November 27, 2022

College Football’s 20 best offensive linemen of 2021

College Football's 20 best offensive linemen of 2021

Iowa Hawkeyes offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum (65) against the Purdue Boilermakers Saturday, October 24, 2020 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, IN. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

It’s all about mauling defenders.

Breakfast is always served on the field during autumn Saturdays. Pancakes, pancakes and more pancakes. These big uglies are immovable objects, who do all the dirty work in the trenches and let the skill position players hog the glory.

False starts and high snaps are inexcusable. One fundamental mistake can lead to disaster and determine which team comes out victorious. Besides the center, offensive linemen aren’t supposed to touch the ball, but they still have a ton of responsibility.

These 20 individuals have displayed what it takes to be a successful blocker. The pulse of the offense runs through them and they’ll be looking to open more holes this fall.

20. Derek Schweiger, Guard, Iowa State: He’s a former walk-on, who worked his way up the depth chart and got granted a scholarship prior to the 2020 season. Schweiger didn’t let it go to waste and started every game for the Cyclones. The Wisconsin native opened up gaping holes for Breece Hall, who finished as last season’s rushing champion. Not to mention Schweiger earned second-team All-Big 12 honors. The six-foot-three, 311-pounder is a load. Iowa State’s offensive line pretty much returns intact this fall, so expect those rushing numbers to improve.

19. Brock Hoffman, Center, Virginia Tech: The former two-star prospect began his career with Coastal Carolina and started 12 games at guard in 2018. Hoffman sat out a year before starting 10 games for the Hokies last season. The six-foot-three, 317-pounder was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week twice. Hoffman also paved the way for Hendon Hooker to lead all ACC quarterbacks in rushing in 2020. He’s expected to anchor Virginia Tech’s front five again. However, this time around Hoffman has the potential to play like a man among boys.

18. Logan Bruss, Guard, Wisconsin: The former three-star prospect will be a veteran up front for the Badgers this fall. Bruss has 26 career starts under his belt, including some he played at tackle. The Wisconsin native showed his worth last season and was awarded third-team All-Big Ten honors. Despite his success, the Badgers failed to produce a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 2015. Paul Chryst will need the big boys up front to get back to attacking. And it all starts with Bruss. After all, it’s Wisconsin’s offense, and pounding the ball is what leads to success in the clutch.

17. Luke Wattenberg, Center, Washington: The Huskies will boast one of the best offensive lines in the Pac-12 this fall. The entire offense operates through Wattenberg and he is as versatile as they come. The California native has started 36 games for Washington, that dates back to 2017. Wattenberg moved from guard to center last season. The six-foot-five, 300-pounder displayed brute strength in the Huskies’ four games. For his efforts, Wattenberg was awarded the Iron Husky Award. Now the former four-star prospect is licking his chops, with a full slate of games on the schedule.

16. Mike Miranda, Guard, Penn State: The Ohio native has over two years worth of starting experience with the Nittany Lions. Every season Miranda has increased his production. The former three-star prospect started one game in 2018, to eight the following year and nine last season. Penn State’s offensive line struggled to keep Sean Clifford upright. However, a light bulb came on late with Miranda and the rest of the unit. The Nittany Lions won their final four contests and averaged 36.2 points per game during that span. Miranda also finished with second-team All-Big Ten honors.

15. Ben Petrula, Tackle, Boston College: He’s just one part of a five-headed monster the Eagles will have up front. Petrula is arguably one of the most experienced offensive linemen in the ACC. The New Jersey native has started 48 games in his career that dates back to 2017. Petrula excels at playing both tackle and guard, plus he’s never afraid to get his hands dirty. He also earned second-team All-ACC honors in 2020. The Eagles will boast one of the best offensive lines in the country this fall and Petrula usually sets the tone every game.

14. Dohnovan West, Guard, Arizona State: The former three-star prospect quickly emerged as one of the best players on the Sun Devils’ roster. West has started every game for the past two seasons and the Sun Devils led the Pac-12 in rushing. Arizona State only averaged 22.5 points through the first two games, which were both losses. However, the unit averaged 58 points over their last two games, which were both victories. West was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the week during that span. He also earned first-team All-Pac-12 as a true sophomore.

13. Matt Bockhorst, Guard, Clemson: Dabo Swinney has an eye of a Tiger when it comes to talent and Bockhorst is a perfect example. He has 13 career starts under his belt and still hasn’t reached his ceiling. The Cincinnati native had a stellar year in 2020 and helped Clemson allow an ACC-best, 20 sacks. Bockhorst also earned second-team All-ACC honors. The Tigers are a balanced bunch on offense and that’s because of great offensive line play. The six-foot-four, 315-pounder is recovering from off season surgery and is limited in practice this spring. He should be ready by the fall.

12. Peter Skoronski, Guard, Northwestern: The former four-star prospect was the Wildcats’ top recruit of 2020. Skronski quickly proved he was the real deal and started every game as a true freshman. He made such a great impression that the Illinois native earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. The six-foot-four, 294-pounder is now the leader of the Wildcats up front. He’ll also be blocking for a new quarterback this time around. However, Skoronski’s talent should make it all be a smooth transition for Northwestern’s offense.

