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Dynamic duos: Big Ten powers boast top pairs of linemen

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Nick Martin and Ronnie Stanley help give the Fighting Irish a formidable front line.

Batman and Robin. Beer and wings. Bert and Ernie. Tom and Jerry. Scotch and soda. Butch and Sundance. Hall and Oates (OK, OK, we're getting carried away here).

Anyway, life is filled with dynamic duos, and today we begin a series looking at the best positional tandems in college football, taking into account both college production and pro potential. Today, it's the best offensive line duos; next week, we'll delve into running backs, wide receivers, defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.

15 for '15:
CFB 24/7 counts down the best of what college football has to offer in varying categories for 2015.

(As an added bonus, we'll also list the best duos in each league if that league is not represented in our top 10.)

10. TCU: C Joey Hunt and OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai

The skinny: Hunt (6-foot-3, 295 pounds), a senior, is heading into his third season as a starter. He should be the best center in the Big 12 this season. He handles the shotgun snaps with aplomb and never seems bothered by the fast tempo. Vaitai (whose name is pronounced HAL-uh-POO-lih-VAH-tee VIE-tie) started at right tackle last season, but will move to the left side this fall; he had a solid spring at his new spot. Vaitai (6-6, 308) was a part-time starter in 2012, including making two starts at left tackle. He is one of three high-quality left tackles in the Big 12, joining Baylor's Spencer Drango and Texas Tech's Le'Raven Clark.

9. Indiana: G Dan Feeney and OT Jason Spriggs

The skinny: That an Indiana duo is on the list might surprise some people, but Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson is a former offensive line coach and knows how to find and develop top-level linemen. Feeney (6-4, 305), a junior, is heading into his third season as a starter. He started all 12 games as a true freshman in 2012, missed the 2013 season with a foot injury, then returned to start all 12 games last season. He is equally adept at run blocking and pass protection. Spriggs (6-7, 305), who never redshirted, is going to be a four-year starter for the Hoosiers at left tackle. During spring practice, Spriggs was clocked at 4.82 seconds in the 40 and had a vertical jump of 37 1/2 inches; he also bench-pressed 455 pounds. Spriggs has gained almost 40 pounds since arriving at IU.

8. LSU: OTs Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins

The skinny: Star OT La'el Collins was a senior last season, and his departure has a direct impact on Alexander and Hawkins. Alexander (6-6, 320) will be a four-year starter for the Tigers. He started the past two seasons at guard, and that looks to be his best position at the next level (and he certainly is going to get a chance to play at the next level; he could end up being the top guard on a lot of draft boards). But he will move to right tackle this season, the position at which he started in 2012 as a true freshman. That's because Hawkins (6-6, 309), a junior, is moving from right tackle to the left side to replace Collins. Hawkins is heading into his third season as a starter; he redshirted as a true freshman in 2012. Hawkins looks to have the needed athleticism to thrive on the left side. Alexander, meanwhile, is a road-grader in the running game.

7. Wisconsin: C Dan Voltz and OT Tyler Marz

The skinny: Wisconsin annually has one of the best offensive lines in the nation, and that will be true again this fall even though the Badgers lost three starters off last season's line. Voltz (6-3, 311), a junior, was a part-time starter as a redshirt freshman in 2012, then became the full-time starter last season. He does a nice job of getting to the second level and is agile and mobile for a guy with his bulk. Marz (6-7, 318) will be a three-year starter at left tackle for the Badgers. Like all Badgers linemen, he is a masher when it comes to blocking for the run. But he also is a proficient pass protector and has surprisingly light feet. Ohio State beat Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten title game, but Buckeyes star Joey Bosa said Marz was the best tackle he went up against last season.

6. Stanford: G Joshua Garnett and OT Kyle Murphy

The skinny: Garnett (6-5, 325), a senior, played extensively, including four starts, in his first two seasons on campus, then became a starter -- and a good one -- last season. Garnett, who was a national top-40 prospect in the 2012 recruiting class, is a road-grader in the running game. Murphy (6-7, 298), a senior, was a consensus national top-15 prospect in the 2012 recruiting class and truly began to live up to the hype last season. He was a part-time starter in his first two seasons on campus, then emerged as a star on the Cardinal's line last season, when he started at right tackle. He is expected to start at left tackle this season, replacing first-round pick Andrus Peat. Murphy has been a better run blocker than pass protector, and that will be worth watching this season.

Check out the top 10 players from Notre Dame to play in the NFL.

