Offensive linemen are deep in the conference this season as many teams return 3 or more linemen from a season before. Many value the offensive line as the most important unit on a team and here we go, taking a look at the offensive lines for the Pac-12.
There's an old axiom that the only time you know an O-Lineman's name is when there's a holding penalty. UA may be the best talent in the conference that not many outside of Tucson have heard of. Only USC allowed fewer sacks than the Wildcats' offensive line, but it could be argued that much of that comes from the mobility of since departed QB Matt Scott. The ‘Cats do boast one of the best running games in the country with Ka'Deem Carey and the affect of the line cannot be minimized in his success. Fabbians Ebbele leads the line from the Tackle position and he is nothing short of massive. At 6'8", the Junior is the anchor of the Wildcat line and will be leading a talented but unheralded line.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Returning 3 starters from a year before and with a full year under their belt with signal caller, Taylor Kelly the ASU offensive line is looking like a solid, confident unit. They did find themselves in the bottom half of the conference when it comes to sacks allowed with 38, but they return their tackles in Evan Finkenberg and Jamil Douglas. Having the edge protection for the Devils is going to be important if Kelly is to continue to throw for gaudy numbers behind his line. The Sun Devils don't have the prototypical rushing game, often going to the outside and using swing passes to motioning running backs so it's tough to gauge the O-Lines affect on the running game. However, being able to grow together with Kelly calling the signals again could make ASU a dangerous offensive unit.
California Golden Bears
First seasons are usually tough when a new coach comes in with a different offensive scheme and often it shows the most on the offensive line. What doesn't help is that the Bears only have two returning starters, which is the fewest in the conference, along with the Utes. Cal typically recruits well along the lines and with incoming freshman Freddie Tagaloa the rebuilding process for California may not take as long as it would without him. Without solid production from the O-Line we may see a dip in production offensively, not only from Bigelow but from the passing game as well.
Having a lineman receive honorable mention shows the Buffs may be headed in the right direction, however they still have a long way to go to become competitive in the Pac-12. Where they benefit is having 4 starters returning from a year before. The aforementioned Daniel Munyer leads the way and Stephane Nembot is primed to step up and be a force on the line. The bad news for Colorado is that the Buffaloes gave up 50 sacks last season and did not run the ball well either so the good news is that there really isn't anywhere to go but up for the conference's weakest team.
Coming into this year, Oregon is going to be without both of the guards from a year before. The Ducks may not have the biggest and the strongest offensive line in the conference, but they are quick and agile. The other thing Oregon has going for them is there isn't a unit in the conference who has had as much game experience as the Ducks O-Line. Last season, in many games the starters only ended up playing half the game which allowed for the backups to get live snaps against someone wearing a different color. Oregon doesn't have a lot of star power but they do return their star center in Hronnis Grasu and tackles Jake Fischer and Tyler Johnstone.
Oregon State Beavers
When it comes to experience and returning starters, there isn't a team that can beat the Beavers. Oregon State returns four starters and 90 total starts on a line who consistently overachieves. The last time we saw Oregon State, their offensive line did not look great in the Alamo Bowl as the Longhorns took control late and pushed them around. One of the biggest challenges the Beavers face is not having a solid starter at quarterback. When the decision between Vaz and Mannion finally gets made, the line will get to gel and come together. It's challenging for an offensive line to get a rhythm when they are looking at a different QB with a different style multiple times a game. Isaac Seumalo leads the unit who needs to improve their run blocking from a year ago.
Priding themselves on their smash-mouth, physical rushing game, everything starts with the Cardinal's front line. They return four starters from their Rose Bowl championship team, including All-American David Yankey. The line helped make Stepfan Taylor a star and will have the opportunity to do the same thing with Anthony Wilkerson. With Taylor's absence, Stanford may need to rely more on their passing game than they have in the past and the O-Line's play will be pivotal. If the Cardinal are to repeat as conference champion, the line is going to have to pick up where they left off. Many have the Cardinal slated for a BCS championship run and it will be interesting to see how the Cardinal play with the target on their back, after dethroning Oregon just a year before.
UCLA's line is a bit of an enigma. They return a lot of talent on the line including Xavier Sua'Filo at guard. However, they allowed 52 sacks a season ago, which second worst in the conference behind only WSU. They were solid in the run blocking and many of those sacks could be put on having a freshman signal caller behind center. The Bruins have a rough schedule this season and are going to have to prove they belong at the top of the south. It all starts with the line, they simply cannot allow another 52 sacks this season and expect Brett Hundley to make it through another season without some form of injury, especially with back to back dates with Stanford and Oregon
Allowing the fewest sacks in the conference, the Trojans return four starters from last season. USC never has a problem bringing in talent to southern California but that doesn't always mean that they have the best units. While they were able to protect Matt Barkley well last season, the blocking for Silas Redd left a bit to be desired. USC is going to have to rely on their offensive line as the Trojans break in a new quarterback this season. The Trojans' O line has the potential to be the strongest in the Pac-12, if they achieve that potential, they may be able to recapture control in the south from their cross town rival, UCLA.
Coming into the season, the Utes were the team who had the largest question mark at OL. They return only 2 starters from a season ago and have only 28 combined starts across the line. That isn't promising for a team whose rushing game was in the bottom third of the conference. No one passed for fewer yards than the Utes last season and strong line play will help with that. With a team who isn't used to struggling, Utah needs this season to really step up and prove that they can be a force in the Pac. Behind the play of Jeremiah Poutasi, Utah may find this as the season where they make it back to the post season for the first time since their Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech in 2011.
Injuries reared their ugly head against the Huskies a season ago as they found their depth challenged and used as the season wore on. The inexperience across the line hurt the Huskies despite sublime play from Bishop Sankey. The benefit of having the youth play last season though, is that it feeds into the depth for the next season. Keith Price needs his line to play well in front of him and keep him upright if the Huskies are to achieve their projections for the next year. Washington will improve from the what they produced a season before and with the opening of the new Husky Stadium this could be a swing season for Washington.
Washington State Cougars
The Cougars have the biggest problems on the offensive line, not only in the conference, but in the country. With an O-Line which allowed 57 sacks last season and was last in the country in running, the newest crop of incoming talent may be one of the most valuable for any team in the conference. The Cougars have benefited from a quick passing game and if they can get even marginal line play on offense, the Cougars may find themselves getting closer to being competitive in the conference . As mentioned before, WSU only managed 29 yards per game rushing. There has to at least be the threat of a rushing game to keep defenses honest against a team which has been the doormat of the Pac for some time now.
|Offensive Line Ranking||Overall Ranking|
|Stanford 12||Oregon 43|
|Oregon 11||Oregon State 43|
|USC 10||Washington 40|
|Oregon State 9||USC 40|
|Arizona 8||UCLA 37|
|UCLA 7||Arizona State 37|
|Washington 6||Stanford 36|
|Arizona State 5||Arizona 36|
|California 4||Washington State 29|
|Colorado 3||California 24|
|Utah 2||Colorado 17|
|Washington State 1||Utah 8|