No, the writers at House of Sparky are not a group of former offensive linemen who know the positions inside and out. We're not versed in every technical aspect of pass blocking, nor can we predict when and where offenses will use pulling guards.
What we do have a knack for is recognizing talent and analyzing statistics. While advanced metrics on offensive line play aren't typically readily available, there are a few ways we were able to compile our Pac-12 Power Rankings for the conference's offensive lines.
We took a look at returning starters. We crunched the numbers on rushing yards per game. We took note of how many times a quarterback was sacked. And we came up with the same fact that every other media outlet or casual fan could pick up on: Stanford is loaded.
But aside from the Cardinal's outstanding crop of linemen, we scoped out the rest of the conference and ranked the teams 2-12. Because let's face it, no one's touching the boys from Palo Alto.
1. Stanford (Five first place votes)
It's no secret that Stanford hordes the nation's best offensive linemen. The Cardinal didn't miss a bit after the departures of Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro last season and David Shaw's team looks locked and loaded again this year.
For starters, guard David Yankey might be the best offensive lineman in the country. After the future first-rounder, Stanford has possible First Team Pac-12 players in guard Kevin Danser and tackle Cameron Fleming. With three outstanding athletes and top 2012 recruit Andrus Peat yearning to get his chance, this could be the best offensive line in the country.
If you watch tape of Marcus Mariota, you'll notice something. Rarely is he touched, let alone pressured, when he drops back to pass. Last season, the Ducks ran all over the Pac-12 as they amassed more than 315 yards per game on the ground. Though the sack total (28) they allowed isn't stellar, that's because Mariota's scrambling lends itself to one to two yard losses that are registered as sacks.
This season, Oregon returns First Team All-Pac-12 center Hroniss Grasu along with superb offensive tackle Tyler Johnstone. Opposite Johnstone is Jake Fisher, who possesses both run and pass blocking abilities that could help him become a future top draft pick. All in all, Oregon needs fast linemen to run its offense, and this year's batch shouldn't skip a beat.
Prior to Stanford's recent dominance, the Trojans pumped out NFL linemen like they were running a trade school. Some of the toughest collegiate linemen typically reside in Los Angeles and this year is no exception.
Guard John Martinez headlines a group of five starters who all have the potential to become above-average contributors and possibly warrant All-Conference recognition. Marcus Martin returns as the starting center and Max Tuerk flanks him opposite Martinez. The Trojans will be tough to stop when they run the ball up the middle, simply because their strongest talents play on the interior of the line.
4. Oregon State
The Beavers earn our fourth spot on the strength of sophomore center Isaac Seumalo. As a freshman, Seumalo was the heart of an average offensive line, but Oregon State has the benefit or returning a few starters this season.
Grant Enger was an Honorable Mention All-Conference player as a guard last season and Michael Philipp came on strong as a tackle toward the end of the year. If the Beavers can find a way to consistently protect the quarterback, this offense has the potential to do a lot of damage.
The Bruins offensive line might be ranked a little high in our assessment because of the athletes it had the benefit of blocking for last year. Jonathan Franklin had the ability to make any lineman look good and Brett Hundley proved to be a mobile asset at the quarterback position. With Franklin gone, the Bruins will have to hunker down and work to make the next UCLA running back a success this season.
Fortunately, guard Xavier Su'a-Filo returns after earning First Team All-Pac-12 honors. He'll be tasked with leading a group that includes returning starter Jake Brendel at the center position as well as up-and-comer Torian White at tackle. If Su'a-Filo can dominate as he did last season, the Bruins should feel comfortable running the ball between the tackles.
6. Arizona State
Evan Finkenberg and Jamil Douglas headline one of the more underrated groups in the Pac-12. Though the Sun Devil linemen might not be outstanding individual athletes, the cohesiveness within the group was apparent last season. Arizona State ran the ball at ease at times throughout the season and simply over-matched certain opponents.
Kody Koebensky holds down the fort at center and was even named to the Rimington Award Watch List, but there are still a few question marks. Right now, Vi Teofile and Sil Ajawara are unproven and expected to handle the guard positions. With the way things are shaping up, expect teams to blitz heavily up the middle and force Arizona State to work outside the hash marks.
One thing the Huskies have: Experience. One thing the Huskies lack: Accolades. Even though the Huskies have four returning starters, the offensive line struggled mightily last season. With Bishop Sankey in the backfield, Washington managed just the eighth highest rushing total per game in the Pac-12. Furthermore, the mobile Keith Price was sacked quite a bit as the Huskies allowed 38 sacks last season.
Regardless, Washington has potential. The Huskies plan on starting three juniors and two sophomores including Dexter Charles who started as a freshman at guard. With the addition of sophomore center Siosifa Tanigawa to the lineup, the Huskies hope they can string together a more consistent line this year.
The Utes hired Dennis Erickson as an offensive coordinator for the 2013 season and he has high hopes that the line can be a strong point of his offense. Though folks in Tempe won't buy Erickson's words, those in Salt Lake seem to think Utah is on the right track.
Utah expects sophomore Jeremiah Poutasi to anchor the offensive line from his left tackle position. The sophomore started at right tackle as a freshman and was a bright spot last season. Right guard Junior Salt is returning from an injury, but he was a Community College All-American in 2011 and should be a strong point along the line as well. Honestly, lots of new faces, lots of uncertainty, and lots of optimism summarizes Utah's offensive line.
The Wildcats made a splash this offseason by hiring new offensive line coach Jim Michalczik who recently held the same position at Cal. Fortunately for Michalczik, he has a pair of tackles who enter their third season as starters for the Wildcats.
The Buffaloes' offensive line has a chance to become one of the biggest surprises in the conference this season. Last year, three underclassmen were named to the Pac-12's Honorable Mention list. Unfortunately for new coach Mike MacIntyre, Alex Lewis is one of those players and he has decided to transfer.
The cupboard is not bare, however, as rising junior Daniel Munyer and rising sophomore Yuri Wright also received accolades. If those two can set the standard for work ethic and production, Colorado could begin to rebuild its program around a nucleus of offensive linemen.
11. Washington State
The Cougars aren't blessed with a stable of Mike Leach recruits just yet, but the offensive line has never been as critical for Leach-coached teams. For starters, Washington State rarely runs the football, so the offensive line can focus more on getting reps at practice than learning new run-blocking schemes in the chalk room.
Regardless, the Cougars do boast talented offensive guard John Fullington who was the lone bright spot on the line last season. However, his versatility is limited and reports out of Pullman suggest sophomore Joe Dahl could supplant Fullington at left guard this year. Either way, the Cougars have a long way to go.
Brian Schwenke was a First-Team All-Pac-12 performer last season for a Golden Bear offensive line that helped the team rush for more than 180 yards per game. Unfortunately for the Bears, Schwenke was the fourth round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans and he will not be the glue that holds this line together.
Matt Summers-Gavin is also gone, which means the Bears are basically starting from scratch. There's a lack of proven veterans, but a bunch of players working to be a part of an exciting new up-tempo scheme.
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