Around the Big 12: Offensive Line

Weston Wilson wraps up his Around the Big 12 series by ranking the offensive lines.

1. Oklahoma- The Sooners return four offensive linemen from a talented 2011 squad and will be very experienced next year.  Sophomore left tackle Tryus Thompson is the least experienced of the group, but still holds experience from five games in 2011.  Junior left guard Gabe Ikard has started 24 consecutive games for the Sooners and received All-Big 12 honors last year.  Senior center Ben Habern is the Sooners most experienced offensive lineman as he will be a four-year starter next year.  Habern should be expected to be the leader of the offensive line and could anchor the Sooners offense in 2012.

 

2. Texas- Like the Sooners, the Longhorns return four starters from their 2011 squad.  Junior offensive guard Mason Walters has two years of experience and could really help the Longhorns running game flourish in 2012.  Sophomore center Dominic Espinosa started last year and will have the experience necessary to be the anchor of the Longhorns offensive line.  Along with Espinosa, sophomore tackle Josh Cochran will return with a year of experience under his belt.  Lastly, junior tackle Trey Hopkins will provide more experience and depth at the tackle position.  Texas will have to replace veteran guard David Snow, but will have enough talent to make up for the lack of experience at the guard position. 

 

3. Oklahoma State- Although the Cowboys will lose two All-Big 12 linemen from last years team in center Grant Garner and right tackle Levy Adcock, they will still have plenty of experience from last years starters as well as backups who have had starts as well.  Senior right guard Lane Taylor will be returning and has an impressive 36 starts in his career.  Taylor will be looked at as the anchor of the Cowboys 2012 offensive line.  Senior guard Jonathan Rush has 16 starts under his belt while tackles Parker Graham and Michael Bowie both started five games last year. The biggest question the Cowboys will have regarding their offensive line is who will start at the center position, which is up for grabs at the moment. 

 

4.  Texas Tech- The Red Raiders will lose experienced players on the offensive line from last year such as guard Lonnie Edwards, center Justin Keown and tackle Mickey Okafor for the 2012 season.  With that said, Texas Tech should still be able to field one of the Big 12's better offensive lines as they have returning experience as well as young talent ready to play.  New offensive line coach Chris Thomsen has veterans to work with in senior tackle Deveric Gallington and senior center/tackle Terry McDaniel.  Coach Thomsen also has redshirt sophomore guard Beau Carpenter who has eight games of experience and will be a contributor in 2012.  Along with this experience, newcomers Le'Raven Clark (redshirt freshman), Rashad Fortenberry (junior college), Trey Kennan (freshman), Alfredo Morales (redshirt freshman), Tony Morales (redshirt freshman) and Jared Kaster (incoming freshman) could all see playing time in 2012.  Tech's offensive line has the talent and experience to be in the top half in the country and coach Chris Thomsen will need to be able to get them to mesh and play together to help the Red Raiders running and passing game.

5. Baylor- Other than the pure athleticism of Robert Griffin III, much of the Bears success in 2011 was due to the great offensive line play.  The Bears were able to gain the second most yards in the Big 12 with 235.6 yards per game.  The loss of All-Big 12 center Philip Blake and right guard Robert T. Griffin will hurt the Bears next year, but Baylor has a lot of incoming talent and enough experienced players to be fine in 2012.  Senior guard Ivory Wade, junior tackle Cyril Richardson and senior guard Cameron Kaufhold will anchor the Bears offensive line in 2012.  Along with these experienced players, redshirt freshman Troy Baker, freshman LaQuan McGowan and freshman Pat Colbert will all have a shot at playing time next year.  The Bears may struggle to gel in the first few games next season, but will have a chance to be a solid unit by early to mid season in 2012. 

 

 

6.  Kansas State- The running game for the Wildcats was one of their best attributes for their 2011 team, partly due to their solid offensive line.  For 2012, the Wildcats lose experienced offensive tackles Zach Hanson and Clyde Aufner as well as offensive guard Colten Freeze.  The good thing for Kansas State next year is that they still return a number of experienced offensive linemen.  The offensive line will be anchored by junior center B.J. Finney and will be important to protect quarterback Collin Klein.  Other experienced contributors will be senior left guard Nick Puetz, senior left tackle William Cooper and massive 6-9, 322 pound senior tackle Cornelius Lucas.  Manase Foketi will be battling for the right tackle job next year.  There's no doubt that Kansas State will need their offensive line to step up and do a great job next year as the Wildcats rely heavily on the run and need good run protection.  The loss of Hanson, Aufner and Freeze will hurt, but the Wildcats seem to have enough experience on the offensive line to keep their running game up to par in 2012. 

 

7. Iowa State- The Cyclones will be missing offensive tackle/guard Kelechi Osemele as well as offensive guard Hayworth Hicks who anchored the offensive line in 2011.  Although the Cyclones lost these two veterans, they return sophomore center Tom Farniok who started every game last year, senior guard Sam Tautolo who has five games of experience, senior tackle Carter Bykowski who has 33 experience in 33 games and junior guard Kyle Lichtenberg who has 25 games of experience in his career.  This returning experience will serve Iowa State well next year as they are finding their starting quarterback and have their sites on another bowl berth.



8. West Virginia- The Mountaineers will be losing offensive tackle Don Barclay and offensive guard Tyler Rader for the 2012 season and will have to replace them with less experienced players.  Returning for West Virginia next season are senior offensive guard Jeff Braun, senior center Joe Madsen and junior offensive tackle Pat Eger.  The upside to the 2012 offensive line is that the three linemen who are returning are veterans who have combined for over 50 starts and will be able to anchor the unit next year.  In order for the Mountaineers to have a dependable offensive line next year is for inexperienced players to step up and fill in the gaps.  Sophomore left tackle Quinton Spain will need to play well as a first time starter as well as senior guard Josh Jenkins.  The offensive line won't be a strong point for the Mountaineers next year, but they have enough talent and experience to be serviceable in 2012.

 

9 a) TCU- The Horned Frogs will most likely be a good team next year, but their offensive line will need some work to help quarterback Casey Pachall.  TCU loses offensive tackle Jeff Olson, offensive guard Kyle Dooley and offensive tackle Robert Deck.  The loss of all these veteran players probably won't go well in the Horned Frogs inaugural season of the Big 12.  TCU does return senior center James Fry and senior offensive guard Blaize Foltz, these two should be the captains of the Horned Frogs 2012 offensive line.  Sophomore guard Michael Thompson started six games in 2011 and redshirt sophomore tackle Nykiren Wellington got experience in two games last year.  TCU's pass protection and running game could be affected by their offensive line play in the Big 12 next year unless some young talent can step up and play well.

 

9 b) Kansas- As with TCU, Kansas will have a shaky offensive line in 2012.  The Jayhawks return senior guard Duane Zlatnik and senior Tanner Hawkinson who are both veteran offensive linemen.  Zlatnik and Hawkinson will need to anchor the offensive line for the Jayhawks in 2012 as Kansas will be replacing three spots on the offensive line with inexperienced linemen.  Likely candidates could be redshirt freshman guard Dylan Admire, redshirt freshman guard Luke Luhrsen and redshirt redshirt sophomore tackle Chad Kolumber who played in five games last year.

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