July 20, 2024
College football's best offensive linemen of 2023

Michigan offensive lineman Trevor Keegan walks towards the sidelines during drills before Big Ten Championship Game against Purdue Saturday December 3, 2022 at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

Breakfast is always served on the gridiron during autumn Saturdays, and it’s all about pancakes. Offensive linemen do all of the dirty work in the trenches, and let the skill position players hog the glory.

However, everything on offense starts up front, so false starts and high snaps are inexcusable. These 20 individuals have demonstrated what it takes effectively run-block, and pass protect. The pulse of the offense runs through the unit and they’ll be looking to open more holes this fall.

20. Isaiah Adams, Guard, Illinois: The former Juco was a terror in the interior. Adams made an immediate impact in the Big Ten last season. He started all 13 games, including 12 at guard, and one at tackle. Adams helped pave the way for Chase Brown to finish second in the Big Ten in rushing yards. The six-foot-five, 315-pounder led the Fighting Illini in knockdowns. Adams is versatile, and Coach Bret Bielema can plug him in at multiple positions when needed. The Canadian capped off his first season at Illinois with third-team, All-Big Ten honors. Adams will be a vital piece for Bielema to build the revamped unit around during spring ball, and will anchor the big boys up front this fall.

19. Taliese Fuaga, Tackle, Oregon State: The Washington native started every game of the Beavers’ 10-3 campaign last season. Fuaga is an immovable object, standing six-foot-six, and weighing 326 pounds. He paved the way for the Beavers to average 195.5 rushing yards per game, which ranked fourth in the Pac-12, and 28th in the FBS. The former three-star prospect also helped Oregon State finish fourth in the league, and fifth in the country in sacks allowed. Not to mention Fuaga earned second-team, All-Pac-12 honors. Fuaga and All-Pac-12 teammate Joshua Gray will form one of the best offensive tackle tandems in the country this fall. So Coach Jonathan Smith can get creative.

18. Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Tackle, Penn State: The former four-star prospect started eight games at left tackle in 2022. Fashanu uses his six-foot-six, 326-pound frame to bully pass rushers in the trenches. Not to mention he didn’t allow a single sack on 281 pass blocking snaps. Fashanu helped the Nittany Lions finish third in the Big Ten in total offense. The Maryland native also capped off last season with second-team, All-Big Ten honors. With nine career starts, Fashanu will be a vital piece for Coach James Franklin to build the unit around. After all, Fashanu is versatile enough to play multiple positions up front, and he’s approaching the upcoming season as a veteran of the group.

17. Bryan Hudson, Center, Louisville: The former four-star prospect is a two-sport athlete for the Cardinals. Not only does Hudson excel on the track and field, but he’s also one of the best centers in the ACC. He started 12 games last season. Not to mention he led the team with 852 snaps, and generated 53 knockdowns. The Kentucky native also helped Louisville finish second in the league, and 23rd in the FBS in rushing yards per game. The cherry on top for Hudson was ending the season with second-team, All-ACC honors. Hudson has 24 starts under his belt, which means he’s going to be a key piece for new Coach Brian Brohm to build the rest of the offensive line around this spring.

16. JC Latham, Tackle, Alabama: The Wisconsin native is massive standing six-foot-six, and weighing 335 pounds. Latham is a rising star up front for the Crimson Tide. Last season he started all 13 games, and generated 29 knockdowns. Latham helped Alabama finish fourth in the conference in sacks allowed. That’s pretty impressive, considering the almighty SEC is full of elite pass rushers that eat offensive tackles for breakfast. However, Latham is a brick wall off the edge, who’s always up for a physical challenge. Now he’s poised to be one of the best tackles in the conference this fall, and a vital piece for new Offensive Coordinator Tommy Rees to operate with throughout spring.

15. Javion Cohen, Guard, Miami: The former four-star prospect is an animal along the interior, and a natural at opening up holes. Cohen has two years worth of starting experience in the almighty SEC. He started 10 games for the Crimson Tide last season, including 554 total snaps, and generated 17 knockdowns. The former four-star prospect helped Alabama finish third in the SEC, and 11th in the FBS in total offense. Cohen capped off 2o22 with second-team, All-SEC honors. With 24 starts at left tackle, he’s a significant addition to Miami’s offense. He’s a key piece for Coach Mario Cristobal to build around this spring, especially after the Hurricanes ranked 86th in the country in total offense.

