THUNDERING BLURB » offensive line http://thunderingblurb.com ANDREW GARDA'S ENDLESS TAKES ON NFL AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL Fri, 22 Oct 2010 12:30:31 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.1 en hourly 1 NFL Draft: Positional Class Grades http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/nfl-draft-positional-class-grades/ http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/nfl-draft-positional-class-grades/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2009 22:45:00 +0000 admin http://thunderingblurb.com/?p=428 Each season a new crop of college athletes take part in the NFL Draft Process, and every year what the overall strengths and depths of the class are will change as often as the needs of the teams doing the drafting.

This year is no exception.

In 2008, we saw a class with good overall running back talent, quicker than anticipated impact at the quarterback position and great depth at the defensive spots.

The 2009 class has its own set of advantages and strong spots, but also more than a few positions of questionable depth and talent.

When the layman looks at the Draft, they think in terms of the ‘sexy positions’. The quarterback, the running back, the high profile names on the offense. It’s where many new draftnicks and casual observers get caught up.

But once you’ve spent any time listening to any analyst or scout worth his salt, it turns out that’s not always where the value is in any given year.

This year is no different and while there is some value and depth in those skill positions, once again the most value appears to be in the trenches and on the defensive side of the ball.

Let’s take a look at the overall talent in the NFL Draft class of 2009.

PositionQuarterback
High SideMatthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez
Low SideCurtis Painter, Graham Harrell
Overall GradeC+
Explanation – While I am a big fan of Stafford and Sanchez, I don’t know either would have cracked the top of last year’s class. Still, both athletes have the tools to be worthy of a top pick in 2009. Stafford solidified a high pick slot with an outstanding Pro Day showcasing his accuracy and arm strength while Sanchez will have an opportunity to prove his doubters wrong by showing off his own accuracy and allaying injury concerns on April 1st at USC’s workout. In his own tier behind them is Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman. I’ll be honest – any other year and Freeman isn’t going in round one. His accuracy issues, streaky nature and occasional lapses in decision making worry me. Still, after Sanchez and Stafford, Freeman is the guy you want, though he’ll take more time to develop than the first two. After that – it’s personal choice. Every quarterback behind them is a big question mark and a project, so it becomes about who teams fall in love with. One team might love Pat White’s versatility, while another may love Sam Houston State QB Rhett Bomar’s huge arm and intangibles. Or a team may wait a bit and snag any number of high upside, long term projects like Fresno State’s Tom Brandstater (good short touch vs shaky deep throws), Alabama’s John Parker Wilson (great intangibles vs lack of size and arm strength) or recently hot prospect Mike Reilly from Central Washington (good short accuracy and touch vs spread offense worries). My choice for dark horse? Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State. Tough, determined and with good accuracy on the West Coast-Style slants and short passes, Carpenter played behind an atrocious offensive line, with no run game and still managed to put up very good numbers. Sure thing? Not at all. But in the right scheme? Could be very successful. But he’s indicative of the class – all upside, all projects. Few sure things. Here is where I think a smart team can make a big future impact with a pick that’s low risk, but potentially high reward. One of these guys in the right system and with patience could turn out to be another Matt Cassel – assuming people remember the patience it took over almost four years to develop him.

PositionRunningback
High SideKnowshon Moreno, Chris Wells, LeSean McCoy
Low SideIan Johnson, Marlon Lucky
Overall GradeB
Explanation – These backs don’t have the marquee value of a Peterson or a McFadden but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any solid backs here. Knowshon Moreno has great instincts and is a big, tough runner with good hands. Chris Wells is a strong runner with good burst, but injury and durability worries. UCONN running back Donald Brown is quick to the hole and had very good vision and can catch the ball well out of the backfield. Behind the big three are a ton of solid, though perhaps unspectacular running backs. It’s not to say that a guy like Pitt’s LeSean McCoy, Liberty’s Rashad Jennings or Andre Brown from North Carolina can’t have a very good and very productive careers. But none of these backs hold the excitement that the top of the line studs usually do. The class has some depth, players with defined roles versus the projects that litter the quarterback class. A guy like Jeremiah Johnson out of Oregon would make an outstanding change of pace back. While he doesn’t have elite speed and has never been a workhorse, he’s shown ability, can play in special teams and has shown good vision and patience. He may never become the bell cow, but he also shouldn’t take three years to develop into a solid player. Or a team can grab a guy like Marlon Lucky from Nebraska, a runner who has a good combination of size and speed, who can run for tough yards but doesn’t have the ability to be an every down back. He can certainly fill in – and quickly – on special teams as well as be the type of back to grind yardage out and get the hard yards. Though he will never be a home run hitter, Lucky could be another guy who can be picked late and yet still contributes early in his career. The running back class is filled with these solid, though perhaps unspectacular, backs. Because of this, a team can lay in the weeds and fill other positions of need, yet still have a shot at a quality back who can contribute in a specific role pretty quickly. While the ceiling isn’t extraordinarily high, the floor for many of these guys is pretty good.

