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SEC Unit Rankings: Offensive Line

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The big uglies take center stage.

Anonymous. Awesome.
Anonymous. Awesome.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Again, I lean on stats of my own choosing. I look at a team's rushing and passing blocking by ranking their standard deviation from average yards per carry for rushing and sacks allowed per 100 pass attempts for passing. No credit for low sack totals by simply not throwing the ball.

Also, as usual, we're not just looking at last year's production, but who is coming back. Quantity and quality matters.

1. LSU: I have been pretty down on LSU's line the past few years, even venturing to call them the single most overrated unit of any team that is not on Auburn's defense. But they finally showed up last year and had the best run average in the conference (Fournette caveats apply) and effective pass blocking. LSU also returns a bunch of talent, finally has some consistency at the coaching position, and has talented youngsters filling the holes. It's not far and away the best, but it nudges ahead.

2. Georgia: Lacks star power, though I think by season's end Greg Pyke will be a first team all-SEC guy. One of the most balanced run/pass lines in the SEC, and they return 98 starts, by far the most in the conference.

3. Alabama: Their run blocking isn't nearly as good as you would think. Despite a Heisman winner, they were league average in rushing average. Cam Robinson is the best lineman in the SEC, if not the nation, but there's some questions around the line. Of course, there's plenty of talent here.

4. Tennessee: They took a massive step back two years ago from one of the consistently best lines in the conference when everyone graduated. Last year was a reconsolidation year, and the Vols were league average at both blocking skills, and should now be ready to explode now that they have replenished their depth and experience. I wouldn't be shocked if they are #1 by season's end.

5. Arkansas: My kind of line. Big, mean, and nasty. I really want to rank them higher, but the entire left side of the line looks like a gigantic question mark with a freshman at tackle and converted DT at guard. Losing a lot of experience, but I'm banking on the continuity they do have, and their track record.

6. Mississippi St.: A solid unit that was almost right at league average in both run and pass blocking, and has plenty of returning talent. They lack a huge star, but they have two seniors anchoring the interior, particularly center Jamaal Clayborn.

7. Kentucky: A decent run blocking team last year, they need to work at protecting the passer. A decent line last season that returns 87 career starts, second in the SEC. That sort of consistency and experience should lead to another middle of the pack, solid season.

8. Auburn: A decent pass blocking team that couldn't open up a running lane. They return three starters and they've recruited well, but this is a unit that needs to improve.

9. Ole Miss: The top line from last season is in for a free fall down the rankings. It's not just losing Tunsil, the Rebels only return 36 career starts, third worst in the conference. It's quite likely true freshman Greg Little will be a starter, and while he's a five star recruit... he's still a true freshman.

10. Florida: Last year's line was a horrorshow, and far and away the worst line in the SEC. That's also because they returned four players, not starters, players from the previous year. That was the trial by fire, and now they can use that experience to start building a functional unit There will be honest to God depth this season.

11. Vanderbilt: Another genuinely awful unit last season, they return a ton of starting experience, and they've started to recruit better on the line to create some depth. This shouldn't be a god unit, but there is some potential here, particularly due to all of the returning linemen.

12. South Carolina: Below average at everything, but not awful. They return a healthy number of starts, but not a lot. Pretty much stuck in neutral right now.

13. Texas A&M: The line wasn't terribly good last season, and now everyone has graduated. The Aggies return just 21 career starts, and must rebuild a unit that wasn't terribly good to begin with. The coaches of course have plenty of hope for the new guys, but hope is not a plan.

14. Mizzou: They had the worst run blocking the conference, and only Florida's horrific pass blocking kept them for the cellar there. Oh, and they look longfully at A&M's 21 starts, as they return just 11. At least A&M has hope. This looks hopeless.

Billy

When it comes to offensive lines, I'm big on the units that avoid negative plays and give you consistency. I tend to look at tackles for loss a little more than just sacks, because it can be hard to know how many are on the line versus the QB himself, whereas running plays tend to be a little more straightforward. Returnees are important as well, because chemistry and continuity can be so important for offensive line play, even for units that have a lot of talent on the depth chart.

1. Georgia: The quarterbacks are getting all the talk, but the best building block Kirby Smart has for this team is an offensive line that returns three starters and upperclassmen to fill in the open spots. Mark Richt last season, at times, seemed to forget that he had a great offensive line and group of backs. Curious to see if Smart and Jim Chaney make the same mistake in year one.

