Pro Football Focus is an invaluable resource to dive deeper into statistics when thinking about college football and the NFL Draft. Here is a breakdown of five offensive line storylines heading into next season, what the numbers could mean down the road and a take from Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell.
1. Is Ohio State becoming Offensive Line U?
Overview: One glance at the snap counts among Ohio State offensive linemen and then a deeper study on how those players protected quarterback Dwayne Haskins last season makes a compelling argument for the Buckeyes to be considered among the best offensive line schools in the country.
Tackle Isaiah Prince, guard Malcolm Pridgeon and center Michael Jordan all played 1,104 snaps last season (that is also the most of any college offensive linemen) and Prince gave up three sacks and only four hits on the quarterback. Pridgeon allowed three hits and Jordan sacrificed a total of one hit.
All three of those players are off to the NFL Draft, but Wyatt Davis and Thayer Munford are two highly respected offensive linemen that have big expectations in Columbus. Josh Myers is another five-star with lots of potential, and Harry Miller was one step away from a five-star ranking in the 2019 class. The nation’s top offensive tackle in the 2020 group, five-star Paris Johnson, Jr., is already committed to the Buckeyes.
Farrell’s take: No, but they are up there. I think Notre Dame, Alabama and a few others have done a better job recruiting and developing offensive linemen, but Ohio State is in the top five. Haskins was clean for the most part all of last season and the numbers show it. He was not a mobile quarterback, so the offensive line did a great job. I don’t expect them to miss a beat this year and could be even better protecting a very mobile Justin Fields.
2. Or is it Wisconsin that's becoming Offensive Line U?
Overview: A breakdown of the top Pro Football Focus grades for offensive linemen is basically a sampling of Wisconsin’s offensive line. Everyone knows the Badgers take pride in recruiting and then developing elite offensive line talent because the Big Ten power loves to also run the football, but these numbers are a little nuts. Here’s a look:
With a minimum of 560 snaps, Wisconsin’s Cole Van Lanen, Beau Benzschawel, Tyler Biadasz and Michael Deiter all graded out among the top 24 offensive linemen nationally. Van Lanen and Benzschawel were the top-two run blockers nationally.
Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor ran the ball 307 times for 2,194 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, and he should be a Heisman frontrunner entering next season. Wisconsin loses some big-named linemen to the NFL, but the Badgers signed high four-star Logan Brown, the top prospect in the state of Michigan, in their 2019 recruiting class and Wisconsin has the ability to reload across the line.
Farrell’s take: Over the last 20 years or so I would say Wisconsin and Iowa are the two programs that develop offensive linemen very well and among the best in the country. But again, I point to Notre Dame when it comes to the last few years. However, when you’re talking about run-blocking alone, a case can easily be made for Wisconsin, as no team runs the ball more effectively than the Badgers. It still puzzles me why more offensive linemen from around the country don’t choose to go to Wisconsin, but it doesn’t matter much. They just develop the ones they land.