Offensive Line University  

Posted by Walter

Some nice analysis by my esteemed co-blogger, and it is very difficult to argue with Penn State as the runner up Offensive Line University (it is IMPOSSIBLE to argue with USC as the number one choice). That said, I will respectfully disagree with the choice of Penn State as the #2 school in lieu of...........

Runner Up - University of Pittsburgh (Bill Fralic, Mark May, Russ Grimm, Mark Spenoski, Jeff Christy, Rob Pettiti)

With no disrespect intended towards Penn State whatsover, as a whole I am more impressed with the core group of players the Panthers have produced than I am with that of the Nittany Lions. Offensive line play, unlike all other positions, cannot be measured in stats or pro bowl appearances. The value of an offensive lineman is his ability to be technically sound if not spectacular. The best offensive lines in football are often not laden with stars, but rather with players who may not be the most physically gifted, but are physical and smart. For example, the New Englan Patriots have won super bowls without pro bowl lineman. Players like Russ Hochstein, Matt Light, and Dan Koppen are not going to be confused for Larry Allen, Orlando Pace, and Dermonti Dawson, but as a group they always got the job done. Now I do not intend to devalue a player like Walter Jones (or Mike Munchak for that matter), but I do intend to illustrate that "greatness" has to be viewed in a different light when considering offensive lineman.

With that in mind we turn to the roster of Pitt Panthers who made their mark on the NFL. First and foremost we have Bill Fralic, perhaps the greatest offensive lineman in the history of the college game and someone who would have had a better opportunity to mentioned as the same in the pro game if not for some unfortunate injuries. Still, Fralic managed to play 9 seasons and in 4 pro bowls. Next on the Pitt roster are two fo the all time greats, though their pro bowl appearances and name recognition don't bear that out (see discussion above). Russ Grimm and Mark May were integral parts of the undoubtedly the greatest offensive line ever........the Hogs. The Hogs themselves, serve as the best example to illustrate my point about "greatness" in an offensive lineman. Joe Jacoby is probably the only player on that line to garner any sort of name recognition. Taken individually, none of the Hogs are household names. But put together and every football fans know about the Hogs. As an offensive line coach I used to tell my players that the greatest compliment an offensive line could recieve was that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. That phrase applies in force to both Grimm and May. Rounding out the Pitt roster are two players who I beleive would have fit in well on the Hogs, and who both played on latter day great offensive lines. Mark Stepnoski centered some of the greatest offensive lines of the 1990's for the Dallas Cowboys, and Jeff Christy was a stallwart for the record setting Minnesota Vikings and Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Bucs. While neither will be making the trip to Canton (thought hey do have a combined 8 pro bowl appearances between them), both possessed the knack for assimilating themselves and other players into a congruent offensive line that was always greater than the sum of its parts.

My Selection - USC

There is a serious argument to be made that if you were creating an all time offensive line from the past 20 seasons that 60% of it would be comprised on Trojans. In fact, if I were constructing said offensive line it would be 60% Trojans. Anthony Munoz was the greatest tackle who ever lived. Tony Bosselli was the most dominant ever in his prime (which was too short lived). And there is a legitimate argument that Bruce Matthews was the best guard AND the best center of the past 20 seasons. For argument's sake, on my hypothetical all time offensive line I'd play Matthews at guard with Larry Allen, and start Dwight Stephenson at center.


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