In a league that is won and lost at the line of scrimmage, teams have to have quality big men up front. The SEC doesn’t lack talent – or size and intimidation – in this category and returns a handful of quality linemen.
The thing about his league is that the youngsters and veterans seem to play at an equally high level up front at times. It feels like the talent around the SEC is maturing at much younger ages on the offensive line.
Here are some of the top performers we came up with on the offensive side the SEC trenches:
1. Barrett Jones, Alabama, Jr.: The junior has started 25 games at right guard for the Crimson Tide and is arguably the best run-blocker in the league. He’s also one of the team’s top leaders. The coaches trust him so much that with the vacancy left by James Carpenter at left tackle, Jones took snaps there this spring and could end up playing there permanently this fall.
2. Cordy Glenn, Georgia, Sr.: Glenn moved from guard and was competing with Trinton Sturdivant at both tackle spots. Even before Sturdivant’s devastating knee injury, he was poised to take the left tackle spot. The 6-foot-5, 320-pounder enters the season with 36 starts under his belt.
3. Bradley Sowell, Ole Miss, Sr.: Sowell looks primed to be an All-SEC performer this season. He’s started 24 of 25 games and has been an instrumental part in both Ole Miss’ passing and rushing game. He’s one of the more athletic tackles in the league and shouldn’t have an issue protecting the blind side of Ole Miss’ new quarterback.
4. Larry Warford, Kentucky, Jr.: He’s the best of a veteran group in Lexington. Warford, who was an All-SEC second team selection in 2010, has ideal athleticism to play inside and started every game for the Wildcats at right guard. He also led the team with 43 knockdowns.
5. William Vlachos, Alabama, Sr.: Vlachos is not only tops at the center position in the SEC, but he’s one of the best in the nation. He’s become one of the most vocal leaders for the Tide and brings a bit of an edge to the offensive line. He has started 27 straight games at center and could be a leading candidate for the Rimington Trophy.
6. Bobby Massie, Ole Miss, Jr.: He’s another candidate for All-SEC honors this fall. The athletic lineman has started 17 games at right tackle and should continue to be a chore for defensive ends and linebackers to get by. He’s starting to develop as more of a leader, which will be key for the Rebels as they break in a new quarterback.
7. Josh Dworaczky, LSU, Sr.: He started in all 13 games last season at left guard for the Tigers and has competed in 752 plays with 53 knockdowns. Dworaczky also played every offensive snap in nine games in 2010. For his career, he’s started in 26 of the 38 games he’s played in.
8. Alvin Bailey, Arkansas, So.: Bailey was a hit for the Razorbacks very early. He started as a true freshman and showed that he’ll be a star among the league's linemen because of the way he utilizes his size and strength. He’s one of only two starters returning on Arkansas’ line, but should be key in the Razorbacks’ inside running game.
9. Ja’Wuan James, Tennessee, So.: He’s another youngster who impressed during his first year on campus. The right tackle missed most of spring because of an illness, but he’ll be back to normal this fall. James was one of 10 Volunteers to start in every game and one of just four to see action in every single quarter
10. Brandon Mosley, Auburn, Sr.: Mosley arrived last season with more experience at defensive end and tight end before moving to right tackle. He was solid for the Tigers after a stint in junior college, playing in 14 games and starting 11. He is Auburn’s lone returning starter on the offensive line.