Posted by: marcmwm | May 14, 2009

“Holding that line” — from the Wall Street Journal

Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe shouts at Iowa offensive lineman Kyle Calloway as the Hawkeyes run off the field to end the first half of their game against Florida International at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008, in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe shouts at Iowa offensive lineman Kyle Calloway as the Hawkeyes run off the field to end the first half of their game against Florida International at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008, in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

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 guard — Dan Doering (5)/Andy Kuempel (2)/Dace Richardson (9) for 16 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?



  1. Marc, that’s an interesting story. I’ve gotta think OL experience has got to be a plus, and its interesting that the other top-3 Big 10 teams are under 50 starts. It also makes you realize that we could go from a young OL to “Where’d everybody go?!” very quickly, depending on Bulaga. We better enjoy ’09.

    Here’s your stupid question of the day: What are the players doing between now and August? Are they on campus? Do they work with their coaches as units? Thanks.

  2. How refreshing to hear a story about the importance of line play! All the hyperbolic logorrhea regarding the “skill positions” gets old. Blah blah blah. They would be nowhere without the biguns.

    The real proof about this “theory” will be how good Bradford looks behind Oklahoma’s rebuilt line. I’m thinking that Colt McCoy will be getting the heisman this year behind his veteran line. Of course the intricacies of line play will be lost on the lovesick Brent Musberger….

  3. This theory has been put there by Colin Cowherd as well. It’s about the only think sensible that I’ve heard come out his cake-hole.

  4. Eubanks only has 24 starts, not 25. 98 starts is accurate. However, if Meade goes back to the OL, that number then increases to 105 starts.

  5. Pete, the players are off right now. In early June, they start summer conditioning along with 7 on 7’s. No coaches are allowed except strength and conditioning. I believe they get a week or two off between summer workouts and — drum roll, please — fall camp!!

    Jebus — Thanks. And yes, you’re right. Bradford will be the barometer on this stat. Colt McCoy, my great Heisman regret from last season. He might’ve been the best of the Tebow-Bradford-McCoy trio.

    MF — Cowherd, I used to listen a lot. Anymore, I never do. I’ve cut a lot of sports radio out of my life. I enjoy KXNO and, when I remember, click on the Gym Class. I like when Bob Bruce goes sports. The national stuff? I just don’t have a lot of time for it.

    Homer — The 2007 Iowa media fact book lists Eubanks with 21 starts. Iowa’s lists him with four this year. That’s where I came up with 25, but that certainly doesn’t mean that’s a correct number. On Meade, I think he’s found a new opportunity on the DL. They need him there.

  6. RE: Eubanks

    From the official website, check out:

    4 starts in 2008

    12 starts in 2007

    8 starts in 2006

    4 + 12 + 8 = 24

    RE: Meade

    I agree. He seemed like a decent fit at DT in 2005 during his redshirt season. It seemed that he moved to the OL after that because we simply seemed so stacked there at the time. Of course, back then we still had Jackson, Ewen, Kanellis, and Bain on the DL … so it really did look like we were pretty stacked there.

    Hopefully he can have a SR campaign that ends up being something akin to the season that Follet had for us back in 2005. That would be pretty cool ….

  7. I rarely listen to any radio any more, let alone sports talk. I’m pretty much all podcasts on my commute. In the morning I listed to PTI from the night before. It’s just the audio feed from the TV show but it works really well. Plus am an avowed Kornheiser follower. His old radio programs were the best.

    In the afternoon it’s Bill Simmons or Adam Carolla, depending on the topic or guest.

    In other words, nothing too deep.

  8. That would be great, Homer!

    I’m dipping my toes into podcasts. Hlas and I have talked about it. That could happen. Right now, I’m mostly into music podcasts.

  9. And good find on the starts, Homer. That sounds right.

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