5. Notre Dame: C Nick Martin and OT Ronnie Stanley

The skinny: Martin (6-5, 301) will be one of the best centers in the nation this fall as a senior. He started at center in 2013, then began last season at center before injuries along the line forced him to move to guard for the final 10 games. He is expected back in the middle this fall. Martin has good quickness and is solid both in run blocking and in pass protection. His brother, Zack Martin, was a star rookie guard for the Dallas Cowboys last season. Stanley (6-6, 315) has the talent to be the best tackle in the nation this season. He is a high-level athlete and is heading into his third season as a starter; he was Notre Dame's starting right tackle in 2013 before moving to the left side (to replace Zack Martin) last season. He has good size and moves his feet well. He can blow defenders off the ball as a run blocker, and also does a good job mirroring quick ends as a pass protector.

4. USC: C Max Tuerk and OT Toa Lobendahn

The skinny: Tuerk (6-6, 285) might be the most versatile offensive lineman in the nation; this will be his fourth season as a starter -- but also the first time he has played the same position in back-to-back seasons. He started at left tackle as a true freshman in 2012, then moved to guard in 2013. He became the starting center last fall and will remain there this season. While he could stand to add more bulk, his versatility is a huge selling point to NFL scouts; so is his agility. He has the ability to pick off second-level defenders while on the move. His pass protection also has been solid. Lobendahn (6-3, 290) started all 13 games for the Trojans last season as a true freshman -- the first eight at guard and the final five at left tackle -- on his way to freshman All-American honors. He seems likely to stay at left tackle this season. While he doesn't have prototypical left tackle size, he has the needed athleticism and strength. Still, his best position down the road would seem to be guard.


» U-Who? Top 10 contenders for title of 'OT U'


3. Alabama: C Ryan Kelly and OT Cam Robinson

The skinny: Kelly (6-5, 297), a senior who grew up in the Cincinnati suburbs, is heading into his third season as a starter for the Tide. He should be the best center in the SEC this fall. He is a solid run blocker, but his pass protection could use some improvement. Still, he is a heady player who makes all the line calls for the Tide. Robinson (6-6, 326) was a touted prospect in the 2014 recruiting class -- he was a consensus national top-three recruit -- and began to live up to his immense billing last season, when he was named a freshman All-American. He was the first true freshman to start at left tackle for the Tide since future first-rounder Andre Smith in 2006. He is a good athlete with beyond-his-years footwork, and he also has excellent size and strength. Robinson is the best sophomore tackle in the nation and likely will go into the 2016 season as the nation's best player at his position.

Best alternate uniforms

CFB 24/7's "15 for '15" series takes a look at college football's best alt unis, a list that includes Michigan State's Mach Speed look. SEE FULL LIST

2. Michigan State: C Jack Allen and OT Jack Conklin

The skinny: Allen (6-2, 295) will be a four-year starter for the Spartans and will vie for All-America honors this fall. He started half the season at guard in 2012 before moving inside and has been at center ever since. Allen is a mauler known for his physical and aggressive nature. Conklin (6-6, 317) is another who should vie for All-America honors; not bad for a guy who began his career as a walk-on. Conklin is from Plainwell, Mich., a town of about 3,000 that is about 100 miles southwest of Michigan State's campus. He redshirted as a true freshman in 2012 and has started every game in each of the past two seasons. Conklin is both strong and mobile, and in a one-on-one showdown against Bosa last season, he held Bosa to one tackle.

1. Ohio State: G Pat Elflein and OT Taylor Decker

The skinny: Decker (6-8, 315) will go into the season as one of the top three tackles nationally, and if he makes the improvement expected of top prospects from their junior to senior seasons, he will be in the mix to be selected in the top 10 of the 2016 NFL Draft. Decker started as a sophomore on the right side, then moved to left tackle last season and was the Buckeyes' best lineman. He was a good high school basketball player, and that shows in his top-flight footwork. Elflein (6-3, 300), a junior, is heading into his second season as a starter. He is a mauler in the running game, not surprising considering he was a high school wrestler of some renown; in addition, his summertime work in high school was pouring concrete.

Other leagues

Best OL duo in AAC: East Carolina, G/C J.T. Boyd and OT Ike Harris
Best in Conference USA: Rice, G Andrew Reue and OT Caleb Williams
Best in Mid-American: Western Michigan, G James Kristof and OT Willie Beavers
Best in Mountain West: Boise State, C Marcus Henry and OT Rees Odhiambo
Best in Sun Belt: South Alabama, C Joseph Scelfo and OT Chris May

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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