August 27, 2009

USC offensive front still on top of its game


Today, we continue unveiling our national unit rankings. We'll unveil one per day and end Tuesday with overall coaching staffs.

The No. 1 team in the offensive line rankings is a Pac-10 school that looks to have an embarrassment of riches, which is no surprise considering how this school recruits.

Here are the offensive line rankings. Next up: defensive line.


1. USC
: All five starters return but two could lose their starting spots, meaning this group has good depth. T Charles Brown, G Jeff Byers and C Kristofer O'Dowd have All-America potential and should help make sure the new quarterback is well-protected.

2. Texas
: Four starters return for a team still searching for a feature back. T Adam Ulatoski and C Chris Hall are the guys to watch.

3. Georgia
: The Bulldogs had a lot of injury issues last season, which should pay off this season in increased depth. The tackle duo of Clint Boling and Trinton Sturdivant should be quite good.

4. Florida
: The interior should be excellent, thanks to twins Mike Pouncey and Maurkice Pouncey. RT Marcus Gilbert is a new starter, but coaches are high on his potential. Left tackle is the spot to watch, with former five-star prospects Matt Patchan and James Wilson battling for the starting job.

5. California
: T Mike Tepper was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA, and he and Mitchell Schwartz form a solid duo. The guard spots should be solid, though C Chris Guarnero won't be as good as Alex Mack.

6. Iowa
: The tackle tandem of Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway is the best in the nation. All five starters should be upperclassmen, though injuries could muddle things. Gs Dace Richardson and Dan Doering and G/C Julian Vandervelde bear watching.

7. Rutgers
: All five starters return for an offense that likely will depend far more on the run this season. T Anthony Davis is a mountain on the outside. This is an aggressive, physical group.

8. Florida State
: For the first time in a while, the Seminoles' offensive line will be a team strength. G Rodney Hudson is the leader of what still is a young group.

9. Boston College
: T Anthony Castonzo and G Matt Tennant have All-America potential and head a group that returns four starters. The line has the potential to control games, but is there a quarterback on the roster?

10. Oklahoma State
: T Russell Okung may be the best offensive lineman in the nation. He and Brady Bond form a nice tackle duo. There are two new guards, but the talent looks to be there.

8 OTHERS TO WATCH: Cincinnati (T Jeff Linkenbach heads the Big East's second-best line); Clemson (This unit goes from somewhat of a weakness to a definite strength); Louisiana-Lafayette (All five starters are back for a team that ranked seventh in the nation in rushing offense and had two 1,000-yard rushers); LSU (T Ciron Black is a standout, but center could be an issue); Mississippi (T Michael Oher is missed, but massive T John Jerry is a road-grader); Stanford (This is an experienced, physical group); Utah (T Zane Beadles is a full-fledged star and the best of three returning starters); Wake Forest (Look for the Demon Deacons to run the ball much better this season; they have all five starters back, plus return former starter Chris DeGeare, a 362-pounder who missed last season for academic reasons).

(Rankings by staffers Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee.)

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