SEC position rankings: Offensive line

August, 24, 2009
8/24/09
7:17
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Picking the best offensive line last season in the SEC was easy. Alabama was dominant up front. It's not nearly as clear-cut this season:


1. Georgia: The Bulldogs have more experience in their offensive line than any other SEC team. They also have a lot of flexibility after injuries forced them to move so many people around last season. Getting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant back is huge, and right tackle Clint Boling is also an All-SEC-caliber player.


2. Florida: Tim Tebow makes any offensive line look good, and even though the Gators have to replace both tackles, it's hard to beat their muscle in the middle with the Pouncey twins. Marcus Gilbert and Carl Johnson also return after starting some last season.


3. LSU: The Tigers return three starters from a very good offensive line a year ago, including the best left tackle in the league. Senior Ciron Black is the kind of staple over there on the left side that you can build an entire unit around.


4. Ole Miss: The third spot was a tough choice between LSU and Ole Miss, but breaking in a new left tackle kept the Rebels from finishing among the top three. The Rebels will be huge, averaging more than 320 pounds across the front, but Bradley Sowell is unproven at left tackle.


5. Auburn: For as bad as the Tigers were on offense last season, their numbers were fairly respectable. They're also much more talented than they played up front last season. It's just that nobody ever fully bought into that offense. Left tackle Lee Ziemba is one of the top six or seven offensive linemen in the league.


6. Vanderbilt: The Commodores return all five starters, and veteran line coach Robbie Caldwell will have more experience to work with in 2009. Running the football was a problem last season. But the Commodores are going to a hurry-up, no-huddle attack that fits their athleticism up front.


7. Alabama: It's never easy when you lose two first-team All-Americans, including the Outland Trophy winner. Senior guard Mike Johnson is as good and as smart as it gets, but it's going to take some time to build the right kind cohesiveness.


8. Tennessee: Pass protection figures to be the Vols' biggest problem. They're also extremely thin and can't afford any injuries. But run blocking will be their forte, as they have two extremely physical guards in Vlad Richard and Jacques McClendon.


9. Kentucky: Quarterback Mike Hartline was the offensive line's best friend last season because he got rid of the ball and didn't take sacks. But the Wildcats still have to prove they can effectively run block. They're the second most-experienced line in the SEC.


10. Arkansas: Plugging Mitch Petrus back in at guard should be a big boost for the Hogs, who gave up a staggering 45 sacks last season. Petrus was suspended for academic reasons. The skill players are in place for the Hogs to be one of the best offenses in the league this season. We'll see if the line can live up to its end of the bargain.


11. South Carolina: The good thing is that the Gamecocks can't get much worse. They were last in the SEC in rushing offense, the only team that didn't average 100 yards per game, and gave up 39 sacks. First-year line coach Eric Wolford has come in and shaken things up. If the Gamecocks are going to make a move in the East, their play up front has to improve dramatically.


12. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have been hit with a few injuries this offseason, only magnifying their lack of depth in the offensive line. Left tackle Derek Sherrod is legit, but this is a unit that has a lot to prove after a dismal 2008 season. First-year line coach John Hevesy has his work cut out.

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