Thursday, August 27, 2009
Ranking the Pac-10 offensive lines
By Ted Miller
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
This is not an area of strength in the Pac-10 this fall, at least in terms of experience. A number of teams will start freshmen at a position where it's often hardest -- other than quarterback, of course -- for freshmen to start. Only USC, with all five starters back from 2008 plus outstanding depth, has no line concerns. And even teams in the top half of these rankings have questions.
USC: Best line in the nation. Period. End of story (at least in the preseason). Even if All-American center Kristofer O'Dowd missed the opener with a knee cap injury.
California: All-American center Alex Mack and second-team All-Pac-10 guard guard Noris Malele are gone, as is outstanding line coach Jim Michalczik. Still, seven guys return who own starting experience and the depth is solid.
Arizona: Two starters -- center Colin Baxter and Mike Diaz, who moves from let guard to right tackle -- are back. That doesn't include tackle Adam Grant, who was scheduled to start in 2008 before getting hurt. Coaches are high on guard Conan Amituanai and Vaughn Dotsy.
Stanford: Three starters are back from one of the most physical units in the Pac-10. Two freshmen -- guard David DeCastro and tackle Jonathan Martin -- will start. Coaches are particularly high on DeCastro.
Oregon: Four starters are gone from 2008's dominating line, but four return with starting experience: Bo Thran, Jordan Holmes, Mark Asper and C.E. Kaiser.
Oregon State: The Beavers welcome back three starters -- we're counting tackle Mike Remmers -- but due to injuries they likely will start a walk-on and true freshman on the left side, which is worrisome even if that frosh is touted manchild Michael Philipp.
Washington: Ben Ossai, Ryan Tolar and Cody Habben have combined for 66 starts, but it's not like that's been during a golden age of Husky football. There are depth concerns.
Arizona State: Things were looking up during preseason practices for the Sun Devils before an injury bug hit. Powerhouse Shawn Lauvao is strong at left tackle, and players like Matt Hustad represent an upgrade from 2008, but the unit will have to prove itself after last year's anemic effort.
Washington State: Center Kenny Alfred is one of the best in the conference. And three other starters are back. And word is the off-season in the weight room was strong. Still, the memory of 43 sacks surrendered -- eight more than any other team in the conference -- and 2.7 per rush in 2008 lingers.
UCLA: The Bruins are unsettled here, and are clearly going young, with a JC transfer and two true freshmen expected to start, though guard Stanley Hasiak is nursing a stinger. Ranking 116th in the nation in rushing a year ago forced changes, even though four starters returned.