College Football Discussion: Which School Is Offensive Line U?

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John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the offensive lines in my series on which school should be known as Offensive Line U.

If one were asked which school had the most All-American offensive linemen in the past 50 seasons, one might guess Nebraska, Michigan or perhaps USC would come to mind.

Nebraska used to produce All-American linemen that cleared paths for their running backs like a combine harvester going through a Midwestern wheat field. In 21 out of the 30 seasons from 1968 to 1997, Nebraska produced an All-American offensive lineman. That is no longer the case and hasn’t been for some time. Nebraska had only one All-American lineman since 2001 and that was Spencer Long in 2012.

Nebraska rates as number two for Offensive Guard U and number four as Offensive Center U, however, the Cornhuskers have produced only six All-America offensive tackles in the past 50 seasons, the last being Outland Trophy winner Zach Wiegert in 1994. That is why Nebraska comes in as number seven for Offensive Line U.

In addition to Wiegert, several other Nebraska offensive linemen have captured some of college football’s top awards. Center Dave Rimington won the 1981 and the 1982 Outland Trophy and the 1982 Lombardi Award, and Dean Steinkuhler won both awards in 1983. Will Shields won the Outland Trophy in 1992, and Dominic Raiola won the Rimington Trophy, named after the great Cornhusker center, as the best center in the country in 2000.

Nebraska’s other All-American offensive linemen were:  Joe Armstrong ’68, Bob Newton ’70, Daryl White ’72 & ’73, Marvin Crenshaw ’74, Rik Bonness ’74 & ’75, Tom Davis ’77, Kelvin Clark ’78, Randy Schleusener ’80, Harry Grimminger ’84,  Mark Traynowicz ’84, Bill Lewis ’85, John McCormick ’87, Jake Young ’88 & ’89, Doug Glaser ’89, Brendan Stai ’94,  Aaron Graham ’95, Aaron Taylor in 1996 as a center and as a guard in 1997, Russ Hochstein ’00, and Toniu Fonoti in 2001.

Michigan had 25 All-American offensive linemen in the past 50 seasons and from 1970-1983, 12 Michigan offensive linemen were named All-American. Those Wolverines were: Dan Dierdorf ’70, Reggie McKenzie ’71, Paul Seymour ’72, Mark Donahue ’76 & ’77, Bill Dufek ’76, Walt Downing ’77, George Lilja ’80, Kurt Becker ’81, Ed Muransky ’81, William Paris ’81, and Tom Dixon and Stephan Humphries in 1983.

From 1986-2000, in 11 of those 15 seasons the Wolverines had an All-American offensive lineman. Those linemen were: John Elliott ’86 & ’87, John Vitale ’88, Greg Skrepenak ’90 & ’91, Dean Dingman ’90, Matt Elliott ’91, Joe Cocozzo ’92, John Runyan ’95, Rod Payne ’96, Jon Jensen ’98, and Steve Hutchinson in 1999 & 2000.  However, Michigan hasn’t produced an All-American guard since Hutchinson in 2000.

Michigan’s other All-American offensive linemen the past 50 seasons were: David Baas ’04, Jake Long ’06 & ’07, David Molik ’11, three-time All-American Taylor Lewan in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and Mason Cole in 2016.

This brings us to our number five school as Offensive Line U. There’s no doubt that USC is Offensive Tackle U is third as Offensive Guard U but the Trojans have only produced two All-American centers in the past 50 seasons. Nonetheless, the list of USC All-American offensive linemen is an impressive one. When a school produces Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks and running backs, there had to be some great offensive linemen in front of them.

From 1969 to 1989, USC had an offensive lineman named All-American in 17 out of those 21 seasons. Those All-American Trojan linemen were: Sid Smith ’69, Marv Montgomery ’70, John Vella ’71, Pete Adams ’72, Booker Brown ’73, Steve Riley ’73, Bill Bain ’74, Marvin Powell ’75 & ’76, Pat Howell ’78, Brad Budde ’79, Keith Van  Horne ’80, Roy Foster ’80 & ’81, Bruce Matthews ’82, Don Mosebar ’82, Tony Slaton ’83, Jeff Bregel ’85 & ’86, Dave Cadigan ’87, and Mark Tucker in 1989.

