Ranking the SEC's Offensive Lines for 2015

Athlon ranks the SEC OL for 2015.

The success of any college football offense starts in the trenches. Although the skill positions and quarterbacks get all of the attention, it’s the five players up front that set the tone for the rest of the offense.

 

The SEC is never short on talent in the trenches, and 2015 features two teams – Arkansas and Georgia – that could have the nation’s best overall group. The Bulldogs have a slight edge over the Razorbacks in Athlon’s offensive line rankings, but there’s very little separating these groups.

 

Related: SEC 2015 Predictions

 

Ranking the SEC’s Offensive Lines for 2015

 

1. Georgia

Returning Starters: 4

 

It’s a close call for the No. 1 spot between Georgia and Arkansas. A slight edge goes to the Bulldogs over the Razorbacks, as new Georgia line coach Rob Sale inherits four starters from a unit that led the way for rushers to average 5.5 yards per carry in 2014. This group also allowed only 12 sacks in eight SEC contests. Guard Greg Pyke is a first-team All-SEC selection by Athlon Sports for 2015, while the tackle spots are anchored by seniors John Theus and Kolton Houston.

 

2. Arkansas

Returning Starters: 4

 

As mentioned with Georgia, very little separates Georgia and Arkansas in SEC offensive line rankings for 2015. The Razorbacks return four starters, including All-America candidates in guard Sebastian Tretola and tackles Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland. In SEC games last season, Arkansas averaged four yards per carry and allowed only 12 sacks. In just three years in Fayetteville, coach Bret Bielema has already assembled one of the nation’s top offensive lines.

 

Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

3. Auburn

Returning Starters: 3

 

Center Reese Dismukes will be missed, but coach Gus Malzahn should feel confident in the offensive line’s ability for 2015. The Tigers return three starters, with right tackle Avery Young the best of the bunch. But this group should receive a huge boost with the return of guard Alex Kozan from injury, along with the emergence of Ole Miss transfer Austin Golson at center. Sophomore Braden Smith is another promising player for this unit.

 

Related: New Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson Could be Even Better than Nick Marshall

 

4. LSU

Returning Starters: 3

 

With question marks about the quarterbacks, the strength of LSU’s offense will be its rushing attack once again. Standout left tackle La’el Collins will be missed, but three starters are back, including guard Vadal Alexander and right tackle Jerald Hawkins. Both players should be in the mix for All-SEC honors.

 

Related: SEC 2015 Predictions

 

5. Alabama

Returning Starters: 2

 

Alabama’s offense returns only two starters. That’s the bad news. But the good news is the two returning starters – center Ryan Kelly and left tackle Cam Robinson – are among the nation’s top offensive linemen. Even though this unit will have three new starters in 2015, it’s safe to assume the Crimson Tide will have one of the nation’s best offensive lines. Redshirt freshman Ross Pierschbacher is a breakout candidate at guard, while senior Dominick Jackson is slated to take over at right tackle after playing in eight games last year.

 

Related: Ranking All 128 College Football Coaches for 2015

 

6. Missouri

Returning Starters: 4

 

Missouri’s offensive line played better throughout the course of 2014, and this group should be in the top half of the SEC with four returning starters. Center Evan Boehm is the unit’s best player, and senior guard Conner McGovern was critical in the second-half improvement after switching from right tackle. The addition of junior college recruits Tyler Howell and Malik Cuellar bolster the depth.

 

7. Texas A&M

Returning Starters: 3

 

Will the Aggies make it four years in a row with a lineman going in the first round of the NFL Draft? Maybe not, but there’s a solid group for new line coach Dave Christensen to develop. Center Mike Matthews is the best of the group, while senior Joseph Cheek and guard Germain Ifedi return as starters. The development of the left side – Avery Gennesy and Jermaine Eluemunor are the early favorites to start – will be critical for the Aggies in 2015.

 

Related: Ranking the SEC's Offensive Triplets for 2015

 

8. Ole Miss

Returning Starters: 5

 

This unit could be among the most-improved lines in the SEC in 2015. All five starters are back for coach Hugh Freeze, including standout left tackle Laremy Tunsil and four seniors with experience in the SEC. Tunsil is recovering from a leg injury suffered in the Peach Bowl but is expected to be at full strength by the opener. True freshman guard Javon Patterson is a name to watch in 2015.

 

9. South Carolina

Returning Starters: 3

 

The left side of South Carolina’s line must be revamped after stalwarts Corey Robinson (left tackle) and A.J. Cann (guard) expired their eligibility. There’s a good core to build around in 2015 with the return of right tackle Brandon Shell and guard Will Sport. But who will step up to replace Cann and Robinson? With a new starter at quarterback, having a steady offensive line would be a huge plus for coach Steve Spurrier.

 

10. Tennessee

Returning Starters: 4

 

If Tennessee wants to challenge for the SEC East title, this group must take a step forward in its development. The Volunteers had zero returning starters going into 2014 and this unit struggled to get on track. In eight SEC games, the line allowed 28 sacks (most in the conference), and Tennessee rushers averaged only 3.5 yards per carry. Improvement is expected with four starters back, and the overall depth is better with another stellar recruiting class.

 

Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

11. Mississippi State

Returning Starters: 2

 

Rebuilding the offensive line is the top challenge for coach Dan Mullen this offseason. Last year’s group helped rushers average five yards per carry and allowed just 15 sacks in league play. Gone are three standouts, including All-SEC guard Ben Beckwith, left tackle Blaine Clausell and center Dillon Day. The good news is Mullen and this staff have recruited well, so there’s capable replacements waiting to emerge. Senior Justin Malone is the anchor, but junior college recruit Martinas Rankin is a player to watch.

 

Related: SEC 2015 Predictions

 

12. Kentucky

Returning Starters: 4

 

The Wildcats gave up 36 sacks in 2014, but with four starters back, improvement is expected in 2015. Center Jon Toth is the anchor for coach Mark Stoops, while guard Zach West should be in the mix for all-conference honors this season.

 

13. Vanderbilt

Returning Starters: 4

 

Despite four returning starters last season, Vanderbilt’s offensive line struggled. The Commodores averaged only 3.3 yards per carry in SEC games and allowed 21 sacks in 12 overall contests. With four starters back once again for 2015, there’s hope for improvement for new coordinator Andy Ludwig. Junior Andrew Jelks and center Spencer Pulley need to be the anchors for this group.

 

14. Florida

Returning Starters: 1

 

This is the biggest concern for new coach Jim McElwain. Only one starter returns (Trip Thurman), and overall depth and proven bodies are in short supply. FCS transfer Mason Halter and true freshman Martez Ivey are likely to play a huge roles this season. The Gators showed improvement here under line coach Mike Summers last year, but he will have his hands full in 2015.

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