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TERRIFIC 20: TOP 20 OL FOR 2017 NCAA FOOTBALL

THE BIG UGLIES!!! One thing that is incredible about learning as much as you can about football is realizing how important the O-Line play is. If your team can’t block then it’s screwed. I think the evolution of talent evaluation and where it ranks in building a team roster is interesting though. As teams become more pass heavy, it’s important to realize how to build a winning team. You always have to build your team up with a QB, but for the longest time the thought was that after QB, your LT was the most important position. I think in recent NFL drafts you have seen that change in that teams will now be more likely to build their teams at QB first, but then start in with edge rushers, corners and interior defensive linemen. In an odd way this legitimizes just how important the offensive lineman are, because if teams are valuing D-Linemen at an all time high, then the O-Linemen needed to block them must be equally as important.

One things seems certain. You might be able to have a bad team with a good offensive line because you haven’t properly surrounded that particular O-Line with the right pieces, but it’s practically impossible to have a good team with a bad O-Line. This should illustrate just how important these positions are.

A quick reminder, the 20 players are listed alphabetically by their team. As I’ve said before, I don’t try to actually rank the top-20 because I’m not entirely sure how much value added I’d receive by doing so. The margins are fairly thin between some of the players.

TEAM COMMENTS
Computer Hope Jonah Williams/6’5/301lbs/SO: Williams immediately stepped into the starting role at right tackle as a true freshman and didn’t disappoint earning 3rd Team All-SEC honors playing opposing Cam Robinson who was himself a 1st Team All-American. According to Alabama statistics, Williams actually graded out as a better O-Lineman than Robinson which is crazy. Earned Alabama’s offensive player of the week 5 different times. Didn’t allow a sack in games against LSU or Texas A&M! Williams looks like a 1st Rd. pick.
Computer Hope Frank Ragnow/6’6/319lbs/SR: Ragnow is the best center in college football and should have no problems being a 1st Team All-American. He’s incredibly smart and will be an NFL starter sooner rather than later. In what has to be one of the most amazing stats of current college football players, Ragnow hasn’t allowed a QB sack for two straight seasons! Arkansas should be a lot better on the O-Line this year with 4 starters returning. Devwah Whaley should run well & Austin Allen will be well protected by Ragnow.
Computer Hope Braden Smith/6’6/305lbs/SR: Smith turned down overtures from the NFL last season to return to Auburn for his senior year. A big nasty on the interior of the Tigers O-Line, Smith will kick out to right tackle this year to help protect new QB Jarrett Stidham, the transfer from Baylor. Smith was a 3rd Team All-American as a junior. He was a 2nd Team All-SEC player as a sophomore and made the All-SEC freshman team as a true frosh. He’s made 27 straight starts. He’ll have no trouble moving to RT this year.
Computer Hope Mitch Hyatt/6’5/295lbs/JR: Hyatt stepped in as a freshman in 2015 and started at LT for 15 starts, protecting Deshaun Watson’s blindside as Clemson barely lost to Alabama 45-40 in the national championship game. He did the same as a sophomore except this time Clemson closed the deal and beat the Crimson Tide 35-31. In two seasons as a starter at LT, Clemson is 28-2 during Hyatt’s tenure. Hyatt was a freshman All-American in 2015 and was 1st Team All-ACC in 2016. He’ll be an integral part for Clemson.
Computer Hope Martez Ivey/6’5/305lbs/JR: An outstanding talent, Ivey was considered the best O-Line prospect in the 2015 high school recruiting class by Phil Steele. The Florida native chose the Gators over practically ever other program in the country. Has made 20 starts at LG over his first two seasons but Florida is finally moving him to LT where they had hoped he would eventually wind up. Ivey should handle the transition well. He earned 2nd Team All-SEC honors last season. Florida has yet to not win the SEC East with Ivey.
Computer Hope Will Clapp/6’3/309lbs/rJR: Clapp was an outstanding interior O-Lineman last year for the Tigers helping Derrius Guice and Leonard Fournette combine to rush for 2230 yards & 23TD! Those numbers aren’t a typo! Clapp earned 1st Team All-SEC honors last year at LG and will make the switch to C after Ethan Pocic moved on to the Seattle Seahawks. Pocic was a 2nd Team All-American and I’ve read reports where quite a few people felt Clapp outplayed Pocic at times in 2016. If true, Clapp is in for a monster year.
Computer Hope Maea Teuhema/6’5/315lbs/JR: Big and nasty! Teuhema hasn’t gotten a ton of national attention just yet but I think that is about to change as he’s a legitimate All-American candidate who is going to pave the way for Derrius Guice to have a monster year that should put him in the Heisman discussion. Teuhema was a freshman All-American back in 2015 when he started at LG. Last year he kicked out to RT as a starter but should kick back in to RG this year as his run blocking is outstanding. He could be a 1st Rd. pick.
Computer Hope Mason Cole/6’5/305lbs/SR: Mason Cole became the first player in Wolverines history to start a season opening game on the O-Line back in 2014. Cole has bounced around a bit on Michigan’s O-Line being a tackle in 2015 before being move to center in 2016 an earning 1st Team All-Big 10 honors. Cole will bounce back out to LT this season as the most veteran offensive lineman on Michigan’s line. He’s started in every Michigan game since arriving in Ann Arbor. Cole will be extremely important this year for Michigan.
