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Monday, June 6, 2011
Wildcats' O-line among most experienced

By staff

Offensive line experience doesn't guarantee gridiron success, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

Phil Steele recently compiled his annual list of career starts among offensive linemen throughout the FBS. Northwestern ranks second nationally with 137 combined starts, trailing only SMU (158). There's a big drop-off as the next Big Ten team comes in 40th in O-line experience (Purdue, 79 starts).

Northwestern returns four starters up front, including left tackle Al Netter and center Ben Burkett, both of whom are entering their fourth seasons as starters.

Here's a look at where the Big Ten offensive lines rank nationally in career starts entering 2011:
I wouldn't get too giddy or concerned about these numbers. Minnesota had the nation's fourth-most experienced line in 2010 and went 3-9. Then again, both Wisconsin and Ohio State ranked in the top 20 in O-line experience and went on to share the Big Ten title.

Several things stand out about this year's list.