The plethora of excellent running backs in the Big 12 will have reason for joy in 2013. So will all the untried quarterbacks in need of top-class support from the boys up front. The reason for this is that most teams in the Big 12 will have good, and in some cases great, offensive lines. Big 12 defenses, on the other hand, may be wearing some frowns as they try to figure out how to slow down what figures to be several juggernaut type offenses in the upcoming season. Below is a ranking of the offensive lines which will be the linchpins of those offenses.
1. Texas: Probable starters are Josh Cochran, Mason Walters, Dominic Espinosa, Trey Hopkins, and Donald Hawkins. And all are returning starters. Left guard Walters and right guard Hopkins are All Conference type players. Pair this group with a deep if possibly overrated backfield, and there's little question the ground game in Austin will at times resemble a stampede. Woe unto defenses who have trouble stopping the run.
2. Kansas State: Probable starters are Cornelius Lucas, Boston Stiverson, B. J. Finney, Keenan Taylor, and Cody Whitehair. The colossal left tackle Lucas, who stands six-foot-nine, along with center Finney, and right tackle Whitehair are returning starters, and all are excellent players. Lucas has an NFL future, while Finney is the best center in the conference not named Ikard. Factor in another starter Tavon Rooks, who may come off the bench this season, and you can make a case that Bill Snyder's offensive line will be every bit as good as Mack Brown's.
3. Iowa State: Probable starters are Jacob Gannon, Bob Graham, Tom Farniok, Ethan Tuftee, and Kyle Lichtenberg. Tackles Gannon and Lichtenberg are returning starters, as is center Farniok. And Farniok would be an All Conference performer in any conference other than the Big 12. What a pity there are few Cyclone skill position players capable of capitalizing on what figures to be a fine offensive line.
4. Baylor: Probable starters are Kevin Palmer, Desmine Hilliard, Stephan Huber, Cyril Richardson, and Spencer Drango. The only returning starters are right guard Richardson and right tackle Drango, but they are two of the best in the conference at their position. You can bet Lache Seastrunk will spend many a snap plowing for big yardage behind that dynamic duo.
5. Oklahoma: Probable starters are Daryl Williams, Adam Shead, Gabe Ikard, Bronson Irwin, and Tyrus Thompson. Returning starters are the guards Shead and Irwin and center Ikard. Ikard is the best center in the Big 12 if not the entire country. He, Shead and Irwin will anchor a very strong interior for the Sooners who will attempt to exploit this advantage with behemothic quarterback Blake Bell.
6.Oklahoma State: Probable starters are Devin Davis, Brandon Webb, Jake Jenkins, Parker Graham, and Daniel Koenig. Webb, Graham and Koenig are returning starters, and the athletic Graham is the best of that bunch. Offensive line will certainly not be a weakness for the Cowboys' offense, but compared to OSU's disgusting talent at all other offensive positions, it cuts a comparatively unprepossessing figure. The only hope for Big 12 defenses may be to pressurize and confuse this line to the maximum possible.
7. TCU: Probable starters are Aviante Collins, Joey Hunt, Eric Tausch, Jamelle Naff, and Tayo Fabuluje. The tackles Collins and Fabuluje are returning starters, as is center Tausch. Collins, who started every game last year as a freshman, is a future star. He may be one now. The rest of this crew looks adequate but no more.
8. Texas Tech: Probable starters are Le'Raven Clark , Tony Morales, Jared Kaster, Beau Carpenter, and Trey Keenan. Returning starters are left tackle Clark and right guard Carpenter. Clark is on everybody's list of top offensive linemen in the Big 12, but otherwise, there are concerns for the Red Raiders. Right tackle Keenan is a freshman and left guard Morales has been injury prone. Kaster will be a great one in time, and Carpenter is underrated.
9. West Virginia: Probable starters are Quinton Spain, Marquis Lucas, Pat Eger, Mark Glowinski, and Curtis Feigt. Returning starters are left tackle Spain, center Eger and right tackle Feigt. Nobody on this unit really stands out, although Spain and Eger are decent enough. With this underwhelming line and entirely new quarterbacks and receivers, Dana Holgorsen's sophomore campaign in Morgantown could be rocky to say the least.
10. Kansas: Probable starters are Pat Lewandowski, Ngalu Fusimalohi, Dylan Admire, Mike Smithburg, and Aslam Sterling. Only right tackle Sterling is a returning starter. Lewandowski is the younger brother of former Texas Tech hoopster Robert Lewandowski. Fusimalohi and Smithburg are JUCO transfers being counted upon to start immediately. Top notch running back James Sims could be in Heaps big trouble running behind this group.