Computer Hope Brian Allen/6’2/305lbs/SR: Allen is somewhat of an undersized interior lineman who has spent most of his career playing guard for the Spartans but will slide into the center’s role in 2017 for a Michigan St. squad that should be pretty young. Allen is very smart and plays with a mean streak which you see oftentimes in the Big 10 with their interior linemen. He’s been a 2nd Team All-Big 10 lineman the last two seasons. The Spartans will need an outstanding leader on the O-Line and Allen should provide that for Michigan St. in ’17.
Computer Hope Greg Little/6’6/332lbs/SO: Little is HUGE at 6’6/332lbs and has the athleticism and quickness to stick at LT despite his weight. Little really started to get attention in Ole Miss’ 29-28 win at Texas A&M when he held Myles Garrett to just one tackle. Little was considered the best O-Lineman in the 2016 high school class according to Phil Steele and eventually became the starting LT for the Rebels over their last 5 games. He’ll have the responsibility of protecting Shea Patterson’s blindside in what will be a trying season for Ole Miss.
Computer Hope Martinas Rankin/6’5/305lbs/rSR: Rankin came from the junior college ranks to Starkville and didn’t waste much time making an impression. He became the Bulldogs’ starting LT after 3 games and did a great job pass protecting for MSU QB Nick Fitzgerald who had a great season. Rankin also did a solid job in a highly effecting MSU rushing attack. He tested the NFL waters after last season but was given a 2nd round grade so Rankin decided to come back to Mississippi St. and try to improve his draft stock.
Computer Hope Mike McGlinchey/6’8/312lbs/rSR: Amazingly enough Mike McGlinchey never played LT until last season and wound up a 3rd team All-American. McGlinchey is a natural left tackle with a mean streak. He has great size at 6’8 and almost 320lbs. Has elite athleticism and arm length combined with heavy hands. He loves to run block and I’ve read reports where some scouts think he’s quite a bit better than his former teammate Ronnie Stanley who was the 6th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He can get even better.
Computer Hope Quenton Nelson/6’5/329lbs/rJR: Big and nasty, Nelson is arguably the best guard in college football. He’s huge at 6’5/330lbs and has done a great job opening up holes on the defense during his tenure with the Irish. Nelson has somewhat of a mean streak and is incredibly smart. He’s good in pass protection as well and has had excellent coaching from Notre Dame OL coach Harry Hiestand. Combined with McGlinchey, the Irish have two potential All-Americans who could be 1st round picks. I think he’ll get better.
Computer Hope Billy Price/6’4/312lbs/rSR: Price isn’t flash but all he’s done since arriving in Columbus is start every game for the Buckeyes during a 3-year period in which Ohio St. posted a record of 37-4 and was the starting LG for the national championship team of 2014. Price is moving to center and Phil Steele makes him a 1st Team All-American in his annual, putting him above Arkansas’s Frank Ragnow. He’s gotten much better in pass protection and is already an outstanding run blocker. Price is extremely valuable.
Computer Hope Orlando Brown/6’8/360lbs/rJR: Not quite as big as Washington St.’s Cody O’Connell but Brown is enormous at 6’8/360lbs. Brown had a banner year last season earning 2nd Team All-American honors and being named the Big 12’s offensive lineman of the year. Brown will be a tricky NFL grade. He’s outstanding for the Sooners protecting Baker Mayfield in their high octane offense but he has trouble being in a 3-point stance and is obviously not very quick at the point of attack. Gotta love his size though.
Computer Hope Connor Williams/6’6/288lbs/JR: Immediately started at LT for the Longhorns as a true freshman and earned Freshman All-American honors. Followed that up last season as a sophomore by become only the 4th player in Texas history to be a 1st Team All-American as a true sophomore! Williams will be immensely important in Texas’s ability to compete in the Big XII because he needs to keep QB Shane Buechele upright. He needs to put on a bit more weight to his frame, but he’s probably NFL ready right now.
Computer Hope Scott Quessenberry/6’4/315lbs/rSR: Quessenberry has racked up 30 career starts for the Bruins and is the most veteran lineman for UCLA’s squad this season. I think Quessenberry is going to be an integral part of UCLA’s season because of the return of Josh Rosen. Rosen needs to have a huge season after his disappointing 2016 campaign and obviously having a great center would be important. Quessenberry is a smart savvy player on the interior and should do a great job quarterbacking the O-Line for UCLA.
Computer Hope Trey Adams/6’8/320lbs/JR: Adams enters the 2017 collegiate football season as arguably the best O-Line prospect in college football. He’s ENORMOUS at 6’8/320lbs with the athletic ability to play LT. Last season Adams was a 1st Team All-Pac 12 lineman and also garnered 2nd Team All-American honors. Adams really got noticed with how well he played against Alabama’s fantastic edge rushers in last year’s playoffs. He has great athleticism for his size & should continue to get better. He’s a top-5 pick in the NFL Draft.
Computer Hope Cody O’Connell/6’8/370lbs/rSR: When your nickname is “THE CONTINENT” you belong on a Terrific 20 list! O’Connell is obviously enormous and it’s interesting that he plays guard in the sense that he’s so tall at 6’8 that most coaches feel that a man of his size would clog up the passing lanes. Oddly enough Luke Falk had no problems passing for almost 4500 yards with almost 40TDs! He’s obviously not athletic enough to play in the NFL at a tackle spot but he was a 1st Team All-American guard last year!
Computer Hope Beau Benzschawel/6’6/316lbs/rJR: A kid from Wisconsin with the name Beau Benzschawel is simply destined to play on the offensive line for the Badgers. Benzschawel started in all of Wisconsin’s 14 games last year at RG and earned 2nd Team All Big 10 honors. Benzschawel is a terrific interior lineman with excellent size at 6’6 and almost 320lbs. He’s got a real chance to be a 1st Team All-American this year & make himself into a 1st Round NFL Draft pick. Wisconsin always turns out solid O-Lineman.

