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Stack-Ups: Book Deal Edition

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Rejoice, left tackles of the world, you are finally important.

Maybe I am unobservant, but it seems like sports writers around the country are paying way more attention to offensive linemen since The Blind Side was published a few years ago.  Sure, writers have always paid attention to the units, but post-Michael Oher, left tackles are celebrities.  

"[INSERT LEFT TACKLE'S NAME] is/was soooo important to this offense because he protected [INSERT QUARTERBACK'S NAME]'s blind side."  Okay, we get it, you've learned a new cliche.  And while it wasn't as interesting to say "X group that weighs X pounds gained X rushing yards and allowed X sacks last year," it was probably more accurate than celebrity worship.

Offensive linemen, after the jump.

ALABAMA

Returns two starter from a dominant group in 2008, but loses All-Americans at Center and Left Tackle.  This line was discredited in the media after Andre Johnson missed the Sugar Bowl and they got pushed around by Utah.  Their returners are at LG and RT, and their RG, David Ross, has played in 27 games and started 3 since 2007.  Meanwhile, Andre Johnson's replacement was the #4-rated offensive lineman coming out of high school.  This is still a talented group, so it is unfair to say that they have "questions" on the line.  They will, certainly though, be a notch down from last year.

ARKANSAS

This is actually a pretty big group with the starters averaging 312 lbs. - good enough for second biggest in the West.  Three starters - C Wade Grayson, RG Mitch Petrus, and LT Ray Dominguiez - are back from a unit that rushed for 114 yards per game and allowed 46 sacks.  However, Petrus was a preseason All-SEC in 2008 before being ineligible to play, now he's back.  And the two-deep has six players that have seen significant playing time.  The Hogs should see some improvement on the line.

AUBURN

The Plainsmen, on the other hand, have the smallest line in the West - likely because Tony Franklin favored light, quick linemen.  Too bad Gus Malzahn's system calls for big, bulky linemen, which could result in some round peg/square hole problems for this unit.  However, they have three returning starters, and their starter at LG, Byron Isom, has significant starting experience (7 games last year) at RG.  LT Lee Ziemba (6'8", 304) was the #2 rated offensive lineman coming out of high school.  As long as the line and Malzahn jee-haw, Auburn should be a respectable unit.

LSU

Now that Left Tackles are so much more important than the rest of the offensive line, LSU has been getting credit for a fantastic line because LT Ciron Black is the new celebrity at that position.  Black was 2nd Team All-SEC last year, and I am sure will have a fantastic season.  And, while I noted the unfortunate name loss of Ricky-Jean Francois, Center T-Bob Hebert is a suitable replacement in that category.  But, I am missing the hub-bub about this unit.  Their back-ups are not exceptionally experienced.  Their starters at LT and RT are two-year starters, but they return no significant playing time at LG, and Hebert is coming off knee surgery.  This group should be good, but not dominant over the rest of the West.

STATE

The Maroon's offensive line may or may not have been offensive, depending upon your characterization of the word.  Their 31 sacks allowed in league play was good enough for worst in the conference, and their 77.9 rush yards against the SEC was ahead of only South Carolina.  However, the Bulldogs return 48 starts among their unit.  However, similar to but opposite of the Plainsmen, State's linemen don't fit the offensive scheme - Mullen likes lean, mobile linemen and Croom recruited big guys.  They do, though, have a senior named Chris Spencer, which we hope will work out well for them.  Some improvement ought to be expected from State.

OLE MISS

One big question mark now for the Rebels is what is going to happen at RG with Rishaw Johnson, apparently, in the dog house.  There are no question marks at RT with John Jerry (who, I am told by sources that know, turned on his thinkifier when he needed to this summer), and, I think, most people are happy with Reid Neely at LG and Daverin Geralds at Center.  With Bobbie Massie being moved to RT behind John Jerry, it will be interesting to see who emerges behind Bradley Sowell.  The Rebels have talent and experience at the line - though without their celebrity LT - but some balls are still flying around in the air.

On a conclusory note ...

From top to bottom, the offensive lines in the West are more equal than other units.  Every team except Alabama returns three starters, and the Tide have talent.  So, colleagues, if you disagree with my rankings just know that even though I put [INSERT TEAM HERE] at [INSERT RANK HERE], none of them are run-away great or falling-down bad.

LSU

OLE MISS

BAMA

AUBURN

STATE

ARKANSAS