If you want to win football games, it has to start in the
trenches, and there are plenty of high-quality offensive
maulers in the Big Ten. From Ohio State - which returns four
starters from last season's undefeated team - to Michigan -
led by two fifth-year seniors at left and right tackle - the
conference has plenty of talent along the line.
1. Taylor Lewan, 5th-Sr.
When Lewan first burst onto the scene as a
redshirt freshman in 2010, he built an almost cult-hero
status with his overly aggressive play, the mustache he had
tattooed on his pointer finger, his tandem bicycle and his
light, funny personality. Since then, his reputation has
changed drastically; now, he's considered one of the most
talented offensive linemen in the country. Lewan spurned an
opportunity to enter the 2013 NFL Draft - where some
projected him to be a top 10 selection - to return to Ann
Arbor for his final season, and he is poised to lead a young
offensive line that is full of potential.
2. Spencer Long, 5th-Sr.
After Long was an honorable mention
All-Conference selection as a high school senior, he decided
to try to walk on at Nebraska in 2009. At that time, no one
could have predicted Long's rise to the top tier of Big Ten
offensive line. He has started every game at right guard in
each of the last two seasons, helping build the dynamic
Nebraska running game. Last season, Long was a first-team
All-Big Ten selection as a redshirt junior in 2012. The
Assosicated Press and the Walter Camp Foundation also named
him a second-team All-American last season.
3. Andrew Norwell, Jr. -
Last year, Norwell was a
versatile weapon for the Buckeyes. He started the first five
games of the Urban Meyer era at left tackle before moving to
left guard, where he finished out the season. Norwell, who
stands 6-6, 319, can play wherever the Buckeyes need him. He
was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season, an
honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2011 and a
Freshman All-Big Ten selection in 2010. Norwell is one of
the most experience returning Buckeyes, with 25 starts under
his belt. With three other returning offensive linemen aroun
dhim, Norwell will help lead the potent Ohio State offense
4. Ryan Groy, 5th-Sr. -
Groy made his Wisconsin debut as a starting
fullback against UNLV in 2010. Since then, he has developed
into a reliable, aggresive guard who has helped Wisconsin
become one of the most dangerous power-run offenses in the
country. Groy, who has played in all 41 games in the last
two seasons with 20 starts, was a second-team All-Big Ten
selection last season. His experience and leadership will
help the Badgers during their transition from Bret Bielema,
who left Madison to take the Arkansas job, to new coach Gary
Anderson, who comes to the program from Utah State.
John Urschel, 5th-Sr. - Penn State
Urschel was one of the most
important pieces to the Penn State offense, which overcame
the tumultous transition from Joe Paterno to Bill O'Brien to
finish as the No. 2 scoring offense in the Big Ten. Urschel
started all 12 games at right guard, springing holes for
1,000-yard rusher Zach Zwinak and holding off the rush for
quarterback Matt McGloin. Urschel was a first-team All-Big
Ten selection last season. Urschel, a 4.0 student who
graduated with a degree in mathematics in just three years,
will be huge for the Nittany Lions, who are breaking in a
new starting quarterback in 2013.
Others to Watch
Michigan fifth-year senior right tackle Michael
Schofield is "one of the most underrated offensive linemen
in the Big Ten," according to Lewan. Schofield's presence
opposite Lewan will be huge for the Wolverines, as they
break in three new interior starters. ... Nebraska
fifth-year senior left tackle Jeremiah Sirles will enter his
third year as a starter, and will help the high-powered
Cornhusker running game continue to run at full pace. ...
Ohio State fifth-year senior tackle Jack Mewhort is a
project captain who has started the last 25 games. ...
Indiana sophomore Dan Feeney was a Freshman All-American
last season who did not surrender a sack in 12 starts.