With spring football wrapped up across the SEC, we’re ranking position groups across the league as they stand currently. Today we turn our attention to the offensive line:
1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide are set at left tackle where Cam Robinson enters his third year as a starter. Ross Pierschbacher moved from left guard to center in spring to succeed Ryan Kelly, and that transition went well. There’s competition at right tackle but Korren Kirven got first-team reps at both tackle spots, including left when Robinson was injured in spring. Alphonse Taylor returns as a starter at right guard but was with the second team in spring (Nick Saban cited weight). Regardless, the talent and depth available here is as good as it gets.
2. Georgia: Sam Pittman, formerly of Arkansas, has some experienced pieces to work with as the Bulldogs’ new offensive line coach, namely with All-SEC picks Greg Pyke and Brandon Kublanow. Pyke worked at right tackle, Kublanow at center and returning starter Isaiah Wynn at left guard in the spring. The group will also add a graduate transfer (Tyler Catalina) in the summer. Once all the pieces are in place, this could be a strong line again.
3. LSU: The talent level here is good, it’s a matter of finding where the pieces fit, which the Tigers spent the spring figuring out. They were without center Ethan Pocic in the spring. The most intrigue comes at left tackle where mammoth sophomore Maea Teuhema worked. He’s strong and moves well but how will the 330-pounder handle speed rushers? Sophomore Toby Weathersby saw plenty of first-team reps in the spring and could figure in as the new right tackle. There’s still competition at the guard spots.
4. Tennessee: The depth is better than it has been in the last two seasons as is the experience, led by veterans Jashon Robertson, Coleman Thomas and Dylan Wiesman. Robertson and Chance Hall were out in the spring with injuries. Tackle Drew Richmond, a redshirt freshman, turned in a solid spring as did junior Brett Kendrick. Those two and Hall figure to be the top candidates for the two tackle spots.
5. Arkansas: This is one of the SEC’s most intriguing units as three key starters must be replaced. The Hogs ended the spring with a redshirt freshman at left tackle (Colton Jackson) and a converted defensive lineman at left guard (Hjalte Froholdt). Frank Ragnow, last year’s starter at right guard, is the new center and Brian Wallace, who was injured late in spring, will be at right guard. Dan Skipper, the right tackle, is the only returnee starting in the same place he did last year. Numerous questions to be answered.
6. Auburn: New offensive line coach Herb Hand exited spring with a good handle on Auburn’s best five linemen, which include three returning starters (Alex Kozan, Austin Golson and Braden Smith). The Tigers ended spring with Golson at left tackle, Kozan at left guard, Xavier Dampeer at center, Smith at right guard and Robert Leff at right tackle. The Tigers must take a step forward from their 2015 performance but have a solid chance at doing so.
7. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are in good shape on the interior, with seniors Jamaal Clayborn and Devon Desper returning at center and right guard, respectively. Both started all last season. Justin Senior moved from right tackle to left tackle while the team plugged in new starters at left guard and right tackle, the one spot that seems most up for grabs going into the fall.
8. Florida: Sophomore guard Martez Ivey was out this spring (shoulder surgery) but depth was light years better for this group than it was at this time a year ago. Once Ivey is healthy, there will be four players who started the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl available: Ivey, tackles Fred Johnson and David Sharpe and guard Tyler Jordan. Jim McElwain expressed optimism about the progress the unit made as a whole and the Gators appear poised to take a significant step forward.
9. South Carolina: The Gamecocks return two starters from 2015 (tackle Mason Zandi, guard/center Alan Knott) and add guard Cory Helms, a Wake Forest transfer who sat out last season, who is eligible this season. All three were in starting spots on the post-spring depth chart (Zandi at left tackle, Knott at center, Helms at right guard) with SEC All-Freshman team pick Zack Bailey, who started five games last season, at left guard and redshirt junior DJ Park currently penciled in at right tackle.
10. Ole Miss: The Rebels will be young at left tackle with Laremy Tunsil gone and either redshirt freshman Alex Givens (who worked there in spring) or potentially incoming true freshman five-star prospect Greg Little being the eventual answer there. They were without Robert Conyers and Rod Taylor all spring. Jeremy Liggins moved from tight end to tackle in the spring. Javon Patterson is back at guard after being thrown into the fire as a freshman starter. Needless to say, a lot of rebuilding to be done here.
11. Texas A&M: The one healthy, known commodity coming out of spring was left tackle Avery Gennesy; new faces abounded everywhere else. Keaton Sutherland, who started part-time last year at left guard and Connor Lanfear both ended spring injured, so that cut into the Aggies’ depth and new faces at key spots like center (Erik McCoy) and right tackle (Koda Martin) have potential and impressed the coaches but still have a long way to go.
12. Kentucky: There is plenty of experience up front for the Wildcats, who return 86 total starts including 47 from last season. Center Jon Toth (35 consecutive starts) leads the way; tackles Kyle Meadows and George Asafo-Adjei and guards Nick Haynes, Cole Mosier and Ramsey Meyers all have starting experience. Two early enrollees were also around in spring -- Tate Leavitt and Drake Jackson -- and two more arrive in the summer, including the Wildcats’ highest ranked 2016 recruit, Landon Young.
13. Vanderbilt: The Commodores return experience -- some returning from injuries such as Andrew Jelks and others being younger players who got experience as a result in 2015, such as Bailey Granier or Justin Skule -- but depth is still a concern. Three signees arriving in summer (Sean Auwae, Devin Cochran, Braden Kopp) will help but this unit still has a ways to go and must stay healthy to move up the list.
14. Missouri: At one point during spring practice, Missouri was down to eight healthy offensive linemen thanks to injuries and attrition. Starting guard Nate Crawford missed most of the spring after having back surgery. Barry Odom said he was pleased with the group’s growth and progress over spring and adding two more linemen via its recruiting class into the fold this summer helps but offensive line coach Glen Elarbee certainly has his work cut out for him.