USC’s All-American offensive linemen since 1989 were: Tony Boselli ’92 & ’94, Jacob Rogers ’03, Sam Baker ’05 & ’06, Taitusi Lutui ’05, Ryan Kalil ’06, Charles Brown ’09, Jeff Byers ’09, Matt Kalil ’11, Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler in 2016.

For our number four school as Offensive Line U, the Wisconsin Badgers, having a 1,000-yard running back every season is as predictable as a rooster crowing every morning. Leading that way for those running backs have been some outstanding offensive linemen in recent years. In fact, Wisconsin has produced at least one All-American offensive linemen in seven of the past eight years. Those linemen were: Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi in 2010, John Moffitt ’10, Peter Konz ’11, Kevin Zeitler ’11, Travis Frederick ’12, Rick Wagner ’12, Ryan Groy ’13, Kyle Costigan ’14, Rob Havenstein ’14, Ryan Ramczyk ’16, and in 2017, they produced three: Beau Benzschawel, Michael Dieter, and David Edwards.

The Badgers had great success in turning out All-America offensive tackles, 15 in the past 50 seasons, second only to USC with 17. Wisconsin had seven guards and five centers make All-American, numbers that kept the Badgers from the top three spots as Offensive Line U.

Wisconsin’s other All-American offensive linemen the past 50 seasons were: Dennis Lick ’74 & ’75, Ray Snell ’79, Jeff Dellenbach ’84, Paul Gruber ’87, Joe Panos ’93, Corey Raymer ’94, Jerry Wunsch ’96, Aaron Gibson ’98, Chris McIntos ’99, Casey Rabach ’00, Al Johnson ’02, Dan Buening ’04, two-time All-American “05 & ’06 and 2006 Outland Trophy winner Joe Thomas, and Kraig Urbik in 2008.

Ohio State is the number three as Offensive Line U as the Buckeyes were third for Offensive Center U, fifth for Offensive Guard U and rated an honorable mention for Offensive Tackle U.

You can’t run a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense like Woody Hayes did and not have great offensive linemen, and Ohio State had an All-American offensive linemen all but one year from 1968 to 1977, and for six consecutive years from 1993 to 1998.

Ohio State’s All-American linemen the past 50 seasons were: Dave Foley ’68, Rufus Mayes ’68, Jim Stillwagon ’69, Tom Deleone ’71, John Hicks ’72 & ’73, Steve Myers ’74, Kurt Schumacher ’74, Ted Smith ’75, Chris Ward ’76 & ’77, Ken Fritz ’79, Jim Lachey ’84, Jeff Uhlenhake ’88, Korey Stringer ’93 & ’94, Orlando Pace ’95 & ’96, Rob Murphy ’97 & ’98, 2001 Rimington Trophy winner LeCharles Bentley, Nick Mangold ’05, Mike Brewster ’10 & ’11, Justin Boren ’10, Jack Mewhort ’13, Taylor Decker ’15, Pat Elfein in 2015 as a guard and as a center in 2016. Elfein won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center in 2016 and Jamarco Jones, Michael Jordan and Billy Price were All-Americans in 2017 with Price winning the Rimington Trophy.

Hicks and Pace are two of the all-time great offensive linemen in college football history. In 1973, Hicks won the Lombardi Award and the Outland trophy and finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in that year to Penn State’s John Cappelletti. For an offensive lineman to finish second in the Heisman Trophy balloting is truly a testament to Hicks’ outstanding play. Pace won the Outland Trophy in 1996 and the Lombardi Award twice, in 1995 and 1996.

Alabama is number two as Offensive Line U largely based on the Crimson Tide being Offensive Center U and fourth as Offensive Guard U.  Despite not having double-digit numbers in terms of All-American offensive tackles, four Alabama tackles have won the Outland Trophy. Chris Samuels won it in 1999, Andre Smith in 2008, Barrett Jones in 2011 and Cam Robinson in 2016.  In addition, Barrett Jones won the Rimington Trophy as the top center in the country in 2012 and Ryan Kelly won it in 2015.