PositionFullback
High SideTony Fiametta
Low SideBrannon Southerland
Overall GradeC-
Explanation – Like with centers and kickers, top shelf fullbacks are few and far between and that’s why guys like Tony Richardson get the dollars he does blocking for backs like LT and Adrian Peterson. You aren’t likely to see any fullbacks go on day one, and maybe just a handful will be drafted over all. In the last nine drafts, the top fullback has been selected in the fourth round four times and the fifth round three times. The top fullback has only been pulled in the third round twice including last year when Jacob Hester went to the Chargers. And while he was the top fullback in the 2008 draft he was also the type of guy San Diego looked at as a potential full time running back. Again, it’s rare for a full blown fullback to go early. While a blocking fullback is worth his weight in gold, it’s easier to convert a running back or sign a fullback off the street. So even the top guys like Syracuse’s Tony Fiametta will be unlikely to go earlier than the middle rounds. This is not to say Fiametta isn’t a capable player. The former Orangeman is a fantastic blocker who works hard and has the versatility coaches love which allows him to block for other backs, catch the ball out of the backfield or even work special teams. It’s that flexibility which will attract teams and players like Fiametta. But many other guys have too many question marks. Georgia’s Brannan Southerland has some real conerns about his ability to stay healthy, Eric Kettani needs to fulfill his Naval service before he can play and lack experience in receiving and special teams so is limited while Jason Cook from Ole Miss is basically a blocker – and that’s all. Once you get past the top one or two players, a team might as well wait and sign these guys after the draft or look for a late round running back, see if they can develop him as a regular RB and if not, move him to fullback. Less fullbacks are being used in College football, and Pro teams are using tight ends and other players to block when necessary. As a result, this class which is thin on depth will likely see few players taken on draft weekend and perhaps even during the rookie free agency signing period.

PositionWide Receiver
High SideMichael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin
Low SideSammie Stroughter, Tiquan Underwood
Overall GradeB+
Explanation – A huge step up from last year and we should see a bunch of receivers pulled in the first round and over the course of the first day. There are some projects, but there are also plenty of very solid top prospects here. You can start with the names we’ve all become familiar with over the last few months. Michael Crabtree with his phenomenal size, body control, reach and outstanding ball skills. Fluid and elusive Jeremy Maclin with his ability to stretch the field and vertical ability. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Kenny Britt, Percy Harvin. All are names you’ve heard about endlessly. But this class differs from the 2008 bunch in more than just the top end players. This class has a full compliment of depth, guys who will be effective early in their career and could have long-term impact. Some, like OSU wideout Brian Robiskie seemingly emerged out of nowhere, lighting up the NFL Scouting Combine with an outstanding 40 and showing more athleticism than expected. He continued to impress at his Pro Day and is poised to get picked somewhere in the second or third rounds. Robiskie’s route running and instincts make him a player who could be ready to contribute immediately and while he may not be the next Calvin Johnson or Randy Moss, he’s a solid player and could be so for a long time to come. Slipping down a few spots to Ramses Barden, from Cal Poly. Barden has the size and strength to dominate defenders, he just needs to use it a little more confidently. And he can get yards after the catch. A little more of a project, but he can still develop into a good wide receiver and an excellent guy to move the chains or red zone target. Other guys who provide the depth on this squad are Washington State’s Brandon Gibson (experience, great hands, good routes, so-so speed, not enough separation), USC’s Patrick Turner off a great Pro Day (great routes, hands and tough attitude but not a great blocker or much of a deep threat), Quon Cosby out of Texas (athletic, quick, great ball skills, but a little older and limited separation) and Dominique Edison from Stephen F. Austin (decent speed, great hands and a good vertical threat, but not too physical nor sudden off the line) all will go second day and could carve out roles as at least #3 receivers. Even guys like the players at the bottom of my list, like Oregon State’s Sammie Stroughter and Rutgers’ Tiquan Underwood could contribute, though it might take a little longer.

