Take a look at 2009, for instance. The Big 12 had two All-America caliber centers. Baylor's J.D. Walton was tapped as a first-team All-American by the AP. Texas center Chris Hall was picked as the first-team All-American center by the coaches. Neither made this team.
Keep in mind that these are ALL first-team All-Americans. So a guy who was just a solid two-year first-team All-Big 12 guy and a second-team All-American? He's not even in the above listed 28. And that causes problems. Because some of the guys I remember being dominant, guys like Kansas State's Nick Leckey at center, or mean-as-rattlesnakes Nebraska guard Richie Incognito, weren't first-team All-Americans. And some others, like Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith, or Iowa State offensive tackle Kelechi Osemele, only picked up one All-America team mention.
With three teams plus an honorable mention, that's only 20 selections. So even if you went exclusively from the first-team All-America list (which I didn't quite do), you're still leaving off eight guys — almost two teams full — good enough to earn first-team All-America mention in their careers. Or, if you shoot to go with all consensus All-Americans, you fill up three teams, and only leave one honorable mention slot left.
I tried not to do either. Sure, honors were important. But I also used them more as a reinforcement for what I already knew, or as a tie-breaker on two guys that I wasn't sure about. In some, I went against the honors. I picked Leckey ahead of players more honored. And I selected Oklahoma guard Davin Joseph, who received some All-America mention, over a consensus All-American like Texas's Derrick Dockery because I remember Joseph being better. Because while honors are important, offensive linemen are one of the haziest positions to grade. Take Kansas offensive tackle Anthony Collins. He had a great enough year to be named consensus All-America in 2007, yet when the Big 12 named its offensive lineman of the year, it picked two players … and he wasn't one of them. Or maybe my favorite example: Texas Tech lineman Brandon Carter. He earned first-team All-America honors from two selectors in 2008, but wasn't named among the 12 best linemen in the Big 12 by the coaches, who tapped him honorable mention All-Big 12. In 2009, Carter was a first-team All-Big 12'er, but didn't get any first-team All-America mention.
But that's enough complaining for now. Here's the list:
Taylor was the Big 12's first great lineman, and looking back, 16 years later, he still might be its best. While players were only given credit for time served in the Big 12, it's worth noting that Taylor was a third-team All-American as a sophomore starter on Nebraska's 1995 juggernaut that many people see as the best team of all time. It was in the Big 12, though, that he really shined. He's the only Cornhusker to make All-America at two different positions. He was a consensus All-American as a center in 1996 and was a consensus All-American again in 1997, this time at guard. 1997 also brought Taylor the Outland Trophy and the Jim Parker Trophy (also for college football's best lineman), and while he was a member of the Big 12's All-Decade team, he was also a member of Sports Illustrated's All-Century Team (third-team) put together in 2010. Brown was the Big 12's only other Outland Trophy winner, taking it in 2004 after earning some All-America mention in 2003. He was consensus in 2004, and a member of the All-Decade Team. Raiola is the only Big 12 player to win the Rimington Award (though they didn't have it in Taylor's time), taking it in 2000, the award's first year. Robinson is one of the best most modern blockers, helping to pave the way for explosive Oklahoma offenses in 2007 and 2008 and earning consensus All-America honors both years. Leonard Davis was a consensus All-American in 2000, and the third member of the All-Decade team on the first team.
Okung made one All-America team in 2008 before cleaning up as a unanimous All-American in 2009. The latter year, he took home the Jim Parker Trophy. Dan Neil is one of two one-year linemen to make these teams. He was an All-American per the Football Writers Association of America in 1995, the year before the league started, then was a consensus All-American in his only year in the Big 12. McKinney is the first of only three non-consensus All-Americans to make these teams. But he's no less deserving than the other guys. He was a third-team All-American in 2000 (with first-teamer Raiola earning consensus honors) and a second-teamer in 2001. But he was also a two time first-team All-Big 12 player, and when it came time to vote for the All-Decade Team, he was voted as the center … AHEAD of Raiola. Gurode is the final member of that five-man All-Decade team. He was a dominant run-blocker for some excellent Colorado teams, earning first-team All-Big 12 twice and consensus All-America honors in 2001. Blalock was actually a three-time All-Big 12'er from 2004-2006, earning some All-America honors in 2005 and consensus All-America honors in 2006.
Scott was a two-time All-Big 12 player, earning consensus All-America honors in 2005. Williams did the same a few years later for Oklahoma, starring at right tackle in 2008 and earning All-Big 12 honors, then switching to left tackle in 2009 and taking his game up a notch, earning consensus All-America honors. Riti is one of the more underrated Big 12 linemen historically, but he shouldn't be. As a junior, the savvy center helped Missouri to its best record in 16 years, making first-team All-Big 12. And as a senior in 1999, Riti made the consensus All-America team, the first Missouri player to earn All-America honors in 13 years. Collins emerged as a dominant force the second half of his sophomore year, then carried it into his junior year when he was arguably the best college lineman not named Jake Long. In 2007, Collins was a consensus All-American before leaving early for the NFL. Fonoti was a contemporary with Raiola, and the two combined to make for an awesome offensive line that took Nebraska to the BCS National Championship Game. He earned consensus All-America honors in 2001.
Naeole is the second and final player on this list who only played one year in the league. But that one year was a great one, with Naeole earning consensus All-America honors in 1996. Williams was a consensus All-American in 2001, protecting Chris Simms's blind side from his right tackle spot (Simms was left-handed). Leckey is the only player besides McKinney not to make first-team All-America. But he was a two-time first-team All-Big 12'er, and was a huge part of a Kansas State offense that led the Wildcats to their only Big 12 title in 2003. Levy Adcock is the most recent member of this team, ending his career in 2011. That's when he helped block for an awfully good Oklahoma State offense, helping the Cowboys to a 12-1 record and making consensus All-American. Davin Joseph is the final non-consensus All-American on this list. He earned some first-team honors in 2005, and was an excellent player who started 40 games, 29 at guard and 11 at left tackle.