From 1968 to 1988, in 14 of those 20 seasons, an Alabama offensive lineman was named All-American. Those Crimson Tide linemen were:  Alvin Samples ’68 & ’69, John Hannah ’71 & ’72, Jim Krapf ’71 & ’72, Buddy Brown ’73, Sylvester Croom ’74, Bob Cryder ’77, Dwight Stephenson ’78 & ’79, Jim Bunch ’79, Steve Mott ’82, Wes Neighbors ’85 & ’86, and Larry Rose in 1987 and 1988.

However, the next 19 years only saw one lineman for the Crimson Tide make All-American and that was Outland Trophy winner Chris Samuels in 1999.

Then Nick Saban arrives and the Alabama resurgence begins and for the last 10 consecutive seasons, Alabama has produced at least one All-American offensive lineman.  Those linemen were: Antoine Caldwell ’08, Mike Johnson ’08 & ’09, three-time All-American Barrett Jones in 2010 and 2011 as a guard and in 2012 as a center, William Vlachos ’11, Chance Warmack ’12, D.J. Fluker ’12, Cyrus Kouandjio ’13, Anthony Steen ’13, Arie Kouandjio ’14, Ryan Kelly ’15, Cam Robinson ’16, Jonah Williams ’16 & ’17, and Bradley Bozeman in 2017.

In looking at who Keith Jackson referred to as “the big uglies,” since 1968, Notre Dame

had 38 All-American offensive linemen, and tied for a distant second with 28 are Alabama and USC. Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin are next with 27 and then Nebraska with 26.

Notre Dame has produced double digits All-Americans at each of the offensive line position, 14 tackles, 13 guards and 11 centers and Notre Dame was Offensive Guard U and was second as Offensive Center U and third as Offensive Tackle U. No other school had top-three finishes in the three offensive line positions. Aaron Taylor counts as two in the count as he was an All-American at guard in 1992 and at in 1993 he won the Outland Trophy as a tackle. Larry Williams also counted as two as he was an All-American at two different offensive line positions.

From 1983-1996, in 12 of those 14 seasons, Notre Dame had an All-American offensive lineman. Notre Dame’s All-American linemen the past 50 seasons were: George Kunz ’68, Mike Oriard ’69, Jim Reilly ’69, Larry DiNardo ’69 & ’70, John Dampeer ’72, Gerry DiNardo ’74, Steve Sylvester ’74, Ernie Hughes ’77, Dave Huffman ’78, Tim Foley ’79, John Scully ’80, Larry Williams ’83 as a tackle and ’84 as a guard, Mike Shiner ’83, Mike Kelley ’84, Tim Scannell ’85, Chuck Lanza ’87, Andy Heck ’88, Tim Grunhard ’89, Mike Heldt ’90, Mirko Jurkovic ’91, Lindsay Knapp ’92, Aaron Taylor in ’92 & ’93, Tim Ruddy ’93, Ryan Leahy ’95, Dusty Ziegler ’95, Jeremy Akers ’96, Mike Rosenthal ’98, Mike Gandy ’00, Jeff Faine ’02, Eric Olsen ’09, Braxton Cave ’12, Zack Martin ’12, Nick Martin ’15, Ronnie Stanley ’15, Mike McGlinchey ’16 & ’17 and Nelson Quenton also in 2016 and 2017.

You get the idea. Notre Dame has the players and the numbers at every offensive line position. That is why Notre Dame is Offensive Line U.

Interesting fact:  USC has produced only two All-America centers in the past 50 seasons, Tony Slaton in 1983 and Ryan Kalil in 2006.

Alabama Cap photo credit courtesy of Lisa Zins and can be found at:  https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/38902198311/f5b8b9b956/

Michigan Marquee Photo credit: IAN RANSLEY DESIGN + ILLUSTRATION on VisualHunt / CC BY

Nebraska Herbie Husker Photo used courtesy of: beatboxbadhabit and found at: https://visualhunt.com/photo/296858/ CC BY

Notre Dame Photo credit: Urthstripe on Visual Hunt / CC BY

Ohio State Photo credit: buckeyekes on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

USC Flag Photo credit: csulb gal on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Wisconsin Badger Photo credit: Instagram: @Maitri on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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John Baranowski

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/

College Football Discussi…

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