Friday, July 18, 2008

Weighing the Big Ten O-lines

The other day I was reading Athlon’s college football preview, and going through the Michigan preview, I noticed that Stephen Schilling, their leading returning lineman, weighs 295 pounds. Odd, I thought, an elite lineman weighing less than 300 pounds. They still exist?

Apparently. Surveying the Big Ten’s projected starting lines, I found plenty of guys weighing less than 300 pounds. Here is how they break down, going LT-LG-C-RG-RT:

Indiana: 306-320-292-315-292
Illinois: 295-303-296-309-300
Iowa: 305-300-285-305-290
Michigan: 294-288-292-292-295
Michigan State: 305-325-300-292-320
Minnesota: 315-280-275-300-305
Northwestern: 285-295-300-305-285
Ohio State: 312-345-297-323-312
Penn State: 314-291-297-288-309
Purdue: 325-308-287-314-300
Wisconsin: 299-316-317-328-321

For those who don’t know Badgers by their weights, that’s Gabe Carimi-Andy Kemp-John Moffitt-Kraig Urbik-Eric Vanden Heuvel.

The average projected starter on a Big Ten offensive line in 2008 weighs 302.98 pounds.
Interesting, no? Now let’s look at how these lines average out. In parenthesis are Athlon’s conference ranking of the units, which I found to be pretty much in line with how I see things.

Ohio State: 317.8 (1)
Wisconsin: 316.2 (2)
Michigan State: 308.4 (8)
Purdue: 306.8 (5)
Indiana: 305 (7)
Illinois: 300.6 (4)
Penn State: 299.8 (3)
Iowa: 297 (6)
Minnesota: 295 (11)
Northwestern: 294 (10)
Michigan: 292.2 (9)

Certainly, weight alone doesn’t make an effective offensive lineman. Strength, agility, intelligence, technique, scheme – they’re all as important as size, although you don’t see too many 6-1, 250 guys out there any more.

But isn’t that interesting? Ohio State and Wisconsin, the consensus top two lines in the Big Ten, are by far the largest. Minnesota, Northwestern, and Michigan, the three lightest, are also Athlon’s three weakest units in the conference. Of course, all three also run the spread, so their relative Liliputian statures aren’t critical liabilities.

Now, let’s look at the Big Ten’s team rushing leaders in 2007: Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State. This year’s three heaviest lines are right there, and talents like Rashard Mendenhall and Juice Williams transcended a lighter-than-average line for the Illini.

Josh Oglesby, all 338 pounds of him, will arrive as a starter in 2009 at the latest. There will be no stopping us then.


Scott A said...

Interesting point and good spot. Weight is a very good measure of an offensive lineman if we can assume that they are as big as possible without sacrificing any necessary mobility. Of course some systems, notably BYU and Texas Tech, can force feed their lineman because sheer mass is more important that mobility, but no Big Ten teams are in that mold.

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