Recently, I found myself looking over various articles and online blogs that consistently put Ohio State's 2011 offensive line above both Iowa's and Wisconsin's, and this perplexed me.
I didn't and don't get the love for Ohio State line play, especially as it concerns next year in comparison to other Big Ten lines. After all, the Bucks have three returning linemen, one of whom is suspended for five games. By comparison, both the Badgers and Iowa also have three returning linemen plus at least one other lineman, in both cases, with starting experience.
No matter how much the Bucks have paid their players, relative to other position groups, OSU's lines have not been dominant compared to other Big Ten team's line play.
In fact, throughout the decade, I would say that Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan (pre-Rich Rodriguez) consistently fielded better lines.
This got me to thinking, while it is impossible to judge college football line play based on any irrefutable, tangible evidence, there is one criterion that doesn't say everything, but does say a lot.
Who has put the most linemen into the NFL draft?
Before I write another word, I will note that getting drafted is in no way the only criterion for college football success.
After all, if I were to name the top 10 linemen of the Kirk Ferentz era, Rob Bruggeman would have to be on that list. After all, Bruggeman was no small contributing factor to Shonn Greene's success in 2008. Of course, Bruggeman only started—due to injuries in both his sophomore and junior years—one year and he was not drafted.
He has since gone on to last three years in the NFL in some capacity. However, my point is that getting drafted is not the only judge of college success. On the other hand, it does say quite a lot.
With that in mind, I went to DraftHistory.com, and did some research.
I did not cross-reference what I found. Therefore, if Drafthistory.com is wrong, then I am wrong. On the other hand, their information concerning both the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Wisconsin Badgers—both of whose recent history I know well enough that I can verify based on memory—is accurate.
I limited my research to the last 10 years, as that is a nice round number, is one complete decade and is two full recruiting cycles (if the players in question redshirted, which linemen usually do). Thus, the numbers I came up with concerned the 2002 draft-2011 draft.
I broke everything into three numbers: total players drafted, players drafted in the first two rounds and players taken in the top 15 picks.
I only concerned myself with BCS conference teams and Notre Dame. I did scan some of the more successful non-AQ teams and the only one that was in the ballpark of the more successful AQ-teams was TCU (six linemen drafted).
Finally, I grouped teams based on their conference affiliations as of 2010. Thus, the shifts coming next year, or any shifts made over the past 10 years were not taken into consideration.
With that in mind, here is what I found.
The conference that had the most linemen drafted over the last 10 years was the ACC with 60. The conference that had the least linemen drafted was the Big East with 22.
Of note is that the four most successful ACC teams were Miami (FL) with 10 drafted overall, three in the top two rounds and one top 15 pick; Boston College (8, 5, 0), Florida State (8, 2, 0) and Virginia Tech (7, 2, 1). Three of those four teams spent almost half of the decade in the Big East.
The other conferences came together as follows: Big Ten (58), SEC (57), Big 12 (51) and Pac-10 (46).
The overall mean was 4.6 drafted per team. The conference means were: Big Ten (5.3), ACC (5), SEC (4.75), Pac-10 (4.6), Big 12 (4.25) and the Big East (2.75).
The order of conferences with the most players drafted in the first two rounds: SEC (20), Pac-10 (15), ACC (15), Big Ten (13), Big 12 (12) and Big East (4).
The order of conferences with the most players taken in the top 15: Big 12 (5), ACC (5), Big Ten (4), SEC (3), Pac-10 (3) and Big East (1).
The only BCS-conference teams not to have any offensive linemen drafted: Kentucky, UCLA and South Florida.
The team with the most top 15 picks: Virginia with three.
The teams with the most players taken in the first two rounds: Southern Cal with eight. Oklahoma with five; and Florida and Iowa had four each.
The team with the most offensive linemen drafted over the last 10 years: The University of Iowa with 11.
Tied for second with 10 each was Notre Dame and Miami (FL). Third was Southern Cal with nine and then Wisconsin, Ole Miss and Boston College with eight each.
Incidentally, as the Big Ten is my primary area of interest, this is how the Big Ten teams stacked up:
- Iowa (11, 4, 1)
- Wisconsin (8, 3, 1)
- Ohio State (7, 1, 0)
- Illinois (7, 0, 0)
- Michigan (5, 2, 1)
- Penn State (5, 2, 1)
- Purdue (4, 0, 0)
- Indiana (3, 1, 0)
- Minnesota (3, 0, 0)
- Northwestern (3, 0, 0)
- Michigan State (2, 0, 0)
So what does all of this prove? Perhaps nothing.
On the other hand, there were a few surprises in there. Specifically, Michigan State, UCLA and the Big 12 were surprising in a "not good" way.
Conversely, Virginia, Boston College, the Big East pre-conference realignment, Iowa and yes, Ohio State, were surprising in a good way. After all, though OSU was third in the Big Ten in terms of offensive linemen NFL Draft success, that is still pretty good.
Going back as far as 2002, Rivals has ranked Iowa offensive line classes in the top 10 once (2005) and in the top 20 twice (2005 and 2011).
As I said, maybe all of this means nothing. But I would think it's something Kirk Ferentz will and does use on the recruiting trails, thereby helping to perpetuate what has grown to be a rich offensive line tradition.
Is Iowa O-line U?
I couldn't say. But over the last 10 years, the Hawkeyes have certainly been impressive.
And Ohio State will not have one of the three best offensive line groups in the conference next year.
But Iowa will.