To see a prime sampling of the nation's best offensive tackles, make sure to tune into SEC West games this season.
Five of the top seven tackles in the nation play in that division, and LSU and Texas A&M each have two of the top five.
This is the fourth part of our breakdown of the nation's best players at each position; today, we're picking the top 20 offensive tackles. Part one of our position breakdowns was on running backs, part two covered wide receivers and tight ends and part three dealt with interior offensive linemen.
"Best" doesn't necessarily mean the most pro potential or even the most talent. Instead, it's a mix of what the player has accomplished and how we think the player will do this season. But production does trump potential.
We will look at a position a day until Aug. 27, when we rank all 124 of the nation's quarterbacks. Next, we will look at defensive tackles.
Here are the offensive tackle rankings.
20. Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas
Particulars: 6-5/300, Sr.; McPherson (Kan.) High
Buzz: He has started all 36 games in his KU career and is the best player for new coach Charlie Weis. In high school, he was an all-state pick at tight end as a junior and as defensive lineman as a senior. He signed with Kansas in 2008 as a tight end. He was moved to defensive end during his redshirt season, then became an offensive tackle during spring practice 2009. He has started every game since. While he says he wants to be a businessman and work overseas after graduation, he will get a chance to play in the NFL first.
19. Matt Summers-Gavin, California
Particulars: 6-4/300, Sr.; San Francisco St. Ignatius
Buzz: He will be a three-year starter for the Golden Bears; he started at guard in 2009, was a reserve at that position in 2010, then started at right tackle last season. He protects the blind side of QB Zach Maynard, who is a lefty. Summers-Gavin originally signed with Cal in 2007, but didn't enroll until January 2008 because he was rehabbing an injury.
18. Brian Winters, Kent State
Particulars: 6-5/310, Sr.; Hudson (Ohio) High
Buzz: Winters never redshirted and has started every game in his Golden Flashes career. He has received All-MAC honors in each of the past two seasons and should be the best offensive lineman in the league this fall. Winters has quick feet and also could play guard.
17. Cameron Fleming, Stanford
Particulars: 6-6/314, Soph.; Houston Cypress Creek
Buzz: Stanford has become a lineman factory in recent seasons, and Fleming has the potential to be as good as any of them. After redshirting in 2010, he earned a starting job last season and became a freshman All-America selection. Fleming is extremely athletic and is equally adept at pass protection or run blocking.
16. Donald Hawkins, Texas
Particulars: 6-5/310, Jr.; Northwest CC (Miss.), preceded by Tunica (Miss.) Rosa Fort
Buzz: Hawkins is the lone new starter on Texas' line, but he looks to have a higher upside than his linemates. He enrolled early and went through spring ball, where he impressed coaches with his strength, mobility and knowledge of the playbook. He was a JC All-American last season, and his nickname in junior college was "Franchise."
15. Brennan Williams, North Carolina
Particulars: 6-7/315, Sr.; West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Memorial
Buzz: He didn't play much in his first two seasons, then blossomed as the starter at right tackle last season. Williams is one of the quickest tackles nationally and gets into his pass sets as fast as anyone. Consistency was lacking in the past, but he seems to have everything together now. His dad, Brent, played for three NFL teams from 1986-93.
14. Morgan Moses, Virginia
Particulars: 6-6/325, Jr.; Fork Union (Va.) Fork Union Military Academy, preceded by Richmond (Va.) Meadowbrook
Buzz: He is a former top 50 national recruit who truly began living up to that billing last season, his second as a starter. He started seven games as a true freshman in 2010, with six of those at tackle; he became just the third true freshman tackle in Virginia history to start a game (the most recent had been D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who ended up being a first-round pick in the NFL draft). Moses has dropped some weight and become a more effective pass blocker; he remains a road-grading force as a run blocker. He and senior Oday Aboushi give UVa one of the three or four best tackle tandems in the nation.
13. R.J. Mattes, NC State
Particulars: 6-6/313, Sr.; Concord (N.C.) Robinson
Buzz: He will be a four-year starter for the Wolfpack. Mattes started at guard as a redshirt freshman in 2009, but moved to tackle in 2010 and has stayed there. He played most of last season with a foot injury that required surgery after the season; his rehab led to him missing part of spring practice. He is considered a good technician and also can overpower defensive ends.
12. David Bakhtiari, Colorado
Particulars: 6-4/295, Jr.; San Mateo (Calif.) Junipero Serra
Buzz: He is heading into his third season as a starter and his second at left tackle after playing on the right side as a redshirt freshman in 2010. Last season, he moved easily into the spot vacated by first-round pick Nate Solder. He's known for his quickness and upper body strength. Despite his size, he is an avid skier, both on snow and on the water.