2. LSU: This unit spent two thirds of the season absolutely pile-driving opposing fronts and the other third getting driven themselves. But that was with a pair of freshmen starting inside, and those two players are back and a year better. The lineup might not be set yet, but if Ethan Pocic, Will Clapp and Maea Teuhema return to three interior spots that will be the best in the league. And there's a nice mix of veterans and strong talent in the mix for the two openings.

3. Auburn: If there's going to be a unit that makes a big jump, I think it will be this one. Alex Kozan and Braden Smith are a pretty good starting point, and Austin Golson is very talented, if he can stay healthy. The new center is a senior too, and I think that's particularly valuable in this style of offense.

4. Alabama: Again, there's too much talent here for this unit to struggle in any way that most programs could relate to. That said, part of the reason Derrick Henry had such a heavy workload is that he did most of the work himself -- he wasn't getting the giant gaping holes that Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson had. This offensive line wasn't quite as physical as it has been in the past last season -- and that's probably why they underwent a coaching change.

5. Tennessee: This is a unit that takes some blame for Tennessee's inability to finish games last season, but with four starters back, there's some grown-man beef here.

6. Arkansas: Speaking of beef, this unit, this season, will be the biggest test of just what Bret Bielema has built in Fayetteville. Last year's mammoth herd too a few years to come together, so can they replace three starters easily, or will it take more time? In year four, a program that wants to pride itself on offensive line play shouldn't struggle to break in new starters.

7. Florida: This is probably my big reach, but this is a unit that was a complete disaster entering 2015 and was able to cobble together a decent unit considering how many freshmen were involved. That experience could lead to a leap forward this season.

8. Mississippi St.: The Bulldogs have fought well in their weight class, but they struggle against the league's upper echelon. Three seniors returning is always a good starting point.

9. Ole Miss: The dirty secret of the Rebels' line from the last two seasons is that as productive as the offense has been, it's never been a unit that can really push people around. And now it's lost the two best players in Laremy Tunsil and Fahn Cooper. Yeah, the newbies are talented. But they're still newbies and it takes more than just talent for an offensive line to come together.

10. Kentucky: Four starters back, all upper-classmen, and as Poseur said, this was a unit that could at least get some push at times.

11. Vanderbilt: This unit paved the way for and 1,100-yard rusher last season, and it returns three senior starters. I mean it's still Vanderbilt, but compared to the rest of these units that's at least something.

12. South Carolina: Will Muschamp kept Shawn Elliot here because this was the one unit that was punching above its weight in terms of talent level.

13. Texas A&M: The Aggies have been Charmin-soft team under Kevin Sumlin, and the offensive line has been the clearest sign of that over the years. They finally cobbled together a decent run-blocking unit last year, and four starters are gone, along with the offensive line coach.

14. Mizzou: Let us pray for Drew Lock.

Jake

1. Georgia: Loads of experience coming back, which is one of the most important things to look for in projecting offensive lines. One of the top rushing teams from last year as well.

2. LSU: This group might have been the best offensive line in the nation for two months, and then it all went south. But they bring back a lot of experience from last year, they were far and away the best rushing team by Y/A - yes, Fournette plays a part - and didn't allow many sacks. Some young guys should get better.

3. Tennessee: They did a solid job in run blocking last year and their pass blocking was not as bad as you might think, allowing only 24 sacks. Lot of experience returning on this line and they should be very strong.

4. Alabama: Rushing and 3rd down pass blocking were not particularly great last year. Not bad, but not at the level you'd expect. Rimington Trophy winner Ryan Kelly is gone too. But the best LT in the conference is back, so are 3 other starters and they have the most talent stocked up.

5. Auburn: It got tricky here for me. Auburn gets the nod because they bring back quite a bit of experience and they were solid in pass blocking, but running the ball was....a chore.

6. Arkansas: They get the nod over a few others because of benefit of the doubt, but it's hard for me to fully trust a team with that many question marks on the left side and losing so much experience from an exceptional unit.

7. Kentucky: Pass blocking was iffy, but they ran the ball very well and there's a lot of experience coming back here.

8. Mississippi St.: We're into big time question mark territory, and while the Bulldogs weren't great at much of anything last year, they have returning starters. That's big.

