Just a few days ago, the 2022 offensive line looked to be a major revamp. Gone would be its starting left tackle Nick Broeker, center Orlando Umana, and guard Ben Brown. The only signees were high schoolers, none of whom are considered elite players who will immediately challenge for playing time.
Then Monday happened.
First, Nick Broeker announced he would be returning to school for his senior year. There was much rejoicing.
Then, transfer portal target and Western Kentucky left tackle Mason Brooks announced he would choose the Rebels over Auburn and Texas Tech, among others. Once again, there was much rejoicing.
Immediately, a line that had to replace three major contributors had two holes filled and a slew of options returning with experience to take the guard spot vacated by Brown.
Now, last season’s strength of the team (aside from the Alabama game and Sugar Bowl) figures to be another strong unit next year as well. Next year’s line figures to be something like this, if I’m guessing.
LT: Jeremy James
James was a PFF preseason third team all-SEC selection at right tackle and played relatively well at that position. At 6’5” 305, he’s athletic enough to make sense at left tackle as well, even if he’s not seen as a superstar at the position. With 23 starts on the offensive line under his belt, James could work out pretty well protecting the blindside of INSERT QUARTERBACK HERE.
LG: Nick Broeker
Broeker projects as a guard at the next level, so even though he has three years of experience as a starting left tackle in the SEC, he’s likely to spend his final year honing that craft. Mason Brooks makes that shift possible, and probably made Broeker’s decision to return a little easier. He wasn’t elite at left tackle, but there’s a lot of talent here.
C: Caleb Warren
Warren was a good piece to the line last season at guard, starting all eleven games in which he played. As a sophomore, Warren really helped the line handle losing Ben Brown for the year by solidly holding down one guard spot, allowing the other spot to be a turnstile of sorts. With Orlando Umana gone, it seems Warren is likely to shift to center.
RG: Eli Acker or Cedric Melton
Acker took the position after Melton was injured and did a decent job to finish the season. It’s tough to know which of these two will ultimately win the role, and either way this is probably the weak link on the line. Neither is terrible though, and right guard isn’t the most pivotal spot on the line.
RT: Mason Brooks
Brooks was first-team All-CUSA at right tackle a year ago, and while the C-USA isn’t the SEC, the transition shouldn’t be shocking. Brooks is a typical case of being undersized and therefore under recruited out of high school. With a college weight room though, he blossomed over time at Western Kentucky and is now a proven commodity at a pivotal spot.