Top offensive line coaches

Regular visitors to this space know that Dennis Dodd of cbssportsline.com has spent the past few weeks rating the top position coaches in college football, while I have spent the past few weeks second-guessing him.

Well, we're at it again. Dodd just posted his list of the NCAA's top six offensive line coaches. As usual, I have taken it upon myself to correct him.

Dodd's choice as the No. 1 offensive line coach, Southern Cal's Pat Ruel, is difficult to dispute. Ruel has cranked out a bunch of great offensive linemen in recent years - the two most recent being Sam Baker and Chilo Rachal. Baker was taken by the Atlanta Falcons in Round 1 (pick 21) of the recent NFL Draft and Rachal was taken by the San Francisco 49ers early in Round 2 (pick 39).

And, to his credit, Dodd had the good sense to list two SEC aides among his top six offensive line coaches - Mike Markuson of Ole Miss and Hugh Nall of Auburn.

Markuson, in his first year at Oxford, is the guy who molded the great Arkansas offensive lines that allowed the Razorbacks to lead the SEC in rushing four of the past five years. Having Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in your backfield doesn't hurt, but Markuson's blockers have been exceptional. Jonathan Luigs won the Rimington Award as the NCAA's top center last fall. He and Robert Felton were first-team Coaches' All-SEC picks, while line mates Nate Garner and Mitch Petrus were second-teamers. Markuson's protégés also include Tony Ugoh, a 2006 All-American who was a second-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Nall has done an equally terrific job with Auburn offensive linemen. One of his best was Marcus McNeil, who made the Pro Bowl as an NFL rookie in 2006.

Rounding out Dodd's top six line coaches are Mac McWhorter of Texas, Todd Spencer of Georgia Tech and Rick Trickett of Florida State.

I'm sure McWhorter, Spencer and Trickett are capable but I can't believe they are better than Stacy Searels, who spent 2003-2006 at LSU before joining the Georgia staff for 2007.

All Searels did in four years at Baton Rouge was send five guys to the NFL, including All-Americans Stephen Peterman, Ben Wilkerson and Andrew Whitworth. Incidentally, Wilkerson won the 2004 Rimington Award.

Last season, in his first year with Mark Richt's Bulldogs, Searels somehow molded a line around three freshman starters. In spite of this glaring lack of maturity and experience, Georgia's blocking front helped the Dawgs field a balanced offense (2,305 rushing yards, 2,579 passing yards) that averaged 375.2 total yards and 32.6 points per game. Georgia scored 32 rushing touchdowns and averaged 4.5 yards per carry last fall.

If I were a head man looking for an offensive line coach, Stacy Searels just might be the first call I'd make.


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