The Wall Street Journal’s Darren Everson took the Herculean task of counting up all the starts that teams return along the offensive line in the BCS and FBS.
Going off these numbers, Everson predicts a big season for Notre Dame, which returns 100 starts along its O-line. In the Atlantic Coast Conference, Virginia Tech is the leader with 100. In the Big 12, it’s Texas with 91. Connecticut’s 91 leads the Big East. USC’s 91 leads the Pac-10. Georgia is tops in the SEC with 99. Colorado State had the most with 125.
Who leads the Big Ten? Well, yeah, I’m writing about it so you know it’s Iowa.
Everson has Iowa for 98 starts returning on the O-line. It took me all day, but I think I have it narrowed down.
Left tackle — junior Bryan Bulaga 18 starts
Left guard — junior Julian Vandervelde 15 starts
Center — senior Rafael Eubanks 25 starts
Right tackle — Kyle Calloway 25 starts
That’s actually 99 starts. Is this a number that predicts success?
I would argue that it’s a maybe, at best. I lean more to the baseball stat, quality starts. A player like Calloway has put in 25 quality starts (his sophomore season was the learning year) and is now a fixture. Bulaga, obviously (and especially with the Mel Kiper talk of him entering the NFL draft a year early). Vandervelde has played himself out of being the “guy who rotated.”
Eubanks has some proving to do. He lost the center position to Rob Bruggeman last season. This is his final season. Ball’s in his court. The right guard starts are also a bit misleading, but only because of the injuries each of those three players have suffered the last two years. You all know Richardson’s story. Doering had his junior season pretty much washed away by a broken wrist suffered in fall camp. And when Kuempel stepped in for injured Seth Olsen, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in his second career start.
I believe it’s a good stat, the more the merrier, but I don’t believe it guarantees anything, obviously. And I’m sure Darren Everson would say that, too.
How many days ’til camp opens?