August 17, 2008

Oher returns as top offensive lineman

More Power Rankings: Running backs | Wide receivers | Tight ends

Underclassmen may be all the rage now that Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has become the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. On the offensive line, though, senior leadership still wins out just about every time.

Seniors fill the top five offensive line spots in the College Football Power Rankings, which measure the nation's top players and coaches at each position. Alabama junior offensive tackle Andre Smith is the only underclassman in the top 11.

Ole Miss tackle Michael Oher leads the senior-dominated list. After originally declaring for the NFL Draft, Oher changed his mind and chose to return to school for a fourth season as the Rebels' starting left tackle.

A trio of centers California's Alex Mack, Arkansas' Jonathan Luigs and Oregon's Max Unger fill three of the next four spots.

We're introducing our preseason power rankings on a position-by-position basis. We'll continue Monday with the introduction of our defensive lineman rankings.

The rating of a player and coach can fluctuate each week during the season depending on how they fared the previous week, but the power rankings measure overall career performances as well as their most recent results.

1. T Michael Oher, Ole Miss, Sr.
The buzz: Oher lost weight during the offseason and believes the change has made him a quicker and better player. Considering he already was considered a probable first-round pick, an improved Oher is bad news for the rest of the SEC.
2. C Alex Mack, California, Sr.
The buzz: This senior led his team in pancake blocks and knockdowns while helping California allow just 11 sacks last season. We give Mack a slight edge over 2007 Rimington Trophy winner Jonathan Luigs because Mack has to spend equal time run blocking and pass blocking, while Arkansas' run-oriented offense under Houston Nutt allowed Luigs to focus on the run.
3. C Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas, Sr.
The buzz: The 2007 Rimington Trophy winner helped Arkansas rush for a school-record 3,725 yards. He opened up enough running room to help Darren McFadden and Felix Jones become first-round picks.
4. T Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma, Sr.
The buzz: Loadholt's 6-foot-8, 337-pound frame makes him an ideal NFL prospect. The Garden City (Kan.) Community College transfer made an immediate impact last season and recorded the Sooners' highest run-blocking grade.
5. C Max Unger, Oregon, Sr.
The buzz: One of the most versatile players on our list, Unger moved to center last season after starting at left tackle his first two years at Oregon. He has the ability to play any of the five line positions and has made 38 consecutive starts.
6. Andre Smith, Alabama, Jr.
The buzz: Smith has started at left tackle since he arrived on Alabama's campus and has done an exceptional job of protecting John Parker Wilson's blind side. Smith and Luigs shared the 2007 Jacobs Trophy that goes each season to the SEC's top blocker.
7. G Herman Johnson, LSU, Sr.
The buzz: Johnson played every offensive snap against South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee last season. He joined left tackle Ciron Black as the only players in LSU history to be on the field for more than 1,000 plays from scrimmage in a season.
8. G Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin, Sr.
The buzz: This versatile fifth-year senior has made 39 consecutive starts while lining up at right tackle and right guard. He was named Wisconsin's offensive player of the week after victories over Indiana and Iowa last season.
9. G Duke Robinson, Oklahoma, Sr.
The buzz: Robinson recorded 97 knockdowns last season and delivered 13 of them in the Miami game alone. He has been a All-America each of the past two seasons and earned first-team honors in '07.
10. G Anthony Parker, Tennessee, Sr.
The buzz: Parker moved from right guard to left guard last season and adjusted so well that he helped Tennessee allow just four sacks, the lowest total in the nation. Tennessee starting quarterback Erik Ainge was sacked just three times in 519 passes, setting a record for anyone who had made at least 300 attempts.
11. T Alex Boone, Ohio State, Sr.
The buzz: Boone earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in '07 and is entering his third season as the Buckeyes' starting left tackle. He was named Ohio State's offensive player of the week after a victory over Purdue.
12. T Ciron Black, LSU, Jr.
The buzz: Although he still has two years of eligibility remaining, Black already has made 27 consecutive starts. He played a school-record 1,031 snaps last season and was on the field for 97.8 percent of the Tigers' offensive plays.
13. T Ryan Stanchek, West Virginia, Sr.
The buzz: This fifth-year senior moved into the starting lineup after the first four games of his freshman season and has remained there since. He has experience at guard but has made a home at left tackle.
14. T Anthony Davis, Rutgers, Soph.
The buzz: One of the most heralded recruits ever to sign with Rutgers has wasted no time living up to the hype. Davis started at right guard the final eight games of his freshman season and earned Freshman All-America honors. He is moving to left tackle for his sophomore season.
15. C A.Q. Shipley, Penn State, Sr.
The buzz: Shipley has made 26 consecutive starts and was named the first-team All-Big Ten center by the conference's coaches last season. Penn State has produced a different 1,000-yard rusher (Tony Hunt in 2006, Rodney Kinlaw in 2007) in each of Shipley's two years as a starter.
16. G Jeremy Perry, Oregon State, Sr.
The buzz: Perry missed most of last season with a broken leg and sat out spring practice to recover from knee surgery. When he's healthy, he's one of the nation's top guards. Perry earned first-team all-conference honors two years ago and was named the Pac-10's co-freshman of the year in 2005.
17. T Eugene Monroe, Virginia, Sr.
The buzz: Monroe performed so well at left tackle last year that he didn't allow a sack in the regular season. He graded out as Virginia's top blocker in five games while playing on a line that included first-round pick Branden Albert at guard.
18. T Rylan Reed, Texas Tech, Sr.
The buzz: This 26-year-old former minor-league pitcher in the Chicago White Sox system continues to show his athleticism on the football field. He closed the 2007 season by holding Virginia's Chris Long the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft to three tackles and no sacks in the Red Raiders' Gator Bowl victory.
19. T Andrew Gardner, Georgia Tech, Sr.
The buzz: This fourth-year starter at left tackle anchored a line that allowed the fewest sacks in the ACC and helped Georgia Tech lead the league in rushing last season.
20. C Brett Helms, LSU, Sr.
The buzz: How good are the defending national champions at the line of scrimmage? Consider that Helms is the third LSU lineman to crack our power rankings. Helms has started at center the past two seasons after beginning his college career at guard.
21. T Fenuki Tupou, Oregon, Sr.
The buzz: This Sierra College transfer moved right into the starting lineup at left tackle in his first season at Oregon, which allowed the Ducks to move Jonathan Unger to center. Tupou had a nice season last year, but this ranking is based more on his potential than his performance.
22. C Eric Wood, Louisville, Sr.
The buzz: Louisville's program has experienced its share of turmoil in the past year, but Wood has remained a rock of stability. This fifth-year senior has made 37 consecutive starts at center and earned first-team All-Big East honors last season.
23. T Eben Britton, Arizona, Jr.
The buzz: Britton has started at right tackle for the Wildcats each of the past two seasons and emerged as Arizona's most consistent lineman almost as soon as he moved into the lineup. He earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors last season.
24. Jason Watkins, Florida, Sr.
The buzz: This underrated fifth-year senior made 13 starts at left tackle last season but will play on the right side - which is Tebow's blind side - this year. Watkins should benefit from the return of fellow tackle Phil Trautwein, who sat out the '07 season with a stress fracture in his right foot.
25. G Louis Vasquez, Texas Tech, Sr.
The buzz: This third-year starter didn't allow a sack last season. And that's quite an accomplishment for a lineman from Texas Tech, which attempted 763 passes.

More Power Rankings: Running backs | Wide receivers | Tight ends

Steve Megargee is a national writer for He can be reached at

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