The most overlooked and underappreciated part of the Offensive Line comes up next as we rank the real down and dirty guys. The centers job is the least glamorous but also one of the most important, he’s often seen as the leader of the line and has to make protection calls and changes at the line based on what the defense looks like. He also has the added responsibility of the snap and the extra reaction time it takes him to get ready for the defender.
1. Khaled Holmes-USC
The leader of the Trojans OL, Holmes, has been one of the few holdovers from a line that seems to lose All-American caliber players year after year. There is something to be said for his consistency and ability to teach and mentor younger players year after year. Holmes technically is very sound but needs to show more power and passion this year to hold on to the top spot.
2. Dalton Freeman-Clemson
It will be interesting to see how Freeman adapts this year with four new linemates and a new TE. He’s the most consistent blocker on the team and will have to continue to be as he has a former FB turned DL turned OL now at his RG in Travis Shatley (Read about him here). Freeman will be asked to use his athletic ability to get outside and help lead the way for Ellington.
3. Mario Benavides-Louisville
One of the taller OC prospects in this draft, Benavides came to Louisville as a bit of a raw project with high upside. Over the past three years he’s put a lot of work into his technique and fundamentals and really has started to turn the corner. If Benavides continues to improve there is no reason why he can’t become the best OC in this class.
4. Matt Stankiewitch-Penn State
Aside from being among the top center prospects in this draft, Stankiewitch is also in the running for best name in the draft. We really hope to learn that his nickname is The Stank or Stanky in the near future. Technically Stankiewitch is advanced but he’s not quite on the same level athletically as the guys ranked above him.
5. Joe Madsen-West Virginia
Madsen is a similar prospect to Freeman above but isn’t quite as sound technically but is even more impressive athletically given the extra weight he hauls around. Madsen does a good job blocking on the move and in space and could be ideal ZBS OC. His hand placement and footwork at times get sloppy and its one of the areas Madsen must improve upon.
6. James Ferentz-Iowa
Traditionally speaking being a lineman from Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin or almost any Big 10 school means you’re highly rated and well rounded. We initially assumed that was the case for the son of one of the most proven OL tutors in the college game but James Ferentz doesn’t stand out on film as hoped. His failure to consistently anchor is our biggest worry about his game at this moment.
7. Graham Pocic-Illinois
Another Big 10 OC prospect who comes in with lots of hype but we’ve yet to see it all come together on the field. Pocic’s biggest issue to us was that he is simply inconsistent in almost everything he does. He’ll have a series or drive where he’s manhandling his man with phenomenal technique and then on the next he looks like he’s never snapped a day in his life.
8. Ben Habern-Oklahoma
If it wasn’t for Habern’s injury he would be ranked higher, and to date we just aren’t sure if he’s fully healthy or not. Now his injury was only a broken forearm so while physically its without a doubt 100% does he yet have enough faith in the repair to utilize his arm violently against the big interior DL he sees in the Big 12? That’s the question we need answered first and foremost.
9. Cameron Wentz-NC State
You want to talk about a prospect who we think could easily skyrocket up these rankings? Then you want to talk about Cameron Wentz. Went took part in more than 850 plays last year and was recently named to the Rimington Trophy watch list for 2012. He is part of a senior heavy line that should be amongst the best in the ACC.
10. P.J. Lonergan-LSU
With T-Bob Hebert now graduated the job of OC at LSU will be all Lonergan’s. Lonergan and Hebert spent the better part of the last few years rotating in and out and neither guy really had much of an opportunity to put together a full body of work. With that in mind you saw flashes of what Lonergan could be capable of with a full time role and that’s what we are basing this ranking off of.
2014 Top 5 Offensive Centers
1. Travis Swanson-Arkansas
Playing next to top 2014 OG Alvin Bailey would make me look good, but make no mistake Swanson can more than hold his own.
2. Jonotthan Harrison-Florida
Harrison will be looked at to carry on the recently rich Florida tradition of putting interior lineman into the NFL.
3. Weston Richburg-Colorado State
Not a heck of a lot is going right for the Rams in recent years but Richburg is a senior bright spot for a team that much run the ball effectively.
4. Tyler Larsen-Utah State
The rise of Robert Turbin last year had a lot to do with his offensive line that blew open big holes and was led by Larsen.
5. James Stone-Tennessee
Stone may be the most underrated and yet best player on a Tennessee line that features more four and five started rated prospects than the entire WAC has in it.