- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Now that spring ball has ended, we're updating our Big 12 position group rankings over the next two weeks. We continue the series today by rating the conference's offensive lines:
1. Baylor (pre-spring ranking: 1):Hard to beat this group, which returns every starter -- four seniors and a junior -- and features All-America left tackle Spencer Drango, who’s already getting first-round draft hype.The Bears have three proven offensive guards in Blake Muir, Jarell Broxton and Desmine Hilliard plus a center, Kyle Fuller, who started all 13 games last fall. The second-string options are talented but a bit unproven.
2. TCU (2): A veteran unit with four starters back and solid depth behind them, the Horned Frogs must be happy with where their line stands exiting the spring. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is taking over the left tackle job, clearing the way for sophomore Joseph Noteboom to start at right tackle after playing in every game last season.
3. Texas Tech (3): The Red Raiders will have a potential All-America tackle in Le'Raven Clark and three more three-year starters up front. All that’s missing was a right tackle. Redshirt freshman Justin Murphy will take over that job after impressing the coaching staff this spring with his toughness. Depth is a question mark, though. The No. 2 line this spring was filled with walk-ons. Tech will need incoming transfers and freshmen to help out early on.
4. Kansas State (6): We’re bumping the Wildcats’ line up a few spots after their veteran group put together a strong spring and new contributors emerged. Cody Whitehair, Boston Stiverson, Luke Hayes and Matt Kleinsorge make for a formidable senior line, and the battle between Dalton Risner and Reid Najvar for the center job has been tight enough to continue into the summer. As long as Stiverson’s recovery from a leg fracture remains on track, KSU won’t have much to worry about on the O-line.
5. Oklahoma State (4): The Cowboys are on their third offensive line coach in three years, but Greg Adkins inherits a solid group that will keep growing. The pairing of Zachary Crabtree and UAB transfer Victor Salako at the tackle spots should help Mason Rudolph avoid pressure. Michael Wilson and Jesse Robinson are set at the guard spots and Brad Lundblade will keep pushing Paul Lewis at center. There’s a lot of youth among the second-stringers.
6. Oklahoma (5): Another unit that could feature four senior starters, OU is rolling out a new-look line featuring veterans Josiah St. John, Ty Darlington and Nila Kasitati (who was banged up this spring). Juco transfer Jamal Danley should take over the other guard spot, but right tackle is a bit of a question mark for now and there’s no quality experience among the reserves.
7. Texas (7): Nearly every spot was up for grabs this spring, and Texas seems to have a much more stable, competitive line. Sedrick Flowers is the veteran anchor, and Taylor Doyle and Kent Perkins are probably locks to start. Versatile freshman Connor Williams moved into the No. 1 group quickly this spring, and juco transfer Tristan Nickelson should keep improving. Losing Darius James (transfer) didn’t help, but the Longhorns do finally have some experienced depth.
8. Iowa State (8): On the bright side, Jake Campos and Brock Dagel have shown real promise at the tackle spots. Daniel Burton was injured this spring, but ISU coaches know what he can do, so that’s a good start. But the center job -- between Jamison Lalk and juco transfer Patrick Scoggins -- is important and still undecided. Any more injuries could derail this group, because the backups are mostly unknowns.
9. West Virginia (9): Are we underrating this group? Maybe so, because they’re not in that rough of shape in terms of experience. The Mountaineers know what they have in center Tyler Orlosky, left guard Adam Pankey and right tackle Marquis Lucas. Left tackle is less certain, especially after potential starter Russell Haughton-James was arrested this month. Dana Holgorsen seems comfortable with this group’s depth. If he’s right, WVU’s line won’t be second-worst in the conference.
10. Kansas (10): The Jayhawks could start four upperclassmen up front, so that’s at least encouraging. Jordan Shelley-Smith has done some serious bulking up to become the guy at left tackle, and Larry Mazyck should start at right tackle. Keyon Haughton got to be the center this spring while Joe Gibson was sidelined, and Junior Visinia will keep improving after having to start as a true freshman. If juco transfers are able to chip in, KU will be fine along the line.