14. Mike Novitsky, Center, Kansas: The New York native is one of the most experienced centers in the country. Novitsky started 20 games at Buffalo, and earned first-team, All-MAC honors in 2020. He has started 24 games over the past two seasons with the Jayhawks. Novitsky helped Kansas finish first in the Big 12, and tied for seventh in the country in sacks allowed. Not to mention he was a big reason why the Jayhawks ranked fifth in the league in rushing yards per game. The former two-star prospect capped off 2022 with second-team, All-Big 12 honors. Novitsky will be anchoring the big boys up front again this fall, which spells bad news for defensive linemen around the league.

13. Will Putnam, Center, Clemson: The Florida native is one of the most experienced offensive linemen in the ACC. Putnam is a brick wall when it comes to keeping defensive tackles at bay. He’s extremely versatile, with major experience in two positions up front. The former four-star prospect has started 22 games at guard. Last season Putnam started all 14 games at center. The six-foot-four, 315-pounder was a big reason why the Tigers ranked fourth in the ACC rushing offense. Not to mention he finished the year with third-team, All-ACC honors. With Putnam’s experience, leadership and production, there’s no denying he’s one of Clemson’s best offensive weapons for the 2023 season.

12. Troy Fautanu, Tackle, Washington: The Nevada native was responsible for protecting Michael Penix Jr.’s blind side last year, and the quarterback wound up leading the FBS in total offense. Fautanu started all 13 games in 2022, including 12 at left tackle, and one at left guard. He used his six-foot-four, 312-pound frame to help the Huskies finish second in the Pac-12, and third in the FBS in sacks allowed. Fautanu capped off the season with second-team, All-Pac-12 honors. With 16 starts under his belt, the ability to play multiple positions up front, and Jaxson Kirkland off to the NFL, Fautanu will be Coach Kalen DeBoer’s most important returning piece along the offensive line for 2023.

11. Kelvin Banks, Tackle, Texas: The former five-star prospect delivered on all of the hype behind his name out of high school. Not only did Banks start every game as a true freshman in 2022, but he capped off the year with second-team, All-Big 12 honors. The six-foot-four, 318-pounder is a natural at taking on edge rushers and blitzing linebackers. Banks played a vital part in Bijan Robinson winning the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back. Not to mention he helped the Longhorns finish second in the Big 12 in sacks allowed, and fourth in rushing yards per game. Banks is going to be instrumental again this fall, helping to protect the blind side of Arch Manning and Quinn Ewers.

10. Robert Scott, Tackle, Florida State: He made his presence felt in the trenches last season. Scott is one of the ACC’s most experienced offensive linemen, with 29 starts under his belt. It’s not easy being an offensive tackle in the conference, but Scott knows how to hold down the edge, and then some. The former three-star prospect helped the Seminoles finish third in the league in sacks allowed. Not to mention Scott was a big reason why Florida State ranked first in the ACC, and 13th in the FBS in rushing offense. Scott capped off his memorable season with second-team, All-ACC honors. Now he’s going to be protecting Jordan Travis again, who’s one of the best gunslingers in the country.

9. Graham Barton, Tackle, Duke: He’s one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the ACC. Barton has three years worth of starting experience, and during that span he has played left tackle and center. The six-foot-five, 311-pounder is a matchup nightmare along the interior and off the edge. Barton helped the Blue Devils finish first in the ACC, and 27th in the FBS in sacks allowed last season. The Tennessee native was a big reason why Duke ranked third in the conference in rushing yards per game. Not to mention Barton capped off the year with first-team, All-ACC honors. Quarterback Riley Leonard threw for 20 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards because of Barton’s outside protection.

8. Zach Frazier, Center, West Virginia: The former three-star prospect is one of the most experienced offensive linemen in the FBS. Frazier is as versatile as they come, and can wreak havoc from the interior or off the edge. Not to mention he has 33 starts under his belt, including 25-straight at center, and the other nine games at guard. He’s physical, and athletic enough to create matchup problems along the line of scrimmage. Last season Frazier helped the Mountaineers finish fourth in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game. The six-foot-three, 306-pounder capped off his stellar campaign with first-team, All-Big 12 honors. This fall Frazier will be a load again for Big 12 defensive linemen.

