As we move through the midst of the summer offseason, now is a good time to get a more detailed glimpse of what Big 12 squads could look like in 2021. Recently, Phillip Slavin, LGG Staff Writer and host of the Ten12 Podcast, was joined on that podcast by Parker Fleming and Cam Mellor to generate a set of rankings for offensive lines in the Big 12. Below is an average of their rankings, and some of the justification for why these teams fall the way they do. Be sure to listen to that episode of the Ten12, which is embedded below.
Key to the Sooners’ offensive dominance has been their ability to own the trenches, and this upcoming season looks to be no different. Three senior starters return from a unit that PFF ranked as the No. 8 offensive line in the country last year. In addition to all of the talent that Oklahoma has recruited straight out of high school, they brought in Tennessee transfer offensive tackle Wayna Morris this offseason, and he is expected to start for them next season. Morris, a junior, is widely regarded to be an elite offensive lineman, and is likely to hear his name called in the 2022 NFL Draft.
New head coach Steve Sarkisian walks into a fairly good situation as far as the offensive line at Texas is concerned. The Longhorns have one of the more talented lineups in the conference, and they were a major reason that Texas averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 2020, more than any other Big 12 squad. With four starters returning, this unit should progress further under new offensive line coach Kyle Flood from Alabama. Senior Derek Kerstetter could definitely benefit from that improvement, as he could be in for an All-Big 12 season as he moves to his more natural position at tackle.
3. Iowa State
One of Matt Campbell’s biggest challenges when he got to Ames was bringing along the offensive line. Despite not having brought in the amount of blue chip players as other teams on this list, this unit from Iowa State has developed into one of the best in the league. This group features Collin Newell, an All-Big 12 First Team selection a year ago, at center, and Derek Schweiger, who made the Second Team in 2020. With 93 starts coming back, in addition, this will be one of the more experienced lines in the country this year.
4. Kansas State
Chris Klieman has managed to continue the tradition of Kansas State turning out strong offensive line play. The Wildcats averaged only 1.4 sacks per game in their 10-game season last year, which was among the best in the Big 12. All five starters return from last season, so this line should progress even further in 2021. Center Noah Johnson was All-Big 12 Second Team offensive line last season, and guard Josh Rivas shared the same honor in 2019.
Last fall, the Horned Frogs were up-and-down across the line. Injuries played a part in that, but three of TCU’s starting linemen return with nearly a season’s worth of experience under their belts. That bodes well for an offense that led the Big 12 on the ground with 214.7 yards per game. The biggest boost to this unit, though, is likley to come from Obinna Eze, a Memphis transfer who brings in 25 starts at offensive tackle. Eze has NFL potential and will likely be one of the better tackles in the conference next season.
6. Texas Tech
This was an offensive line that helped pave the way for 162.8 yards per game on the ground last season, and certainly has the potential to be a real asset for new offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie next season. The Red Raiders allowed only 16 sacks in 2020, and four of five offensive starters return from that unit. That includes senior Dawson Deaton, was named to Phil Steele’s Postseason All Big 12 Second Team at the end of last year. The offseason addition of T.J. Storment from TCU, one of the better tackles in the conference, should bode well for this team in 2021.
7. Oklahoma State
More than many of the teams on this list, Oklahoma State will have to work through some attrition in the trenches. Offensive line coach Charlie Dickey definitely has pieces to work with though, that should prevent major dropoff. The best player along this offensive line might be Josh Sills, a senior who transferred over from West Virginia and was recently named to the first string of Athlon’s 2021 All-Conference Team. Danny Godlevske, a recent transfer from Miami (OH), brings in 40 starts to add to the mix.
This was a position group for the Bears that really struggled last season, as Baylor allowed 31 sacks through nine games, and fielded the worst rushing offense in the conference. It is certainly possible that new offensive line coach Eric Mateos will be able to turn this unit around like he did at BYU. The Bears do return senior Connor Galvin at offensive tackle, who has shown flashes of potential, but this group was inconsistent last year, and there are questions across the board.
9. West Virginia
This is likely to be a transition year for the Mountaineers up front. They do return three starters, and bring in transfer Doug Nester, who logged 17 starts at Virginia Tech. In addition, center Zach Frazier could be in for a big season as a sophomore. Overall, though, this is one of the more as-yet unproven and less experienced units in the Big 12, and Neal Brown’s staff will look to continue to develop them throughout 2021.
Lance Leipold’s biggest challenge at Kansas might be rebuilding the offensive line. On average, the Jayhawks surrendered 5.22 sacks per game in 2020, and their struggles in the trenches were a big part of Kansas’ offensive struggles last year. The Jayhawks do bring back some players with starting experience, though, and they recently landed transfer Mike Novitsky from Buffalo, who started at center last season for the Bulls. This is nonetheless a group expected to struggle once again this season.