PositionTight End
High SideBrandon Pettigrew, Jared Cook
Low SideRyan Purvis, Bear Pascoe
Overall GradeB-
Explanation – There are at least 5 TEs in this class that could be impact players at the next level, but not much depth and overall it won’t dominate the draft. You may never be able to have too many wide receivers or running backs, but you don’t need that many tight ends. Also, the position plays a little different now. You want a tight end who can block AND catch, not one but able to learn the other. Pettigrew is the class of the positional group, he can run, he can block, he can catch – and he’s a tough SOB. The guys behind him are all very athletic – Jared Cook (great speed and quicks, great hands, but little blocking ability), Cornelius Ingram (great ball skills, soft hands, can go vertical, but not tough, inexperienced) and Travis Beckum (great speed, good routes, elusiveness after the catch but not bulky enough, not physical enough and there are durability issues) – but have some question marks. Still, they have the offensive skills to play for some time. The low end like Bear Pascoe (great blocker but very stiff and not fast) and Ryan Purvis (good hands, willing blocker but not fast or explosive) seem to be the flipside – blockers who might develop into full tight ends. The fact you could get production from the late rounds with guys this deep into the class is what makes this class just a bit better than average.

PositionOffensive Tackle
High SideJason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Andre Smith
Low SideGarrett Reynolds, Joel Bell
Overall GradeB+
Explanation – Once again a great crop of OTs and we could see another run on the position in the first round. The game is won in the trenches and there are a lot of fine tackles in the 2009 class, even if it isn’t quite as deep as the 2008 group. Jason Smith, Monroe, Andre Smith and Oher will be gone in the top 15 in all likelihood and you could see guys like Eben Britton out of Arizona and recently hot Phil Loadholt from Oklahoma who could sneak into the first as well. There are other good tackles behind these guys but they could go anywhere from late second to beginning of the third, guys like William Beatty (UCONN), Troy Kropog (Tulane) or Jamon Meredith (South Carolina). All have something they need to work on be it a lack of prototypical size, mobility or a lack pf perfection either in the run or pass portion of the game. But all of them will be productive. As you go further away, the projects grow more shaky but there are so many who could slip in or will get picked up immediately as a street free agent, if a team misses out on one guy, they have the possibility of grabbing a project late and spending less money, yet still seeing production.

PositionGuard
High SideDuke Robinson, Andy Levitre
Low SideRyan Durand, Travis Bright
Overall GradeB-
Explanation – A decent group, but not a ton of depth. You’ll see them go starting in the second, but there aren’t more than a dozen guys who are good bets to go. A bunch of guards will go as rookie free agents, but not much excitement. Most interesting thing I have seen is the contradicting evaluations of Greg Isdaner of West Virginia. Some rankings have him as the second or third guard. But some don’t even have him going on Draft weekend. The top of the class are definitely Oklahoma’s Duke Robinson and Oregon State’s Andy Levitre. But while maybe one slips into the first, guards don’t go early. Overall it’s a decent class but there are not a ton of guards who will go on draft day, especially when some tackles can move over to guard if they don’t work out.

PositionCenter
High SideAlex Mack, Max Unger, Eric Wood
Low SideCecil Newton, Dallas Reynolds
Overall GradeC
Explanation – Top flight Centers are tough to come by, which is why Jeff Saturday just got re-signed by the Colts. You don’t let one go. This class is ok at the top, but there is a significant drop-off after that and if we hit double digits drafted, I’d be surprised. But the top of the class is pretty good. Cal’s Mack is whip-smart and incredibly flexible in what he can play – center, guard, what have you – he not only can do many things, he’s willing to. I have seen him slip a bit in some mocks, with Wood jumping in as the center taken in the first round. The Louisville center isn’t the most powerful guy and finds himself pushed around a little too much for me. But again, a smart guy who is a hard worker.

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Build the Castle, then Find a King to Defend It or Why the Lions Need Jason Smith http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/build-the-castle-then-find-a-king-to-defend-it-or-why-the-lions-need-jason-smith/ http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/04/build-the-castle-then-find-a-king-to-defend-it-or-why-the-lions-need-jason-smith/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2009 20:23:00 +0000 admin http://thunderingblurb.com/?p=426
I recently finished my first (and at this late date, likely only) two round mock draft over at Draftguys.com and a funny thing happened on the way to the internet.

