2012 Preview: Opposing Offensive Lines

Pitt has its own questions on the offensive line, but so do a lot of other Big East opponents.

Youngstown State has a lot of abilities at skill positions, but a lot of what they do starts up front. The Penguins return five starters on the offensive line, includinga couple of familiar names. Working left to right, Andrew Radakovich (6-6, 320) returns to start at left tackle. Radakovich, a native of Steubenville, is a former Penn State transfer. Left guard Lamar Mady (6-3, 315) also returns. Mady transferred in last year from Butler Community College in Kansas--traditionally a powerhouse in the JUCO ranks. Center Mark Pratt--who initially transferred in from Utah's Snow Community College--is also back. Beaver Falls native Chris Elkins returns to start at right guard, and D.J. Main returns to start at right tackle. Everyone except for Elkins is a senior. Pratt and Elkins both earned all-conference honors. It doesn't matter if it's FCS, FBS or Division II. A senior-laden offensive line is going to be a challenge.

Cincinnati has a bit of a question mark on the offensive line, as they have three holes to fill. Two of those starters lost include all-conference selections Randy Martinez and Alex Hoffman. One key addition expected to help out is former Ohio State transfer Sam Longo. Cincinnati is expected to be a contender in the Big East because of what they return on defense. Even having to replace a starting quarterback and running back, there's a general consensus that Munchie Legaux and whoever steps up at running back, the Bearcats will be fine. However, if the offensive line does not come together, that label as a contender will fade away.

Virginia Tech
The Hokies are also a team that has some question marks on the offensive line. The only returning starter is center Andrew Miller. One player split time in 2011--that would be left tackle Nick Becton. Two others appear to have earned starting jobs in the spring--left guard David Wang and right tackle Vinston Painter. The only position up for grabs looks like right guard. Sophomore Brent Benedict is the leading candidate. At least those filling this year have been around. Becton and Painter are fifth-year seniors, Wang and Miller are fourth-year juniors. It hasn't swayed voters too much, as Virginia Tech is the preseason favorite to win. The ACC Coastal division.

Gardner-Webb's offensive line is anchored by left guard Jamie Dunaway. Dunaway has made 33 consecutive starts, has earned preseason All-America status among FCS offensive linemen, and is a two-time all-conference selection. Dunaway pilayed a key role in running back Kenny Little's 1,000-yard season a year ago.

Syracuse returns two starters on the offensive line--senior Zack Chibane at left guard, and junior Macky MacPherson at center. At left tackle, look to see sophomore Kristofer Curtis. The Orange may have another sophomore starter in right guard Ivan Foy. Senior Lou Alexander is the leading candidate at right tackle.

Louisville will have one of the top, if not the top offensive lines in the Big East. The Cardinals are anchored by senior center Mario Benavides, who enters 2012 as his fourth year as a starter. Right guard Jake Smith was a Freshman All-America selection last year at right guard. He started all 13 games last year as a true freshman. At left guard is another promising sophomore in John Miller. Miller started 10 games last season as a freshman. Alex Kupper returns to start at left tackle. Kupper has started at left tackle and center during his career.

Buffalo returns an experienced group on the offensive line, a group that improved throughout the season Graham Whinery started all 12 games last season, and can play center or guard. Right tackle Gokhan Ozkan started all 12 games at that position last year. Jasen Carlson is another versatile interior lineman--capable of starting at either center or guard. Andre Davis also started in all 12 games a year ago. The Bulls have a bruising running back in Branden Oliver, who rushed for 1,395 yards last year. With a lot of the pieces back from an offensive line that opened the holes for him, this group should pick up where it left off last year.

The Owls have some holes to fill on the offensive line. Only right tackle Martin Wallace returns. Wallace started all 13 games there last season, and is the textbook definition of a road-grader for the Owls' power-running game. Sean Boyle is expected to take over at center, and has played in a lot of games as a reserve--even starting a game at center in his career.

Notre Dame
Arguably the best offensive lineman the Panthers defense will see all year, will come when they face Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin. Martin has started 26 games in the last two years, and has been voted as the Irish' top offensive lineman in each of the last two seasons. He is on the preseason watch list for the Lombardi and Outland Trophy awards. Martin also has the ability to start at left guard. Chris Watt and Braxston Cave also provide experience on the interior line. Mike Golic Jr. May earn a starting job at guard this year.

The strength of UConn's offensive line lies in the interior. Redshirt senior Adam Masters and redshirt junior Steve Greene return at guard. Masters started all 13 games at right guard, while Green started eight games at left guard. Redshirt junior Kevin Friend started nine games at right tackle last year. Look for redshirt senior Jimmy Bennett to take over at left tackle. Bennett, who had a Pitt offer coming out of high school, started two games last year.

Rutgers has some holes to fill ont the offensive line, and we may see some youngsters competing for starting jobs. The Scarlet Knights have recruited several highly-regarded prospects ov the last two recruiting class. Rutgers gets a big boost on the offensive line, with Maryland transfer R.J. Dill coming in. Dill has one year of eligibility, and will likely be the starter at right tackle. He started 33 games in three years with the Terps. Starters Desmond Wynn and Caleb Ruch have graduated. Kaleb Johnson returns as a starter. Batim Bujari will likely start at center, while David Osei and Antwan Lowery are expected to compete for the starting job at left guard. Andre Civil is also comoeting at tackle. Keith Lumpkin was a big signee in 2011. The Scarlet Knights signed J.J.Denman, Brandon Arcidiacono, Chris Mueller and Ryan Brodie. All four have the chance to compete for a starting job, if not a spot on the two-deep.

South Florida
South Florida returns three starters who each had 12 starts in 2011. Tackles Quinterrius Eatmon and Mark Popek. Senior guard Danous Estenor also returns. The Bulls only need to replace graduated starters Chaz Hine and Jeremiah Warren--both 12-game starters from a year ago.

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