FIVE FRESHMAN WHO COULD MAKE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT IN 2017

Alex Leatherwood/Alabama/6’6/327lbs: Arguably the best O-Lineman in the 2017 recruiting class, Leatherwood enrolled early at Alabama and is now the projected starting RT for the Crimson Tide going into the season. Leatherwood was a Parade All-American as a HS senior and also an Under Armour All-American. It’s not like Alabama’s depth chart is devoid of talent. There are high school All-Americans everywhere so the fact that Leatherwood immediately steps into the starter’s role means something. It means even more considering Alabama is the odds on favorite to win the national championship. Leatherwood should move to LT when Jonah Williams moves on and I’m guessing that Leatherwood is a 1st round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Foster Sarell/Stanford/6’7/320lbs and Walker Little/Stanford/6’7/315lbs: It feels wrong to have a Terrific 20 list of offensive linemen and not see anyone from Stanford or Iowa make the list. Sarell and Little could rectify that problem for the Cardinal as soon as this year. According to Phil Steele, Sarell was the best O-Line recruit in the 2017 class while Little was considered a top-10 O-Lineman. Both immediately become the most talented O-Linemen on the Stanford roster the minute they hit campus and I can’t help but think they won’t get significant playing time early. Both are tall. Both have the requisite bulk to play at the collegiate level so neither should require any redshirting to get their size up enough to play in the Pac 12. David Bright is the projected starting LT this year but Bright is 6’5/299lbs and spent time at left guard last season. The projected RT is AT Hall who is 6’3/287lbs, hardly the right size to play a mauling tackle position on the strong side. Hall started 13 games at tackle last year with 11 of them coming on the left side, but he’s projected to slide right. I wouldn’t be shocked if Sarell and Little take over the tackle spots at some point this season.

