Carolina Schools Lead the Way in OL Experience

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In coming up with a way to find the most experienced lines in the ACC, I devised a simple points system.  A team will get four points for each senior starter, three points for each junior starter, two points for each sophomore and one point for each freshman, though there are currently no projected freshmen starters in the ACC.  Also, an extra point will be awarded for each returning starter.

I don’t pretend the system is perfect, and just because guys are starting now doesn’t mean they’ll be starting this season.  Nevertheless, here’s how the numbers come out.

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Despite technically having just one returning starter, overall the Hokies are middle of the pack in total points because they are projected to start two seniors and two juniors.  If Michael Via beats out Brent Benedict at right guard, they could potentially have even more experience points.

Let’s take a closer look at the rest of the offensive lines in the ACC.

NC State

Four returning starters
Four seniors and a junior

The Wolfpack are projected to have the most experienced offensive line in the ACC this season.  R.J. Mattes is a four-year starter.  Cam Wents has given up just two sacks in 26 career starts.  Zach Allen has 26 straight starts.  Andrew Wallace is back after missing last season with a knee injury.

They’ll be blocking for NC State’s top two tailbacks from a year ago – James Washington and Tony Creecy – as well as returning starting quarterback Mike Glennon.  The Wolfpack could have some issues on the defensive side of the ball, but their experience up front offensively makes them the sleeper team in the Atlantic Division.

North Carolina

Four returning starters
Three seniors, one junior, one sophomore.

The Tar Heels return four starters up front.  Three seniors will start: James Hurst and Jonathan Cooper, along with huge right guard Travis Bond.  Sophomore Russell Bodine will take over the starting center duties, and I expect that he’ll do a good job.

On the whole, this is a pretty big and pretty athletic line.  They’ll be blocking for arguably the ACC’s top running back in Giovani Bernard, as well as experienced quarterback Bryn Renner.  This UNC team could be the sleeper team of the Coastal Division.  However, their probation begins this season, so their record won’t matter.

Georgia Tech

Four returning starters
One senior, four juniors

The Yellow Jackets have four returning starters up front.  Georgia Tech is a unique team because of their spread option attack, and they will have a lot of guys up front that are very experienced playing together.  With lots of experience also returning at quarterback, B-back and A-back, this offense is expected to be very good in 2012.

The key for Georgia Tech is staying ahead.  No matter how experienced this line is, they still don’t practice pass blocking very much.  If they fall behind and are forced to throw the ball, defenses will tee off on the quarterback.  That’s what Virginia Tech did last season, posting six sacks after jumping out to a lead in the second half.

Virginia

Three returning starters
Two seniors, three juniors

Virginia had a good offensive line a year ago, and this year they will be led by big, talented tackles in Morgan Moses and Oday Aboushi.  They’ll have to shore up their interior, but overall this should still be one of the more productive lines in the ACC.

The UVA line will have the luxury of blocking for three experienced tailbacks, as well as returning starting quarterback Mike Rocco.

Boston College

Four returning starters
Two seniors, one junior, two sophomores

Boston College hasn’t been as talented up front recently.  They haven’t had the “nasty factor” that made their lines so good for so many years.  They return four starters for the 2012 season, so experience won’t be an excuse.  If the Eagles don’t get it done up front this year, then they simply haven’t done as good a job of recruiting quality players as they used to.

Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel are very experienced senior offensive tackles.  The interior is less experienced, but the BC coaching staff really likes the potential of projected starting right guard Harris Williams.

Maryland

Three returning starters
Two seniors, two juniors, one sophomore

Maryland had an awful 2011 season in Randy Edsall’s first year as head coach.  However, the Terps did average nearly 170 yards per game on the ground.  Defense was a much bigger problem for Maryland than offense.

The offensive line should be the strength of the offense for the Terps this season by default, as they lack experience at quarterback and tailback.

Virginia Tech

One returning starter
Two seniors, two juniors, one sophomore

Junior center Andrew Miller is the only returning starter for Virginia Tech on the offensive line.  Nick Becton and Vinston Painter are rising seniors with plenty of experience in the system.  Becton has a lot of snaps under his belt, though he’s technically not a returning starter.  On the interior, left guard David Wang is entering his fourth year in the program.  Right guard Brent Benedict is the least experienced player, though Tech could choose to start senior Michael Via there.