7. Trevor Keegan, Guard, Michigan: He’s one half of the Wolverines’ two-headed monster at guard. Keegan has started at left guard for the past two seasons for the reigning Big Ten champs. He earned first-team, All-Big Ten honors in 2022. Keegan has been a staple along the interior for the Wolverines, and a big reason why they led the Big Ten in rushing. The former four-star prospect is a mountain, who stands six-foot-six, and weighs 305 pounds. That makes him a load to deal with for defensive tackles. Keegan has 23 starts under his belt, a two-time Big Ten champion and started in two Playoff games. With Ryan Hayes and Olu Oluwatimi off to the NFL, Keegan will anchor the big boys up front.

6. Sataoa Laumea, Guard, Utah: The former four-star prospect is one of the most experienced offensive linemen in the Pac-12. Laumea is as versatile as they come, with skills along the interior and off the edge. The Californian started all 14 games last season. He’s a big reason why the Utes ranked second in the Pac-12 and 16th in the FBS in sacks allowed. Not to mention he helped Utah finish second in the league in rushing offense. The six-foot-four, 308-pounder capped off the year with first-team, All-Pac-12 honors. Laumea also earned second-team, All-Pac-12 honors in 2020. He has a jaw-dropping, 32 starts under his belt, including 19 games at right guard, and 13 at right tackle.

5. Donovan Jackson, Tackle, Ohio State: The former five-star prospect became a full-time starter as a true sophomore in 2022, and by the end of the season he was a household name. Jackson was a big reason why Ohio State finished first in the Big Ten, and tied for seventh in the FBS in sacks allowed. He provided gaping holes for the running backs, and helped the team average 192.2 rushing yards per game, which ranked third in the conference. For his heroics on the gridiron, Jackson capped off his stellar campaign with first-team, All-Big Ten honors. Although the league is full of elite pass rushers, Jackson has the talent to protect the quarterback’s blind side the entire season.

4. Zak Zinter, Guard, Michigan: The Massachusetts native is massive, weighing 315 pounds on a six-foot-six frame. Zinter is arguably the best returning interior offensive lineman in the nation. He’s a two-time, Big Ten Champion, and has played in two Playoff games He’ll be a veteran up front for one of the nation’s best offensive lines this fall. Zinter is a natural at mauling defenders at the point of attack. Not to mention he has 31 career starts, including 30 at right guard. The former four-star prospect helped pave the way for the Wolverines to finish first in the Big Ten, and fifth in the FBS in rushing offense in 2022. The cherry on top for him was earning first-team, All-Big Ten honors.

3. Christian Haynes, Guard, Connecticut: The former two-star prospect is coming off a monster campaign with the Huskies. Although Haynes has three years worth of starting experience with the program, he capped off 2022 with third-team, AP All-American honors. The Maryland native helped pave the way for Connecticut to finish 33rd in the country in rushing offense. Not to mention he was a big reason why the Huskies ranked 29th in the FBS in sacks allowed. The six-foot-three, 305-pounder has enough strength and athleticism to take on two defenders on any given play. Considering Haynes is one of the best interior linemen in the nation, he won’t be sneaking up on anyone this fall.

2. Cooper Beebe, Guard, Kansas State: The former three-star prospect is one of the best returning offensive guards in the country. Beebe was named the Big 12’s Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2022, and hasn’t allowed a sack in his last 803 pass blocking plays. Beebe helped the Wildcats rank second in the league in rushing offense, and third in sacks allowed. The Illinois native has a jaw-dropping, 35 starts over the past three seasons. During that span he has spent time at guard and tackle, which makes him one of the most experienced and versatile offensive linemen in the conference. Beebe capped off his stellar season with second-team, AP All-America honors, and first-team, All-Big 12.

1. Joe Alt, Tackle, Notre Dame: The Minnesota native is coming off a memorable true sophomore campaign. Alt started all 13 games last season, and capped it off with first-team, AP All-America honors. The former four-star prospect helped Notre finish 35th in the FBS in rushing offense. Alt’s six-foot-seven, 317-pound frame makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive lineman, and he’s a menace off the edge. With 21-straight starts under his belt, Alt has the experience and production to dominate on the gridiron this fall. Coach Marcus Freeman is going to need it all from Alt, in order to keep new quarterback Sam Hartman upright through a challenging schedule.

Honorable Mention

Joshua Gray, Tackle, Oregon State: The Californian made his presence felt in the trenches for the Beavers last season. So much so that Gray helped Oregon State finish fourth in the conference in sacks allowed and rushing yards. Not to mention Gray earned second-team, All-Pac-12 honors.