11. James Hurst, North Carolina
Particulars: 6-7/310, Jr.; Plainfield (Ind.) High
Buzz: He has been a starter basically since setting foot on campus in 2010. Hurst was a four-star prospect and the No. 32 player nationally in the 2010 recruiting class. He is physical and aggressive, and has improved as a pass blocker in his time in Chapel Hill. Hurst has good athleticism and can add even more weight without harming his quickness.
10. LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech
Particulars: 6-6/330, Sr.; Columbus (Texas) High
Buzz: Waddle is heading into his third season as a starter. He played guard in high school but has been a tackle since arriving at Tech. Waddle was a second-team All-Big 12 pick last season, and should be the best tackle in the league this fall.
9. Justin Pugh, Syracuse
Particulars: 6-5/298, Jr.; Holland (Pa.) Council Rock South
Buzz: Pugh, who redshirted in 2009, is heading into his third season as a starter. Pugh has excellent quickness for a guy his size and has no problem pulling and getting to defensive backs. He is recovering from shoulder surgery, and may miss a game or two early in the season; if he does indeed sit out a few games, Syracuse's rushing attack will take a hit.
8. Oday Aboushi, Virginia
Particulars: 6-6/310, Sr.; Brooklyn (N.Y.) Xavieran
Buzz: He is heading into his third season as a starter and has started every game the past two seasons. Aboushi twice was named the ACC offensive lineman of the week last season. He is athletic and an excellent pass blocker. Aboushi is of Palestinian descent and was one of about a dozen Muslim athletes honored at a reception in Washington, D.C., by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last September.
7. Alex Hurst, LSU
Particulars: 6-6/340, Sr.; Arlington (Tenn.) High
Buzz: After serving as a backup guard as a redshirt freshman in 2009, Hurst has been a starter at tackle in each of the past two seasons; he was a first-team All-SEC pick last season, when he played every offensive snap in six games. Hurst, who was born in the Cayman Islands and grew up in the Memphis area, is an avid squirrel hunter.
6. Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin
Particulars: 6-6/322, Sr.; West Allis (Wis.) Nathan Hale
Buzz: Here's a surprise: Wisconsin has a mammoth left tackle. Wagner was a tight end in high school, redshirted in his first season with the Badgers, was a reserve tackle in 2009 and now is heading into his third season as a starter. This will be his second season at left tackle. As with almost all Wisconsin linemen, he is a road-grader and excels at run blocking. Wagner toyed with the idea of turning pro after last season but decided to stay for his senior season.
5. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Particulars: 6-5/305, Jr.; Missouri City (Texas) Elkins
Buzz: Matthews, who hasn't redshirted, is heading into his third season as a starter. His proficiency shouldn't be a surprise, as his dad, Bruce, is an NFL Hall of Famer who had a 19-year career as an offensive lineman; he also is the cousin of NFL LBs Clay and Casey Matthews. Luke Matthews has excellent footwork and is equally at home blocking for the run and for the pass. He and Luke Joeckel, No. 1 on this list, form the best tackle duo in the nation.
4. Chris Faulk, LSU
Particulars: 6-6/325, Jr.; Slidell (La.) Northshore
Buzz: He became a fulltime starter last season and performed admirably at left tackle. He had started the final two games of the 2010 season at right tackle. For a big guy, he is light on his feet, yet he also has excellent strength as a run-blocker. Faulk played every offensive snap in five games last season. He and Alex Hurst are the second-best tackle combination in the nation.
3. D.J. Fluker, Alabama
Particulars: 6-6/335, Jr.; Foley (Ala.) High
Buzz: The massive Fluker, who weighed upward of 350 as a high school senior, is heading into his third season as the Tide's starting right tackle. Befitting someone his size, he is an absolute road-grader when blocking for the run, and his pass blocking has improved. Fluker was a five-star prospect who was the No. 3 recruit nationally in the 2009 signing class.
2. Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Particulars: 6-8/302, Jr.; Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral
Buzz: Lewan redshirted as a true freshman in 2009, then moved into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season and looks to be the next great Wolverines lineman. He didn't play offensive tackle until he was a senior in high school; before that, he had been a defensive end. Lewan is an aggressive, physical lineman and plays with a mean streak.
1. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Particulars: 6-6/310, Jr.; Arlington (Texas) High
Buzz: He has been the starter at left tackle for the Aggies since he stepped on campus in January 2010. He earned some freshman All-America mention in 2010, then was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last season. Joeckel is seen as a sure first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, should he leave school a year early. His twin, Matt, is a 6-4, 234-pound backup quarterback for A&M.
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