Though the Hokies only return one starter, they’ve still got plenty of guys who have been in the program for a long time.  In the end, I think this will be one of the ACC’s better lines.

Clemson

Two returning starters
One senior, two juniors, two sophomores

Clemson returns starting center Dalton Freeman and left tackle Brandon Thomas.  Tyler Shatley will be new to the group, as he is sliding over from the defensive side of the ball.  The Tigers have weapons at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.  How this offensive line performs could decide whether or not they will have the chance to repeat as ACC Champions.

Clemson was held under 100 yards rushing in four of their last five regular season games, and in general they played poorly down the stretch (with the exception of the ACC Championship Game, of course).  They need to get more consistent and tougher up front.

Duke

Four returning starters
Two juniors, three sophomores

Duke has arguably the worst offensive line in the ACC year in and year out.  At least they do return four starters for the 2012 season, and they are projected to return five starters for 2013.  The Blue Devils have been good enough throwing the football, but they haven’t been good enough up front to create any balance to their offensive attack.

Miami

Two returning starters
Two juniors, three sophomores

Miami is pretty inexperienced up front.  However, they’ve got plenty of size and talent.  The tackles will be Seantrel Henderson (6-8, 350, Jr.) and Malcolm Bunche (6-7, 325, So.), while Jon Felicano (6-5, 320, So.) and Brandon Linder (6-6, 310, Jr.) will line up at guard.  Center Shane McDermott (6-4, 290, So.) is the “little” guy of the group.

Though they do lack the overall experience of many other ACC offensive lines, I still expect this Miami group to do very well this season.

Wake Forest

One returning starter
One senior, four sophomores

Wake Forest is going to have a lot of trouble up front on the offensive line this season.  The Demon Deacons could start as many as four sophomores.  Having one returning starter doesn’t bode well for Jim Grobe’s team, who only averaged 114.6 yards rushing last year, 99th in the country.

Florida State

One returning starter
One junior, four sophomores

The Noles had a lot of trouble with their offensive line a year ago, and they head into the 2012 season with the most inexperienced offensive line in the ACC.  Bryan Stork is a junior, and he will start at right tackle.  He is FSU’s most experienced guy up front.

Sophomores are expected to man the other four starting positions.  Florida State is currently projected to win the ACC’s Atlantic Division.  However, if their young offensive line doesn’t perform up to par, then we could see Clemson or perhaps even NC State represent the Atlantic in Charlotte.

Experienced Offensive Lines Could Create Sleeper Teams; Inexperienced Line Could Hold Back FSU

NC State and North Carolina have very experienced and very good offensive lines.  Georgia Tech runs a unique offense with a bunch of returning offensive line starters.  Their experience up front (along with returning starters at quarterback for all three teams) could make them sleepers in their respective divisions.

Of course, North Carolina won’t be able to use that to their advantage.  Even if the Tar Heels win a bunch of games, it won’t matter.  They will be ineligible for the postseason this year because of NCAA sanctions.  Georgia Tech is always tough offensively, but overall they haven’t been as good the last two seasons (6-7 in 2010 and 8-5 in 2011), once Paul Johnson got the program filled with his own players.

People think that Virginia Tech has an inexperienced line coming back, but it’s nothing compared to the inexperience Florida State will put on the field.  The Noles have a senior quarterback and a great defense, but it will be interesting to see how their young offensive line holds up.  When FSU faces the more talented defensive teams on their schedule such as Clemson, Florida, Miami and Virginia Tech, I could definitely see low scoring games.

Florida State is still my pick to win the Atlantic, but that’s far from set in stone.  If the Noles aren’t as good as expected this season, the offensive line will likely be the reason why.

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7 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Great breakdown, Chris. I didn’t realize just how inexperienced (and on top of that, young) Florida State’s O-line is. I don’t see how they can possibly be a top-5 team with that much youth on the line.

    Some times we get stuck in our VT bubble, and it’s nice to be able to objectively compare our team with others in the league.

  2. Wow, it could be a long season in Tallahassee. Those young guys better grow up in a hurry.

  3. Good article. It might influence my opinion, if I had one! I’m just gonna hold my breath and pray.

  4. People bring up our line to justify our pre-season rankings towards the bottom of the top-25, but FSU gets it’s usual pass and lofty ranking with no mention of their own issues.

        1. Why? ESPN lives in their own world and thinks they are the “Lord of Sports” living in perfection.

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