Here are the Big 12's best offensive line groupings:
The Cowboys put up Playstation numbers on offense last year, with the skill position players earning most of the credit. But you don't have a quarterback throw for 4,277 yards and a running back top the 1,500-yard mark in the same season without having a good, and versatile, offensive line. The Cowboys return all five starters from a year ago, with right guard Lane Taylor and right tackle Levy Adcock making up the league's most powerful side. Taylor is the line's only junior, with Adcock joined by fellow seniors Nick Martinez at left tackle, Jonathan Rush at left guard and Grant Garner at center.
2) Texas A&M
When certain coaches evaluate certain positions, you have to pay attention. That's the case with A&M head coach Mike Sherman and offensive linemen. He's built a strong, and young, group that is the envy of most of the league. It all starts with tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, who excelled as true freshmen. They could be joined by fellow sophomore Shep Klinke at right guard. Junior Patrick Lewis has moved to center, with junior Brian Thomas holding down left guard. With no seniors in the starting lineup, there's plenty to like for the future.
The Tigers bring back four starters from a year ago, including talented tackles Elvis Fisher and Dan Hoch. Fisher has started 40 consecutive games, while Hoch is a massive (6-foot-7, 315 pounds) run blocker on the right. Both are seniors, as are rugged guards Jayson Palmgren and Austin Wuebbels. The only junior of the group is Travis Ruth, who has the tough job of replacing All-Big 12 center Tim Barnes. This is a more physical group than you'll typically see from a spread team.
4) Texas Tech
The Red Raiders return all five starters from a year ago, including three seniors in left guard Lonnie Edwards, center Justin Keown and right tackle Mickey Okafor. Edwards (6-4 322) is a typically tough Tuberville type lineman, a rarity in the Mike Leach holdovers, which favored longer, more athletic linemen. He's the most consistent of the bunch, while Okafor's potential is through the roof. Left tackle LaAdrian Waddle and right guard Deveric Gallington will have to fight to keep their jobs, with Terry McDaniel serving as the primary competition for both.
Oklahoma returns four starters and six players with starting experience and hopes to improve after struggling at times to run the ball over the past few seasons. That shouldn't be as much of an issue with a more experienced group that showed increased toughness in the spring. Center Ben Habern and left guard Gabe Ikard are among the Big 12's best at their positions, while Donald Stephenson and Tyler Evans developed well a year ago. Sophomore right tackle Josh Aladenoye is the only non-returnee among the slated starters, though he'll have to hold off hard-charging Lane Johnson.
Best of the Rest
6) Kansas — The Jayhawks bring back four players who started a year ago and a fifth player, Jeff Spikes, who started two years before sitting out last year with an injury. When healthy (as they are now), Spikes and center Jeremiah Hatch are All-Big 12 candidates, while Duane Zlatnik was the team's top lineman a year ago.
7) Texas — The Longhorns return several key pieces from a line that struggled last year, but add Tray Allen, a projected starter a year ago who missed the season with an injury. Trey Hopkins is one of the Big 12's top young linemen, while Paden Kelley and Mason Walters showed potential a year ago. David Snow is steady at center.
8) Baylor — With four starters returning, the Bears should have another strong group, even without departed tackle Danny Watkins. Into Watkins' place steps Cyril Richardson, a player with big potential. The strength is on the interior with center Philip Blake and guards Cameron Kaufhold and Robert T. Griffin. Ivory Wade is a strong right tackle.
9) Iowa State — Arguably the Big 12's top lineman, left tackle Kelechi Osemele leads a group of three returning starters for the Cyclones. The right side has returning starters Hayworth Hicks at guard and Brayden Burris at right tackle. There's a group competition for the other two open spots.
10) Kansas State — The Wildcats return both starting tackles from a year ago in Manase Foketi and Clyde Aufner, but must replace the entire interior from a line that paved the way for a top-notch running attack a year ago. There are a number of bodies competing for those three spots, but keep an eye on redshirt freshman B.J. Finney at center.