It’s that time again, time to pick the best players in the SEC.
All week, we at the SEC blog will be debating which player at each position will have the best 2016 season. Some choices might be easy. Others not so much.
Next up is a position that doesn’t always get a lot of love – the offensive line.
Greg Ostendorf: Based on talent alone, I think we both can agree that Cam Robinson is the SEC’s best offensive lineman. He’s been the left tackle at Alabama since he arrived on campus in 2014, and now that he’s going to be a junior, many believe this will be his final year in Tuscaloosa. After all, he’s ranked No. 7 overall on Mel Kiper’s Too-Early 2017 Big Board.
The problem, however, is that Robinson is still awaiting his fate after he was arrested last month. We don’t know what will happen with that, and we don’t know how much time he might miss as a result. He could miss one half or he could miss four games. We just don’t know.
But even if Robinson misses one full game, I’d still rather have him for 11 regular-season games than any other SEC offensive lineman for 12.
There’s a reason Derrick Henry rushed for over 2,000 yards and won the Heisman Trophy. There’s a reason Jake Coker had time to connect on the deep ball with Calvin Ridley time and time again. It all started with Robinson up front. He has been an anchor for this team the past two seasons, and now with Ryan Kelly gone, this is his offensive line. In a way, this is his offense. Can you name me a more important player on the offense? Exactly.
I know there are other good linemen in the SEC, but assuming he doesn't have to miss much time this season, Robinson is in a class of his own.
Edward Aschoff: I’ll take LSU’s Ethan Pocic. He might have missed spring practice after undergoing offseason hip surgery, but he could have his pick of positions up front this fall. Pocic garnered All-America attention last year and was named an All-SEC member at center. But Pocic would like to move outside to tackle, and he could very well get that opportunity.
Pocic might be the league’s most versatile lineman, which is one of the major reasons I’ll take him to be the SEC’s best lineman this fall. He isn’t just someone who can make LSU’s line better because he can move around if needed; Pocic is also a beast with his physical attributes. He led the Tigers with 128.5 knockdown blocks, the most by a LSU offensive lineman in a season since 2010. He also registered double-digit knockdowns in six games, including 18 against Ole Miss.
To me, Pocic was way more consistent than Robinson last year. Yes, their positions probably played a role in that, but you can’t take away how important Pocic was to LSU’s line and how steady he was at center last year. Inconsistent play – especially at a position like left tackle – is a concern, and I don’t expect to see that from Pocic this fall, no matter where he lines up. Pocic had a chance to go to the NFL early after the 2015, and he’ll watch his draft stock soar this year.