Jack Anderson/Texas Tech/6’5/315lbs: A Texas Tech legacy, Anderson was a high school All-American who turned down offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami-FL, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Stanford, Texas, Texas A&M and UCLA for a chance to play for the Red Raiders. He was the crown jewel for Kliff Kingsbury’s 2017 recruiting class and is projected to start right away fro the Red Raiders at guard. Anderson is an incredibly smart and intense O-Lineman that likes to maul. Guard suits him well and that is probably where he will wind up in the NFL, but at Texas Tech I could see him eventually move to RT. I think it’s a big year for Texas Tech. They break in a new starter at QB after Pat Mahomes left for the Kansas City Chiefs, but if Anderson works out then the O-Line should be really good with 3 starters returning at WR. Kingsbury & Texas Tech need to get to a bowl. Anderson could be a big part of that up front on the interior line.

Tommy Kraemer/Notre Dame/6’6/313lbs: Kraemer is arguably the most talented O-Lineman in the 2016 recruiting class but actually redshirted last season because the Irish O-Line depth was so deep. Mike McGlinchey & Alex Bars were the starting tackles. Quenton Nelson & Collin McGovern were the guards while Sam Mustipher held down the center position. Bars is moving to RG because ND can’t keep Kraemer down any longer and he’s projected to be the right tackle. The Irish are in a unique situation because in reality they could have as many as 4 potential All-Americans on the O-Line in McGlinchey, Nelson, Bars & Mustipher. ND also has a TREMENDOUS amount of weapons on offense with guys like Josh Adams, Alize Mack, Durham Smythe and Equanimeous St. Brown, Miles Boykin, CJ Sanders, Chase Claypool and Dexter Williams. What will be interesting is the play of QB Brandon Wimbush who is coming off a redshirt year watching Deshone Kizer. The left side of the O-Line has McGlinchey & Nelson. Those guys are going to hold up, but that leaves Kraemer on the right side. If he can hold up his end then Wimbush should have all day to do whatever he wants with the weapons around him.

Obinna Eze/Memphis/6’8/283lbs: Eze is a name probably a bit off the beaten path but I thought this situation was intriguing. Memphis returns practically their entire team except the LT spot which is open. Eze seems like an ideal candidate to red shirt seeing that he’s 6’8/283lbs which is HUGE but light for sure. He could stand to gain 40lbs and he’d still be fairly thin for a guy 6’8. Even so, he’s the most talented O-Lineman on the Memphis roster and right now the projected LT is Harneet Gil who is pretty light himself at 6’7/277lbs. Gil is also coming off a redshirt so he has as much playing time at Memphis in 2016 as Eze does. Memphis is going to score and they are going to score a ton with guys like Riley Ferguson, Dorland Dorceus, Tony Pollard and Anthony Miller. Whoever plays LT for the Tigers will be responsible for Ferguson’s blindside which is going to be very important. If Eze becomes that guy, he’ll have a significant impact on how good Memphis can be in 2017.

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August 16, 2017 - Posted by | Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, LSU, Memphis, Michigan, Michigan St., Mississippi, Mississippi St., NCAA, Notre Dame, Offensive Linemen, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Predictions, Preseason, Previews, Stanford, Terrific 20, Texas, Texas Tech, UCLA, Washington, Washington St., Wisconsin

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