I didn’t have the Lions taking Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Crazy, I know.

Maybe it’s a reaction to the group think I keep seeing in mock after mock where Stafford has to go to the Lions. I have to admit when the herd runs one way, I tend to take a long look at alternative routes.

But more likely it’s a number of other mitigating factors – hang with me a moment, put the pitchforks down and hear me out.

1) Protection is a must
To paraphrase myself in my mock (how narcissistic is THAT?), you could clone a Serpentor-like mix of the best quarterbacks ever to grace the field, with the biggest arms, most accurate passes and Churchill-like leadership skills and it won’t matter a bit if all the QB does is lay on his back counting clouds and planes.

The Lions offensive line is – if you will excuse the pun – offensive. They flat out don’t protect the quarterback. They allowed 52 sacks last season – thank goodness for the 49ers, since they kept the Lions from being the worst in that category.

How can you utilize Calvin Johnson’s speed and vertical game when you can’t get the ball off? Sure Daunte Culpepper is past his prime as a quarterback. But when you are pressured that often and that consistently? Who can be successful?

2) If You Can’t Block, Then You Can’t Run and You Can’t Pass
Not enough for you? Ok, they’re also barely capable of holding holes open for the running back. Ranked 30th in the league in rushing yards, with a near-tragic 1,332 yards total and a futile 3.8 yards per carry.

If you have no run game, you have no pass game. What about the Cardinals you ask? Well, they have an offensive line that jelled late and have two of the best wide receivers in the game today and a #3 who is better than half the #2s (and a few #1 guys) in the league. In the desert, the line held. The proof? Just 28 sacks against (tied with the Giants) and 4,674 yards through the air. Oh, and the third most TDs through the air.

The Lions should be so lucky. And in the end, a lack of run game was one of the flaws in this Arizona team. They didn’t need to run because they threw the ball so well, but they finally got caught against a team who could stop the air attack (as they were several times last year) and it cost them the Super Bowl.

It’s a glaring hole for the Lions. If they cannot protect the ball carrier, the defense will not respect the run and will just tee off on whoever is the unlucky soul hucking the ball.

3) And Many Miles to go Before I Sleep
Let’s be honest. This team is not the Miami Dolphins – a team with no one superstar or stud piece, but a lot of solid players who could get the job done. The Lions have a superstar in Calvin Johnson, a solid running back in Kevin Smith and… um….. some other guys.

Adding Stafford or Sanchez is not instantly turning this team around. It’s not even the first step. Or third. It might not even be half a step. This team is riddled with holes all over the place.

The Dolphins succeeded last year in part because the pieces they added in the Draft and elsewhere were just enough to get an average team over the hump. Any Miami fan who is honest with themselves know that the team played over its head last year. And any AFC East fan worth his salt knows they were never as bad as the 2007 season made them look. They just didn’t have that far to go to begin with.

The Lions, on the other hand, have much more to do before they can become ‘good’.

And if they draft a QB here – well see points 1 & 2. He may not be around long enough to pay off, or could see his confidence shattered before the team really comes together.

There will be plenty of very good quarterbacks next year – more than there are this year in my opinion. And I’m sorry Lionsfan, but you are primed to be at the top of the heap again next year in the Draft.

Like the title says – build the castle first, then prop up a king to lead you.

And while I do like Stafford and Sanchez, I don’t know if they will survive the beating they would get behind this line, nor be a capable quarterback long term if they have to live through that many sacks and that much pressure. Many good quarterbacks have been chewed up by a porous line.

What about Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco you say? Totally different situations. Ryan was plopped into a rebuilt oline, one that was built to be carried by Michael Turner. Defenses could not just tee off on Ryan, as they were too busy worrying about Turner. And in turn, they couldn’t shut Turner down because Ryan would torch them.

Plop Sanchez and Stafford in a situation like that and I would be much happier with the pick. The Falcons did tons to fix their team before they got Ryan. They had the castle built, had a kick ass moat and a fierce, ball-carrying dragon thrown in for good measure.

Flacco is a weirder situation because he wasn’t brought in to start ASAP. He only played because Troy Smith got tonsillitis and missed the preseason. He also stepped into a decent oline situation and while his receivers weren’t stunning and the run game a bit lackluster, he wasn’t asked to win a bunch of games.

