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August 1, 2013

Ranking the Big Ten's offensive linemen for 2013

Ranking the Big Ten's Tight Ends

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. - Michigan
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. - Nebraska
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. - Ohio State
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 in 2013.

4. Ryan Groy, 5th-Sr. - Wisconsin
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.

5. 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.

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