The start of the college football season is a little less than two months away, making now a good time to dive more into what teams in the Big 12 will look like next season.
We’ll do that here by looking at position groups and ranking them from best to worst. Next up, we move on to looking at how offensive lineman across the Big 12 compare.
Last season, the Sooners had the most dominant offensive line in the conference and one of the best in the entire country. Despite losing players to the NFL, there’s still talent and experience on the roster. Oklahoma returns 103 starts along the offensive line, which is second-most in the Big 12.
Two of their offensive line’s returning starters, right tackle Bobby Evans and guard Dru Samia, project to go in the first four rounds of next year’s NFL Draft.
The talent doesn’t end with those two, however. According to Pro Football Focus, starting guard Ben Powers had the highest pass-blocking efficiency amongst Big 12 guards last season. The line also boasts players like junior Cody Ford and senior Jonathan Alvarez, who each have starts under their belts. Incoming redshirt freshman Creed Humphrey, a four star prospect out of high school, is expected to come in this fall and be a long-term starting center for the Sooners.
2. West Virginia
The Mountaineers have a chance to field the best offense in the Big 12 next season, and that expectation is bolstered by the returning talent they have along the offensive line. Four of five starters are back, including left guard Josh Sills, who is one of the best interior linemen in the conference. That’s not to mention Yodney Cajuste and Colton McKivitz, who might be the best duo of tackles in the Big 12, with Cajuste having a shot at a long pro career.
Isaiah Hardy is projected to be the newest face along this offensive line, one that is coached by Joe Wickline, a familiar face around the conference. Wickline has had stints at both Oklahoma State and Texas, where he was known for being able to mold great players. Don’t expect this season to be any different.
3. Kansas State
Kansas State’s offensive line will by far be their best position group on the field this season, something that has to excite head coach Bill Snyder. The Wildcats return the most starts along the offensive line in the Big 12, with 115 starts coming back in 2018.
Dalton Risner is a two-time All-Big 12 offensive tackle who could be the best overall lineman in the Big 12 and projects to be the best run blocker in the conference. Scott Frantz, who lines up at tackle opposite Risner, is also a solid player with an outside shot at being drafted in 2019.
The combination of Adam Holtorf, Tyler Mitchell, and Abdul Beecham is also one of the best interior trios in the conference. Overall, this group has the opportunity to move up to first on this list if the starters can stay healthy.
4. Texas Tech
If you expect Texas Tech to take a step back on offense next year, it won’t be because of the big guys up front. The Red Raiders return every starter along their offensive line, providing them with possibly the most experience that head coach Kliff Kingsbury has had in his tenure on the South Plains.
The stars of this group are on the right side, with Jack Anderson and Terence Steele names to look out for next season. According to Pro Football Focus, both had some of the better grades a year ago, and there’s no reason to think they won’t improve after another offseason in Lubbock.
Injuries plagued the Longhorns last season, causing them to lose tackle Connor Williams, who now is a Dallas Cowboy, for most of 2017. Not a single lineman started all 13 games for Texas last season, a fact that probably contributed to at times dreadful play.
Yet, the Longhorns find themselves in the middle of this list because the experience gained last season and the increased depth that brings. Texas landed graduate transfer Calvin Anderson in the spring, a player who has a shot at next year’s draft and who is expected to be a first day starter. Outside of him, Texas still has multi-year starters Patrick Vahe and Zach Shackleford.
The Longhorns hired offensive line coach Herb Hand to improve this unit in the offseason, so younger players could take a step forward. Derek Kerstetter, a Tom Herman recruit, started most of last season at tackle as a true freshman, so improvement will likely come from him. Denzel Okafor was a four star prospect out of high school who has starting experience as well.
6. Oklahoma State
The Pokes lost key pieces on the outside from last season, so in 2018 the strength of their offensive line will be in the interior. Marcus Keyes returns as an All-Big 12 First Team guard from last season, and he will be the most talented veteran on this offensive line. Apart from him, only Johnny Wilson returns as a full-time starter from last season at left guard.
What will help with the depth for the Cowboys, however, is the fact that right guard Larry Williams got an extra season of eligibility after being injured early in 2017. The senior’s experience will be key this season, as Oklahoma State looks to reload a front that loses some key players from last year.
The Horned Frogs come in ranked lower on this list because they lose a lot of experience from 2017, giving them an offensive line that returns the fewest starts in the Big 12 with 26. Even though four senior starters are gone, a couple of players with significant game time do come back.
The best player on the line for TCU will likely be junior Lucas Niang, who worked full time at tackle last year. Niang could end up being one of the best offensive tackles in the conference, but he’ll have to prove it in 2018. Alongside him will be junior Cordel Iwuagwu, who has starting experience, and JUCO signee Anthony McKinney. They will hope to develop throughout the season under offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie.
With 86 starts back, the Bears will hope to improve from a year ago, when they gave up more sacks than any other team in the Big 12. The right side of the line has the most experience, with seniors Blake Blackmar and Patrick Lawrence taking on the guard and tackle spots, respectively. Either of those two could take a step forward in their final seasons at Baylor.
Matt Rhule also managed to land Clemson offensive line transfer Jake Fruhmorgen, who did manage to gain starting experience with the Tigers in his time there. If he can stay healthy, he could be one of the better players along that offensive front.
9. Iowa State
The Cyclones were a decidedly young group of linemen up front last season, which is one reason why they struggled. This year, three of last season’s five starters return along the offensive line.
That includes center Julian Good-Jones, who was a Remington Award nominee in 2017. Both he and junior tackle Bryce Meeker will provide a veteran presence for Iowa State, one that will help Matt Campbell as he continues to recruit and develop big uglies in Ames. This group could feasibly make a leap towards the middle of the conference with older players, but they will need show that their time in Campbell’s program has paid dividends.
Last season, Kansas started five players along their offensive line who were either freshman or sophomores, making them one of the youngest lines in the conference. That youth showed, as Kansas struggled to move the ball on the ground or through the air throughout 2017 and gave up 29 sacks on the year.
Four of those five starters are back this season, including left tackle Hakeem Adenjii, who will could find himself on some All-Big 12 preseason lists. Sophomore Chris Hughes had a serviceable season at right guard last season, so if Kansas is going to make a leap under David Beaty in 2018, they will surely need top notch play from Hughes.