This spring, we took a look at which teams brought back the most experienced scoring skill-position players, but college football pundit Phil Steele put together his list of college football's most experienced teams on the offensive line, as well as its percentage of returning tacklers. He also tabbed each team's returning lettermen, complete with a warning that teams hand out letters at widely varying rates.
Still, here's how the Big 12 ranked in the three numbers, followed by some thoughts from yours truly.
Returning career starts on the offensive line: (national rank)
1. Missouri - 105 (11th)
2. Kansas - 97 (15th)
3. Texas A&M - 86 (28th)
4. Texas Tech - 83 (33rd)
5. Oklahoma - 81 (36th)
6. Baylor - 77 (43rd)
7. Oklahoma State - 76 (48th)
8. Iowa State - 54 (84th)
9. Kansas State - 42 (97th)
10. Texas - 36 (105th)
The first immediate reaction I had was: "Well, this won't make Texas' effort at climbing back into Big 12 contention any easier." I'd say most people who follow the Big 12 are well aware of the Longhorns' struggle up front in recent years, but I didn't realize they had the league's least experienced line. The Longhorns have done a great job of recruiting linemen in recent years according to recruiting rankings, but the development hasn't been there. Can Stacy Searels change that? Dare I say Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray's careers depend on it?
I still consider Oklahoma State's offensive line the best in the league, but it's interesting to contrast "returning starters" with "returning starts." The Cowboys gelled really well last season, but they replaced four starters last season and have just the seventh-most starts in the Big 12.
Beware of nonconference? SMU travels to Texas A&M and Tulsa plays both Big 12 schools in Oklahoma. SMU brings back the nation's most experienced line, and by a long ways. The Ponies have 158 returning starts, 21 more than any team in college football. Tulsa also returns 116 starts, more than any team in the Big 12 and fifth nationally.
Percentage of returning lettermen (national rank)
1. Texas A&M - 80.26 percent (5th)
2. Missouri - 79.37 percent (8th)
3. Oklahoma - 75 percent (25th)
4. Texas Tech - 71.23 percent (52nd)
5. Texas - 71.01 percent (54th)
6. Baylor - 70.27 percent (62nd)
7. Oklahoma State - 69.81 percent (64th)
8. Kansas State - 68.18 percent (78th)
9. Iowa State - 64.91 percent (102nd)
10. Kansas - 63.08 percent (109th)
Quite a difference for Kansas between the experience on the offensive line (second most) and the rest of the team (least) when compared to the rest of the conference.
Meanwhile, you're starting to see why a lot of people are high on Missouri and Texas A&M. The Aggies still have to get over the hump, but on paper, they're as complete a team as you'll find in this league. Missouri's obvious question mark is at quarterback, but this is a good representation of what people mean when they say "If they get solid play out of James Franklin, they're going to be pretty good."
Even more nonconference trouble? Like we mentioned before, SMU and Tulsa are in the top 5 nationally in this stat, too. Joining them? Florida State, which returns 80.65 percent of its lettermen. The Sooners travel to Tallahassee on Sept. 17 for the Big 12's premier nonconference matchup.
Percentage of returning tackles (national ranking)
1. Texas A&M - 76.32 percent (19th)
2. Kansas State - 75.17 percent (22nd)
3. Iowa State - 72.63 percent (27th)
4. Oklahoma - 69.78 percent (44th)
5. Texas - 65.02 percent (71st)
6. Oklahoma State - 58.51 percent (84th)
7. Kansas - 55.81 percent (94th)
8. Missouri - 55.45 percent (95th)
9. Texas Tech - 53.56 percent (99th)
10. Baylor - 45.77 percent (114th)
So, putting all these numbers together, in addition to my returning touchdown maker numbers, I'd say it's pretty clear who the Big 12's most experienced team is:
We'll see what that means on the field come fall.