Oh and the Ravens’ D? A little better than the Lions’. He didn’t need to have big games because the team wasn’t allowing many points – just 15.2 a game, third best in the league.

Think Stafford/Sanchez will have the luxury or easing through a season without having to face enormous deficits?

Before you answer, the Lions gave up 32.3 points a game. That would be dead last in the NFL, if you were wondering.

So that’s an awful risk you’re taking, plugging even those two behind a line that’s filled with turnstiles and with a defense that tends to get scored on early and often.

4) Money, Money, Money, MONEY!
I hate to say it, but signability will factor in this pick. How much are you going to spend on Stafford or Sanchez? Ryan had $34.75 million in guaranteed money. They won’t settle for less and will ask for a ton more, since they would be the first pick, not the third like Ryan.

The Dolphins’ first pick, OT Jake Long, cost a mere $30 million in guaranteed money.

Ryan also signed for six years at $72 million while Long is signed for five years at $57.75 million.

It’s going to be expensive, that’s why they are trying to trade out of the pick. It’s also why they won’t be able to. So while it’s sexier to pick the QB, it’s a far safer – and likely cheaper – to go offensive lineman.

Even if the Lions are unmoved by the preceding 1,241 words, they may be moved by the money. Don’t just look at the difference between what Long got and what Ryan got. Remember two other things – we’re talking about a quarterback in the first slot, not the third and a quarterback always gets far more money than a lineman.

In 2007, Jamarcus Russell got a six-year contract worth up to $68 million, with $31.5 million guaranteed. Last year, Ryan – just one year and two slots later – got six years at $72 million with $34.75 million in guaranteed money.

You have to figure if push comes to shove, getting their player at a reasonable price in this economy, may play a huge factor. And Smith will flat out come cheaper.

The one thing I haven’t touched on is Jason Smith (who I think will go ahead of Eugene Monroe out of Virginia). It’s not as if the offensive tackle out of Baylor isn’t very, very good. He is. He’s great in pass protection, is very light on his feet and agile, plays with a flat-out nasty streak and probably hasn’t even fulfilled his potential. I love the guy.

If the Lions take him, he will be a cornerstone for the offensive line – and therefore, that offense – for years to come.

They will have made a good start at building that castle, perhaps adding to it as the Draft progresses.

Then, and only then, should they go find the king to lead them forward.

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Wednesday NFL Draft News and Notes – Did Andre Smith Do Enough? http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/03/wednesday-nfl-draft-news-and-notes-did-andre-smith-do-enough/ http://thunderingblurb.com/2009/03/wednesday-nfl-draft-news-and-notes-did-andre-smith-do-enough/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2009 06:21:00 +0000 admin http://thunderingblurb.com/?p=417 So while there is the usual ever flowing news from Pro Days and Free Agency, the biggest story of the day seems to have settled just where I thought it would be.

Left Tackle Andre Smith worked out at Alabama’s Pro Day on Wednesday and left observers and scouts with two very distinct impressions.

For example, the Chicago Sun Times was told by a source that Smith did well in his positional drills and that he won’t drop out of the top ten. On NFL Network’s Path to the Draft, both Charles Davis (who was present at the workout) and Mike Mayock felt that while he looked out of shape and underperformed in some areas, he did enough to hang around that top ten area.

However many other reports are calling Smith’s workout, which included a mere 19 lifts in the bench press, a 5.28 and 5.33 second time in the 40-yard dash and a short 25 inch vert, lackluster and further cause for concern.

Most cited as red flags are the lift reps and the vert, both of which were expected to be higher. The vertical jump really surprised folks, since Smith wieghed in at just 325 pounds, lighter than he has been in some time. The vertical jump is a measure of athleticism and agility – both things a left tackle needs.

So who is right? Mayock says that tape doesn’t lie and Smith can clearly play. But which Smith shows up to camp?

I have that same question. After all, we’ve now seen him unprepared in many ways for two of the biggest job interviews of his life. And while many o-linmen look a bit chubby, when Smith took his shirt off (not sure who green-lit that idea, but it was a doozy) it was clear he lacked almost any definition at all. And running without his shirt off. Wow.

Many analysts will tell you that the positional drills, not the workout drills (for example the 40, the shuttle) ar what counts and by all accounts, he did well there.

But too many things add up to question marks on Smith and so that part of his day has once again been overshadowed.