9. Ole Miss: Rebs are here because of talent, but geez that's a very, very inexperienced line. Greg Little having a CamRob 2014 season would help a lot, but I wouldn't count on it.

10. South Carolina: Pass blocking was a real struggle, but they ran the ball pretty well and have a decent bit of experience coming back. Talent is a question, but they won't be horrible.

11. Florida: They were an honest to god dumpster fire last year, but there are some players coming back who hopefully for the Gators could take a step or two and get better.

12. Texas A&M: They were not good last year at pretty much anything and they graduate some guys. Good luck

13. Vanderbilt: It's Vandy. It may end up being fine, but probably not.

14. Mizzou: I would cry in the fetal position it I were a Mizzou fan

Dan

1. Georgia: I give them the nod here for a couple of reasons: they return three starters and they acquired stud OL coach Sam Pittman. On name quantity alone, I like Arkansas. But the loss of Pittman has me leaning Georgia, even though they lost their best OL in John Theus.

2. LSU: LSU is tinkering with the lineup still, but there's a case to be made that this is the most talented group of players in the Miles era. Let's put it this way: Will Clapp is the lowest ranked recruit of the potential starting five, and he's already a known quantity as a starter. Weathersby filled in admirably when needed last season and, frankly, I think he'll be an upgrade over Vadal Alexander at RT. Maea Teuhema is the biggest concern shifting out to LT. But he's immensely talented and I think there stands a chance of upgrade there too. Clapp/Pocic are good players with another year under their belt. The newest face is Josh Boutte who lost his job to Teuhema last year. I'm almost talking myself into picking them over Georgia, because I do like the overall talent more.

3. Arkansas: I don't know much about their new LT and that concerns me, but Dan Skipper is a rough and tumble bad ass. Frank Ragnow will anchor the middle. I'm a big fan of the talent of Hjalte Froholdt and Brian Wallace (a one time Alabama commit). I hate that they lost their OL coach, but Bielema's teams have a strong identity and they stick to their philosophy.

4. Tennessee: If you return 4 starters, odds on you'll have a good unit. Wiesman is the star, but there's plenty of good players here.

5. Alabama: Okay, we know the talent is absurd. Fine. That alone gets them a top 5 nod. Three starters gone and Ryan Kelly is a huge, huge loss. Sure, Cam Robinson is the best player, but Kelly makes the unit go. Right now, 3 of their 5 starters are players in the program for 2 years or under. Young is not the best place to be on the OL.

6. Florida: They return four starters and they got some talent. The depth is outright bad here. Any injury could tank this unit in a hurry.

7. Mississippi St.: Three returning starters and one of the new guys is a Senior. I like maturity, even if they lose a star QB.

8. Auburn: I'm over it.

9. Kentucky: Their talent level isn't nearly to par, but I'll give experience the nod above the bottom tier in this league.

10. Ole Miss: They return two starters and one of them is a true Sophomore. They are just so dang young. They are aiming to start a true freshman LT. Look, I know Little should be a star in time, but not every guy can play LT as a true freshman like Cam Robinson.

11. South Carolina: They return some maturity, but they also gain an offensive anchor in the way of Will Muschamp.

12. Texas A&M: Ever since the Mike Sherman OL recruits disappeared, they've really fallen to pieces. The Sumlin era is on it's last breath until they win the first 3 games of the season and certain talking heads start telling us how they are the best team in the SEC again.

13. Vanderbilt: At least they'll get good degrees!

14. Missouri: Not much to inspire here.

Poseur

We had some pretty distinct tiers in our voting. Georgia and LSU ran away with things at the top, and my dissent was the only thing keeping the Dawgs from being unanimous. Next, the Bama-Tennessee-Arkansas tier is so tight that I had no way to break the tie between Bama and Tennessee. What follow is our muddled middle class, and then our bottom four, including a unanimous worst unit in Mizzou.

The biggest split was on Auburn, as Paul and I are skeptical at best regarding the False Tigers, while Billy is certainly buying the hype on them, ranking them third. The only other team with as wide of a ranking is Florida, who is admittedly, a tough team to rank. They return a bunch, but that unit was awful last year. Huge potential, though.

1. Georgia
2. LSU
3. Bama
3. Tennessee
5. Arkansas
6. Auburn
7. Mississippi St.
8. Kentucky
9. Florida
10. Ole Miss
11. South Carolina
12. Vanderbilt
13. Texas A&M
14. Mizzou