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August 19, 2011

Preseason top 15: Offensive tackles

We continue our breakdown of the nation's best players at each position with a look at offensive tackles.

"Best" doesn't necessarily mean the most pro potential or even the most talent. Instead, it's a mix of what the player has accomplished and how we think the player will do this season. But production does trump potential.

We will look at a position a day until Aug. 29, when we rank all 120 of the nation's quarterbacks. Saturday, we will look at interior offensive linemen. Here are the offensive tackle rankings.

15. BLAKE DeCHRISTOPHER, VIRGINIA TECH
THE PARTICULARS: 6-5/311, Sr.; Midlothian (Va.) Cover Hill
THE BUZZ: DeChristopher is heading into his fourth season as a starter and has made 37 career starts. He played every offensive snap in multiple games last season. DeChristopher graduated with a degree in sociology during the spring and is working on a second undergraduate degree, this one in psychology.

14. DAN HOCH, MISSOURI
THE PARTICULARS: 6-7/320, Sr.; Harlan (Iowa)
THE BUZZ: Hoch's is one of the Big 12's best linemen this season, and he will be even more important to the Tigers because of the season-ending injury suffered last week by fellow starting T Elvis Fisher. The line is in good hands: Hoch was the first true freshman lineman to play for coach Gary Pinkel and has started 26 consecutive games.

13. AL NETTER, NORTHWESTERN
THE PARTICULARS: 6-6/310, Sr.; Santa Rosa (Calif.) Cardinal Newman
THE BUZZ: Netter was a recruiting coup for Northwestern. As he bulked up from 240 pounds, Netter became a mainstay on the Wildcats' offensive line, starting 39 consecutive games at left tackle. Despite his size, Netter loves to surf.

12. MATT McCANTS, UAB
THE PARTICULARS: 6-7/295, Sr.; Mobile (Ala.) Williamson
THE BUZZ: Although UAB has struggled in Conference USA, McCants' two seasons as UAB's starting left tackle have coincided with the two best offensive seasons in Blazers' history. UAB has topped 5,000 yards in each of the past two seasons with McCants anchoring the line.

11. ANDREW DATKO, FLORIDA STATE
THE PARTICULARS: 6-6/321, Sr.; Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas
THE BUZZ: Though hampered by injuries last season and this spring, Datko is one of the ACC's top linemen when healthy. A three-year starter, Datko has been tested against the league's elite defensive ends, such as North Carolina's Robert Quinn, Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan and Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers. Datko always was known as a superb technician, but has added strength and bulk throughout his college career.

10. MATT KALIL, USC
THE PARTICULARS: 6-7/295, Jr.; Anaheim (Calif.) Servite
THE BUZZ: Kalil started once as a redshirt freshman in 2009, at right tackle, then started all 12 games at left tackle last season. He's physical yet also has quick feet. Kalil was a five-star recruit out of high school. His dad played center in the USFL, while his brother, Ryan, a former USC center, now plays for the Carolina Panthers.

9. BRADLEY SOWELL, OLE MISS
THE PARTICULARS: 6-7/315, Sr.; Hernando (Miss.) High
THE BUZZ: He will be a three-year starter for the Rebels. He was a second-team All-SEC pick last season, when Ole Miss allowed the fewest sacks in the league and also finished third in the conference in rushing.

8. JONATHAN MARTIN, STANFORD
THE PARTICULARS: 6-6/304, Jr.; Studio City (Calif.) Harvard-Westlake School
THE BUZZ: Martin, who is majoring in classics at Stanford, is heading into his third season as a starter. He was an honorable mention all-league selection as a redshirt freshman, then a first-team pick last season. He is a big reason Stanford's line has allowed a combined 13 sacks in the past two seasons.

7. MIKE RYAN, CONNECTICUT
THE PARTICULARS: 6-5/333, Sr.; Tamaqua (Pa.) Marian Catholic
THE BUZZ: Connecticut had issues with its line early last season; then, coaches moved Ryan from right tackle to left tackle to start the Big East season, and the Huskies went on to allow the fewest sacks in the league and advance to the Fiesta Bowl. Ryan is more advanced as a run blocker than he is a pass blocker.

6. RILEY REIFF, IOWA
THE PARTICULARS: 6-6/300, Jr.; Parkston (S.D.) High
THE BUZZ: A member of his high school golf team, Reiff made an impact as a redshirt freshman in '09 by starting 11 games at three positions. Last season, he started all 13 games at left tackle. Reiff has started 21 consecutive games and is equally adept at pass blocking and run blocking, combining strength, quickness, tenacity and technique.

5. KELECHI OSEMELE, IOWA STATE
THE PARTICULARS: 6-6/347, Sr.; Houston Langham Creek
THE BUZZ: Osemele (whose name is pronounced Kah-LETCH-ee Oh-sem-AH-lee) is entering his fourth season as a starter. He is a mauler in the running game, yet also athletic enough to handle speed rushers off the edge. Osemele, who has garnered all-league mention in each of the past two seasons, could be the Cyclones' first NFL first-round pick since 1973.

4. MATT REYNOLDS, BYU
THE PARTICULARS: 6-6/322, Sr.; Provo (Utah) Timpview
THE BUZZ: He was the lone freshman starter on a veteran line in 2008; now he's the unquestioned leader of the group after earning All-Mountain West honors in each of the past two seasons. He did that despite playing with a sore shoulder for much of last season. Now healthy, he will be an All-America candidate and potentially high draft pick. His dad, Lance, is the BYU tight ends coach.

3. NATE POTTER, BOISE STATE
THE PARTICULARS: 6-6/300, Sr.; Boise (Idaho) Timberline
THE BUZZ: He has been the key player on Boise State's line the past two seasons. He's a full-time left tackle now, but he also has played guard. He is expected to follow former Broncos tackle Ryan Clady by being selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Potter already has a degree in business and now is in grad school.

2. LEVY ADCOCK, OKLAHOMA STATE
THE PARTICULARS: 6-6/322, Sr.; NE Oklahoma A&M, preceded by Claremore (Okla.) Sequoyah
THE BUZZ: He made a huge jump from a seldom-used sophomore backup to a junior star. Last season, he was a first-team All-Big 12 selection; this season, he should vie for All-America mention. He was all-county in football, baseball and basketball in high school, then played just one season in junior college, at guard. He was a recruiting afterthought, too, as he didn't sign until the summer of 2009 with Oklahoma State.

1. MIKE ADAMS, OHIO STATE
THE PARTICULARS: 6-8/320, Sr.; Dublin (Ohio) Coffman
THE BUZZ: Adams will miss the first five games of the season because of an NCAA suspension. He started for the second year in a row in 2010, earning first-team All-Big Ten plaudits. Adams is an excellent run blocker who rarely gets knocked off his feet and can push the pile. He's also nimble and athletic, making him a strong pass blocker.

Rankings and player capsules compiled by Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee.



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