors graduating and another coaching transition underway in Madison.

5. OT Taylor Decker, Senior, Ohio State

As the only returning full-time starter, and flipping sides of the line to boot, Decker was a critical player in determining OSU's fate going into this season. 14 wins and a conference and national title later, the story of OSU's offensive line reconstitution is a criminally underrated facet of the Buckeyes' romp to the top, and Decker is at the center of that story. After the inevitable adjustment period involved with four new OL starters and a new QB, OSU's offense took off. Decker, for his part, is the model left tackle- capable in the run game, but even more reliable in pass pro. He returns to a loaded Buckeye front with consensus 2nd team All-B1G honors to his name.