Our weeklong postseason look at SEC position groups continues today as we shift our attention to the conference's offensive lines. A look at how they rank after the 2015 campaign according to our SEC reporting team:
1. Alabama: The Crimson Tide weren’t just the SEC’s best, but the nation’s top offensive line. They won the first Joe Moore Award, given to the country’s best offensive line. The group paved the way for Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry’s SEC-record 2,219 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. Center Ryan Kelly won the Rimington Trophy and two others (Cam Robinson, Dominick Jackson) made the All-SEC team.
2. LSU: How do you know when an offensive line is doing well? When defenders have trouble getting to the running back. In SEC games, the Tigers ranked No. 1 in the conference in rushing yards before contact (1,059) and yards per rush before contact (3.2). The Tigers also did a solid job of protecting quarterback Brandon Harris, ranking third in the league in sacks allowed (17) this season. Vadal Alexander and Ethan Pocic earned All-SEC team honors.
3. Arkansas: The “Trench Hogs” excelled again this season. The Razorbacks were third in the league in yards per rush before contact (2.6) against SEC teams, and their season sacks-allowed percentage (3.7 percent) was the best in the SEC. Left guard Sebastian Tretola shared the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy with Alabama’s Kelly, and tackle Dan Skipper was second-team All-SEC.
4. Ole Miss: The Rebels had the second-best sacks-allowed rate in the league (3.9 percent), behind Arkansas, and they were second in the SEC in yards per rush attempt (5.1). They attained those numbers despite missing standout left tackle Laremy Tunsil for the first half of the season. In November, when they established a consistent starting five upon Tunsil’s return (Tunsil, Aaron Morris, Ben Still, Jordan Sims and Fahn Cooper), they led the league in yards per rush (5.56) versus SEC teams.
5. Georgia: The Bulldogs ranked in the top three in the conference in yards per rush attempt (5.14) and sacks-allowed percentage (4.6) for the entire season, but there were some struggles down the stretch. In the final six weeks, they were eighth in the SEC in yards per rush (4.4) but did do a solid job of protecting the quarterback in that stretch, allowing a 24.8 percent pressure rate versus Power 5 competition (third-best in the SEC). John Theus earned first-team All-SEC honors.
6. Tennessee: Pass protection was much better for the Vols in 2015 than in 2014. After allowing 43 sacks (last in the SEC) the year prior, Tennessee brought that number down to 24, good for sixth in the league. The amount of time Joshua Dobbs was pressured in SEC games (25.8 percent) was the fourth-lowest in the conference. Running the ball, the Vols averaged 4.7 yards per rush versus SEC teams, third-best in the league.
7. Mississippi State: In their first five SEC games, the Bulldogs allowed the fourth-fewest sacks in the league (nine). The Alabama loss was the turning point; they allowed nine to the Crimson Tide and 18 total in their final three SEC games. They finished in the bottom half of the conference in yards per rush (3.7) in conference games.
8. Texas A&M: The Aggies, though they had a 1,000-yard rusher in Tra Carson, averaged only 3.8 rushing yards per carry in conference games (10th in the league) despite a decent job at the line of scrimmage, averaging 2.5 yards per rush before contact (sixth in the SEC). Pass protection was a mixed bag: They ranked 12th in the SEC sacks-allowed percentage (7.7 percent) and 13th in the league in total sacks allowed (37), but they had the third-lowest pressure rate of any SEC team in conference games (24.8 percent). They landed one lineman on the All-SEC second team, right tackle Germain Ifedi.
9. Auburn: The Tigers had the most pronounced statistical difference in pass protection from non-conference to conference play. They allowed zero sacks in non-SEC games, but against league competition they allowed 19 (eighth in the SEC). In the run game, they were ninth overall, ninth in SEC play (4 yards per rush) and ninth in yards per rush before contact (2.24). Tackle Shon Coleman made second-team All-SEC.
10. Kentucky: The Wildcats were right around the middle of the pack statistically running the ball in conference play: 151.5 rushing yards per game (eighth in the SEC), 4.4 yards per rush (seventh) and 2.3 yards per rush before contact (seventh). Quarterbacks were pressured 25.7 percent of the time (seventh) in SEC games, and Kentucky was seventh in total sacks allowed in SEC games (18).
11. South Carolina: The Gamecocks finished near the middle of the pack in pass protection and rushing. They were ninth in the SEC in sacks-allowed percentage (7.4) and eighth in the league in yards per rush attempt (4.4). In conference games, they had the third-fewest rushes but were efficient, averaging 2.6 yards per rush before contact, fourth in the league.
12. Florida: The Gators’ 443 rushing yards before contact against Power 5 opponents was the worst total in the SEC. Pass protection saw a shift when quarterbacks changed. In the first six games, the Gators allowed quarterback pressure 26 percent of the time; when Will Grier was suspended and Treon Harris took over, that number skyrocketed to 43.8 percent, in part because of Harris’ tendency to hang on to the football. Regardless, it was not a good year for the Gators’ O-line.
13. Vanderbilt: Losing starting tackle Andrew Jelks for the season in training camp was a blow to this group. Against SEC opponents, the Commodores averaged only 3.5 yards per rush despite having a 1,000-yard rusher (Ralph Webb, 1,152 yards), the second-worst rate in the league. Vandy quarterbacks were pressured 28.2 percent of the time in SEC games, 12th in the league.
14. Missouri: An overall rough season offensively for the Tigers began up front as their quarterbacks were pressured 33.9 percent of the time in conference games, second-worst in the league. Against Power 5 opponents, Missouri had only 453 rushing yards before contact, also 13th in the SEC.