11. Nick Ford, Tackle, Utah: The California native is one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the Pac-12. Ford has played at guard, tackle and center during his career with the Utes. The former three-star prospect has 26 career starts and earned first-team All-Pac-12 last season. Utah tied for 21st in the FBS in sacks allowed and Ford consistently held down the edge. Everything started clicking for the offense down the stretch and the Utes ended 2020 on a three-game win streak. Kyle Whittingham constantly stockpiles physical linemen and Ford is Utah’s latest version.

10. Alec Lindstrom, Center, Boston College: He’s arguably the best returning offensive lineman in the ACC. Lindstrom will anchor one of the nation’s most talented units and everyone returns. The six-foot-three, 295-pounder earned third-team All-ACC in 2019. Lindstrom followed up that campaign by being named first-team All-ACC last season. He has been an immovable object for the past two years. Boston College averaged 284.2 passing yards per game in 2020, which ranked third in the league. With so much production back up front, expect the Eagles’ numbers to improve.

9. Ed Ingram, Guard, LSU: The Texas native could’ve took his talents to the NFL, but decided to return to the Bayou Bengals for one last season. Now Ingram will be one of the best returning offensive linemen in the SEC. The former four-star prospect’s collegiate career began in 2017. He didn’t even play ball the following season, but returned in 2019 and been dominating ever since. The six-foot-three, 315-pounder now has 25 career starts and he’s a natural at opening up gaping holes. Ingram’s experience and leadership will be vital as LSU figures out its’ quarterback situation.

8. Jaxson Kirkland, Tackle, Washington: He’s the heart and soul of the Huskies’ offense, who always sets the tone up front. Kirkland played at guard during his first two seasons, before moving to tackle. The Portland native is one of the most experienced offensive players in the Pac-12, with 29 career starts. Kirkland is highly respected among his teammates, coaches and served as a captain in 2020. For an individual that stands six-foot-seven, and weighs 295 pounds, he moves his frame with fluidity. Kirkland also earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors.

7. Colin Newell, Center, Iowa State: He showed promise when he started 12 games for the Cyclones in 2018. Injuries limited Newell to two games the following year. However, the hometown kid helped pave the way for Iowa State to have the most balanced offense in the conference last season. Brock Purdy led the league in pass attempts and Hall finished first in rushing because of Newell. The six-foot-four, 304-pounder also earned first-team All-Big 12 honors. Now he’ll be anchoring one of the best offensive lines in the country and poised to build on last year’s momentum.

6. Darian Kinnard, Tackle, Kentucky: The former four-star prospect been wreaking havoc on defensive ends for the past two seasons. Kinnard is a Knoxville native, who plays for Kentucky, so it’s no surprise he has an edge on the field. The six-foot-five, 345-pounder has started 26 consecutive games for the Wildcats. Last year Kinnard earned second-team All-SEC for his success in the trenches. Not to mention he got nabbed for third-team AP All-America. Kentucky is a very run-oriented team. And with Christopher Rodriguez returning in the backfield, expect Kinnard to maul defenders again.

5. Cain Madden, Guard, Notre Dame: The Ohio native didn’t have a bunch of stars next to his name when he was recruited. However, Madden blossomed into one of the best players out of the Group of Five. He’s a bruiser that plays with a mean streak and his teammates nicknamed him ‘Dump Truck’ because of his physicality. The six-foot-three, 330-pound brick wall has 32 career starts. Madden also earned second-team AP All-America honors. He transferred from Marshall to Notre Dame this past June and will anchor the big boys up front for Brian Kelly’s offense this fall.

4. Evan Neal, Tackle, Alabama: This list wouldn’t be complete without a Crimson Tide offensive lineman. Neal played at left guard in 2019 before moving to right tackle last season. He was on the gridiron in 12 of Alabama’s 13 games and consistently kept Mac Jones upright. Several of Neal’s teammates from up front will be on NFL rosters next month. The former five-star prospect has 26 career starts under his belt and will spearhead Alabama’s offense in 2021. Nick Saban’s squad only reloads, but this time around the six-foot-seven, 360-pounder will be the veteran leader of the bunch.

3. Kenyon Greene, Guard, Texas A&M: The former five-star prospect has lived up to his billing. In 2019 Greene started all 13 games for the Aggies as a true freshman. He delivered on the hype and finished that year with Freshman All-SEC honors. Greene had nine starts last season and Texas A&M averaged 205.1 rushing yards per game, which was second-best in the SEC. The Texas native earned a lot of recognition for his performance on the field, including second-team AP All-American honors. Greene also garnered second-team All-SEC and the Aggies’ line will be strong again this fall.

2.  Thayer Munford, Tackle, Ohio State: He raised eyebrows when he chose school over NFL stardom. Munford is arguably the best offensive lineman in the FBS. The Cincinnati native has 26 starts over the last two years. Munford earned second-team All-Big Ten in 2019 and moved up to first-team last season. The six-foot-six, 315-pounder helped Ohio State’s offense average 256.9 rushing yards per game, which ranked ninth in the country. The Buckeyes also led the Big Ten in scoring. With Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers off to the NFL, Munford will now anchor the offensive line.

1. Tyler Linderbaum, Center, Iowa: He’s a perfect example of how the Hawkeyes continue to do more with less. The former three-star prospect was recruited as a defensive tackle. However, Linderbaum has blossomed into an amazing center and started every game for the last two seasons. The six-foot-three, 289-pounder is built like a bus and a pain to deal with for four quarters. Linderbaum finished last year as one of three finalists for the Rimington Trophy. The Iowa native became a household name and earned first-team All-Big Ten, plus second-team AP All-American honors.