Ranking the Big 12 Offensive Line Units

Which teams in the Big 12 have the best, or worst, offensive lines returning? LonghornDigest.com breaks it down.

1) Kansas State

The Wildcats return all five starters from an offensive line that was dominant at times a year ago, piling up 2,522 rushing yards. Left tackle Cornelius Lucas (6-9 328) and center B.J. Finney (6-4 303) didn't have any other BCS offers … in fact, Finney was a walk-on for the Wildcats. Now, both are among the top players at their position in the Big 12. Cody Whitehair (6-4 309) is a mainstay at right tackle, while Keenan Taylor (6-4 290), Tavon Rooks (6-5 280) and Boston Stiverson (6-4 312) will all rotate through the guard positions. Good news for the future as well: Finney (junior), Whitehair and Stiverson (sophomores) are all expected back next season as well.


2) Oklahoma

The Sooners bring back four starters and the fifth guy, projected right tackle Tyrus Thompson (6-5 316) started five games last year, including action against heavy-hitters Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas A&M. So this is an experienced, and talented group. Gabe Ikard (6-4 298) returns for what seems like the eighth-straight year. He's among the country's best centers. Daryl Williams (6-6 315) will get first crack at replacing the departed Lane Johnson at left tackle, and has All-Big 12 ability. Bronson Irwin (6-5 310) and Adam Shead (6-4 311) started every game at the guard spots last year. If JUCO transfer Josiah St. John (6-6 305) can get in and make an impact, all the better.


3) Texas

If offensive line starts were the only measure of a line's dominance, Texas might have the best line group in the country, with 124 starts between the Longhorns' five returning starters. A whopping 67 of those come from guards Mason Walters (6-6 320) and Trey Hopkins (6-4 300). Both have All-Big 12 ability, but could stand to step up their games another notch. Center Dominic Espinosa (6-4 300) was arguably the weak link a year ago, but he looked much better in the spring. Donald Hawkins (6-5 310) and Josh Cochran (6-6 299) are the tackles, though Cochran is coming off an injury and the Longhorns picked up one of the nation's top JUCO tackles in Desmond Harrison (6-8 310), who's expected to compete for a starting job. Hopkins and Cochran sat out the spring with ailments, allowing young players like Sedrick Flowers (6-3 313) and Kennedy Estelle (6-7 300) to show their ability. And the Longhorns landed arguably the top offensive line class in the country.


4) Baylor

Cyril Richardson (6-5 335) returns as arguably the top offensive lineman in the Big 12. With him blowing open holes at left guard, and talented sophomore Spencer Drango (6-6 310) digging in at left tackle, the Bears may have the best left side in the league. Troy Baker (6-6 300) blowing out his ACL in the spring means that the Bears will likely deploy fifth-year senior Kelvin Palmer at right tackle, rather than center. Stefan Huber (6-4 295) takes the mantle at center, while Desmine Hilliard will likely start at right guard. Any more injuries could be devastating, as depth is an issue.


5) Oklahoma State

The Cowboys only return two starters, but after multiple years of replacing key players seamlessly, offensive line coach Joe Wickline has proven that he's potentially the Big 12's best coach at putting out great line units despite losses. Guard Parker Graham (6-7 315) could be the next veteran to make the leap to all-league status. Daniel Koenig (6-6 310) is a returning starter at right tackle, while Brandon Webb (6-3 316) is an experienced left guard. Keep an eye on talented young players Devin Davis (6-5 298) and Michael Wilson (6-6 290) at left tackle and Jake Jenkins (6-3 298) at center.


BEST OF THE REST

6) Iowa State The Cyclones bring back four players with starting experience, including center Tom Farniok, one of the top centers in the Big 12. Guard Ethan Tuftee (6-4 314) has great potential, and helps make up a strong right side with fellow returning starter Kyle Lichtenberg (6-6 296) at right tackle. The left side is a bit more up in the air. Jacob Gannon (6-7 300) moves to left tackle after starting four games over the past two seasons. Bob Graham (6-5 296), Jamison Lalk (6-6 295) and Oni Omoile will fight it out at left guard.

7) TCU — The Horned Frogs had arguably the worst offensive line in the Big 12 last year, finishing last in yards per rush and ninth in drop-backs per sack. But that was a pretty young group, and TCU returns three starters in tackles Aviante Collins (6-6 310) and Tayo Fabuluje (6-7 315) and center Eric Tausch (6-3 300). JUCO transfer Lloyd Tunstill (6-4 305) could win a guard spot, though Michael Thompson (6-5 352) and Joey Hunt (6-3 285) figure prominently in those plans as well.

8) West Virginia The Mountaineers return three starters, though only left tackle Quenton Spain (6-5 335) is an upper-crust Big 12 lineman at this point. Pat Eger (6-6 302), who is moving to center, and Curtis Feigt (6-7 314) at right tackle are also returning starters and solid players. Feigt has more upside. JUCO transfer Stone Underwood (6-4 285) could plug into an interior spot somewhere, while Marquis Lucas (6-4 312) and Mark Glowinski (6-5 305) left the spring looking like possible options. When Adam Pankey (6-5 323) comes back from injury, he could factor in.

9) Texas Tech This is a group with a lot of question marks. Can Le'Raven Clark (6-5 303) transfer to left tackle? He certainly has the ability to. Can Beau Carpenter (6-6 284) take his game to the next level after starting nine games last year? Is Jared Kaster (6-3 271) big and strong enough to handle the league's biggest nose tackles? And who will start on the right side? It might be James Polk (6-6 332) and Rashad Fortenberry (6-5 275), though they could be pushed by other players in the pipeline.

10) Kansas Like so many Jayhawk positions, this one will come down to how good Kansas's junior college transfers are. At least two — Mike Smithburg (6-3 296) and Ngalu Fusimalohi (6-2 324) — are expected to start. One of last year's transfers, Aslam Sterling (6-5 312), is one of the few key returnees, along with Randall Dent (6-4 293) and Damon Martin (6-3 295). The tackle spot other than Sterling is a major concern … can Pat Lewandowski (6-6 287) handle the job? Or will Pearce Slater (6-8 340), who signed an aid agreement with the Jayhawks, make it in and win a spot?


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