Offensive linemen are the most difficult players to measure on any team, potentially in any sport. They're the only players on a team for which there are no individual statistics. Some teams do track knockdowns, also known as "pancake" blocks - a block in which the opposing player is driven to the ground or flattened - but it's not an official statistic. It makes for great film review and a method of recognizing the player by coaches, but other than that, it's mostly meaningless.
The problem is that there is no separation between the individual lineman and his unit. If Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray or Nebraska's Roy Helu have a great season rushing the ball, they'll each get more credit for their performance than does their offensive line. You can measure a line unit by the number of sacks given up if you happen to play a pass-happy offense such as Texas Tech, but again, this is a unit statistic, not an individual.
How then does one go about picking offensive linemen for the 2009 All-Big 12 team?
I believe that a big part of measuring offensive linemen is in their durability - how many games they've played, and how many of them they've started. It's a brutal position - offensive lineman are huge guys who are constantly beaten and battered by the other huge guys across the line from them. They're going to get injured throughout the season and it takes a true warrior spirit to continue to play despite the injuries that come with the position.
The Big 12 group here at SB Nation has nominated a number of offensive linemen for consideration for the 2009 pre-season All Big 12 team. The list of nominations is below. What I've done is broken them down by their specific position, their previous honors and the number of starts and games played.
|JD Walton||Baylor||Center - 2009 Rimington Award Watch List - 2008 Big 12 HM - 24 Career Starts/Games Played|
|James Barnard||Baylor||Guard - 2008 Big 12 HM - 24 Career Starts/Games Played|
|Nate Solder||Colorado||Tackle - 10 Career Starts/14 Games Played|
|Ryan Miller||Colorado||Tackle - 4 Career Starts/10 Games Played|
|Jeremiah Hatch||Kansas||Tackle - 12 Career Starts/Games Played - Sophomore|
|Nick Stringer||Kansas State||Tackle - 2008 Big 12 HM - 24 Career Starts/31 Games Played|
|Kurtis Gregory||Missouri||Guard - 2008 Second Team Big 12 - 28 Consecutive Games Started/41 Games Played|
|Elvis Fisher||Missouri||Tackle - 2008 - 14 Games Started as True Freshman|
|Dan Hoch||Missouri||Tackle - 2009 will be first-time starter - 14 Games Played 2008 as true freshman|
|Tim Barnes||Missouri||Center - 2008 Big 12 HM - 2009 Rimington Award Watch List - 14 Games Started/20 Games Played|
|Jacob Hickman||Nebraska||Center - 2008 Big 12 HM - 2009 Rimington Award Watch List - 23 Games Started/30 Games Played|
|Mike Smith||Nebraska||Tackle - 13 Games Started/25 Games Played|
|Trent Williams||Oklahoma||Tackle - 2008 First Team Big 12 - 27 Games Started/35 Games Played|
|Brady Bond||Oklahoma State||Tackle - 31 Games Started/Games Played|
|Russell Okung||Oklahoma State||Tackle - 2008 First Team Big 12 - 34 Games Started/Games Played|
|Adam Ulatoski||Texas||Tackle - 2008 First Team Big 12 - 30 Games Started/36 Games Played|
|Chris Hall||Texas||Center - 2008 Second Team Big 12 - 2009 Rimington Award Watch List - 23 Games Started/31 Games Played|
|Charlie Tanner||Texas||Guard - 2008 Big 12 HM - 19 Games Started/31 Games Played|
|Kyle Hix||Texas||Tackle - 14 Games Started/26 Games Played|
|Brandon Carter||Texas Tech||Guard - 2008 Big 12 HM - 27 Games Started/38 Games Played|
|Marlon Winn||Texas Tech||
Tackle - 2008 Big 12 HM - 21 Games Started/35 Games Played
I'm lead to believe that most lineman are selected by the media because of their reputation, but that reputation also developed because of durability. It's rare that a guy shows as on the first team without first having spent a season getting an honorable mention - the bottom line being that offensive linemen don't have years where they "blow up" like Michael Crabtree did as a true freshman receiver. Again, it goes back to durability, longevity, and the fact that there are no stats.
The following are returning linemen who were selected as first-team All Big 12 linemen in 2008:
- Trent Williams, Oklahoma
- Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
- Adam Ulatoski, Texas
The following are returning linemen who were selected as second-team All Big 12 linemen in 2008:
- Kurtis Gregory, Missouri
- Chris Hall, Texas
The 2009 All-Big 12 pre-season team will be announced soon - both the regular media's selections and our own selections amongst the Big 12 group here at SB Nation. We'll see how the picks end up.
If we're going by what's listed here - here are what we'll get for the All Big 12 First and Second Team Selections:
Center - Chris Hall, Texas
Guards - Kurtis Gregory, Missouri ---- Brandon Carter, Texas Tech
Tackles - Russel Okung, Oklahoma State ---- Adam Ulatoski, Texas
Center - Jacob Hickman, Nebraska
Guards - James Barnard, Baylor ---- Charlie Tanner, Texas
Tackles - Trent Williams, Oklahoma (although he'll likely repeat at first team) ---- Brady Bond, Oklahoma State