Pre-spring breakdown: Offensive line

March, 15, 2013
3/15/13
4:00
PM ET
Our series continues with big guys up front.

Starters returning: Zack Martin, Chris Watt, Christian Lombard
Players returning: Conor Hanratty, Nick Martin, Bruce Heggie, Matt Hegarty, Ronnie Stanley, Mark Harrell
Players departing: Braxston Cave, Mike Golic Jr., Jordan Prestwood (transfer)
Newcomers: Steve Elmer, Hunter Bivin, Mike McGlinchey, John Montelus, Colin McGovern

The breakdown: We should know next week that Zack Martin and Watt are officially back for fifth years, huge boosts for a line that will be returning three starters, including the left side. Martin's decision to return in particular gives the line -- and team in general -- a great veteran presence, as he will likely become a two-time captain in 2013.

Martin may also get the chance to start alongside his younger brother, Nick, who served as something of a utility man on the second unit this past season and figures to contend for one of the two open starting spots.

Another contender to start could be Hegarty, who was shut down late last season because of a mini-stroke but is expected to be cleared this spring. Depending on his progress on the field, he could emerge as a prime candidate to replace Cave at center.

There is plenty of depth -- albeit unproven depth -- in the backfield, but 60 percent of last year's line returns, a line that paved the way for a ground attack that averaged better than 200 yards per game during the regular season.

Throw in another likely year with Everett Golson under center -- after the two sides progressed tremendously on the communication end in 2012 -- and lots of extra bodies from this year's recruiting class, and the line should not experience much of a drop-off in 2013.

Matt Fortuna | email

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