March 12, 2007

Spring Preview: The Offensive Line

OUTGOING PLAYERS: Manny Ramirez, Glenn January, Gabe Hall, Brandon Jones

MOST DIFFICULT QUALITIES TO REPLACE: Ramirez's leadership and drive blocking; January's pass protection; Hall's athleticism.

THE STARTERS: Marlon Winn, Louis Vasquez, Shawn Byrnes, Brandon Carter, Rylan Reed

THE COMPETITORS: Ofa Mohetau, Chris Olson, Josh Aleman, Andrew Johnson, Buddy Brumit, Adrian Archie, Justin Keown

THE OUTLOOK: Losing four starters from an offensive line is never desirable, and the task of replacing them is even more difficult when one considers the incredible game experience of Jones, January, Hall and Ramirez, and the fact that the latter two will almost certainly be selected in the upcoming NFL draft.

The 2006 line was outstanding in all respects, and may have been the best of the Mike Leach era. That said, in terms of raw talent, the 2007 unit may be superior.

Anchoring this group will be left guard Louis Vasquez who started the 2006 season strong and improved with every game. By season's end he was arguably the best offensive lineman on the team. If he continues to improve, Vasquez will be a first team All Big 12 performer in 2007, and an Outland and Lombardi candidate his senior season. He is that good.

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