Listen, Smith has talent. And other guys have come out of college who had tremendous talent and either no discipline or no clue. Sometimes they bust like former USC and Lion wide reciever Mike Williams. Sometimes they turn it around like former USC running back and current Titans short yardage back LenDale White. Though to be fair, White still has issues.

Smith will either get it or he won’t. The question is, when you look at tape of his junior year, is he worth the potential risk?

And as I have said before, the further he falls, the quicker he will get picked up. He will get grabbed by a team in the first because at some point he will not cost as much as he did in the top 5 and may even be with a team who can allow him to come along slower.

At some point in that first round, someone, somewhere will stop seeing a potential problem slide towards them.

They may start seeing a potential Pro Bowler.

He’s got that ability, though he is prone to lazy moments and sometimes absorbs too many blows. I like him, but he has his questions and not just personality-wise.

I think in the end, scouts and teams will see this workout and it may support whichever way they were already leaning. For his detractors, this was a horrific workout, one that should drop him out of the top ten.

For those who see his ability and potential, they will focus on his positional drills. They will come back, a few weeks prior to the Draft and they will run Smith through his paces again.

If he has progressed, he may find himself a new home. If he doesn’t, his stock will slip just a tad bit further down the first round ladder.

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A little O-line love http://thunderingblurb.com/2008/07/a-little-o-line-love/ http://thunderingblurb.com/2008/07/a-little-o-line-love/#comments Sun, 06 Jul 2008 00:25:00 +0000 admin http://thunderingblurb.com/?p=15 Hey folks, hope you had a safe and happy 4th.

While sitting poolside yesterday, I took the time to crack open a must-have magazine (in my opinion) for College football analysis – Phil Steele’s 2008 College Football Preview.

If you haven’t read Steele’s excellent work, now is the time. The College preview is on newsstands now or can be ordered online as well.

It’s immensely thick and will take me forever to go through but what i wanted to talk about today was Steele’s list of the top offensive lines in College football.

The one thing to always remember – and this is true for both College and Pro football – is just how important an offensive line is. A bad O-line can shatter a QB’s confidence – it could have saved NY Jet QB Ken O’Brien’s career – although maybe nothing ever could have. But O’Brien sure looked shellshocked behind a shaky Jets Oline. David Carr is another guy who got hammered a lot in early years and is still suffering from it. Sure, the O-line got better, but he’d been hit too much by the time it did for it to matter.

QBs have to trust the offensive line. When they don’t they get happy feet and the next thing you know you get a phantom sack like Jim Everett and he’s another one who never quite came back from the shelling.

Suffice to say, the men in the trenches get less glory and more mud than the ’skill’ players but without them (and any QB or RB worth his salt will tell you) games don’t get won and records remain unbroken.

Without further ado here are Steele’s top 5 -

  1. Oklahoma
  2. Ohio State
  3. Tennessee
  4. West Virginia
  5. LSU

One thing most of these teams (and most of the rest of the top 15 of Steele’s list) have in common – they are big and they do NOT give up sacks. Heck, according to Steele, Tennessee gave up just 4 sacks in 534 attempts. That’s pretty incredible and it allowed QB Erik Ainge time to throw for over 3,500 yards, 31 TDs and just 10 INTs last season.

And this is for a team than only ended ranked 12th in the BCS rankings. And while I like Ainge well enough, I don’t think he was ever a phenom at the position.

A good O-line can save a season or hurt one. A QB or RBs success can hinge on its play – another example would be Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter. Here’s a guy who has compile some tremendous stats – and yet the last few seasons he’s had to play hurt in part because his O-line has underperformed. In 958 attempts he’s been sacked 112 times. That’s over 10% – and we’re not counting hurries, or late hits or hits as he released. Last year he played with a hurt thumb – if he was upright and healthy, he’d be even more effective and this is a guy who will pass 10k yards easily by season’s end.

The Sun Devils ended the season tied for the Pac-1o title – no mean feat – and fought for a time to get a sniff at the BCS Championship. How much better would they be if the O-line could drop that percentage of sacks down?

Take a look at Steele’s magazine and see who else ended up on the list – we’ll discuss some more of them as the summer goes on. But remember the names as you read them. Assuming people are healthy, many of those teams will be very successful through the air and on the ground.

And THAT friends will translate to wins 9 times out of 10.

See you tomorrow.

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