Top 2015 All-America candidates: Offensive linemen


Preseason All-American teams are similar to preseason top-25 rankings in that neither guarantees success. However, these are not pointless, as the lists can help college football fans get ready for the upcoming season by letting them know the best players and teams to look forward to this fall.

And after a few months without football, I think fans are ready to ingest any available information to get ready for the upcoming season.

So, here are my early favorites to capture top FBS All-American honors at the end of the 2015 season, as well as others likely to be in the hunt for the top spots if they can step up their games this fall. I'll be taking a look at each position over the next two weeks, continuing today with offensive linemen.

Offensive tackles

Early favorites

Spencer Drango, Baylor: The Bears' potent offense relies on Drango (6-foot-6, 310 pounds), who is heading into his fourth year as a starting left tackle, for its success. He earned 2014 All-America honors as a junior, and will likely repeat that feat before heading for a long career in the NFL.

Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame: The fourth-year player had the potential to be an early first-round pick in the 2015 draft, but he decided to return to South Bend to use his length and athleticism at left tackle for a second season (he started at right tackle in 2013). Stanley (6-5, 315) hopes his team can build on its Music City Bowl win over LSU with Malik Zaire at quarterback.

Others in the hunt

Vadal Alexander, LSU: After playing at left guard for two seasons, Alexander is expected to slide to right tackle in 2015; he started there as a redshirt freshman, so it's not a totally new situation for him. Defensive linemen don't like facing him whether he's inside or outside, as his natural bulk and quickness make him a force in the run game and solid in pass protection.

Taylor Decker, Ohio State: Ohio State's quarterback will be happy Decker (6-8, 315) is protecting him, no matter who wins the competition at the position. The Ohio native is always ready for battle, and that's a good thing considering he'll take on guys like Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State), Dadi Nicolas (Virginia Tech) and Anthony Zettel (Penn State) during his final collegiate season.

Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss: The Rebels' blindside protector suffered a broken fibula and dislocated ankle in the team's loss to TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, but Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said Thursday that Tunsil would play if the team had a game this week. The comment also served to answer the question of whether Tunsil would be eligible to play if the team had to suit up this week. Ole Miss and the NCAA are investigating after Tunsil's stepfather, Lindsey Miller, alleged Tunsil has received improper benefits that could jeopardize his eligibility. Last month, Tunsil was arrested on a domestic violence charge for allegedly assaulting Miller. If Tunsil (6-5, 305) displays the quick feet and agility that allowed him to hold off any pass rusher and block downfield, he'll be a lock for All-America honors.


Early Favorites

Pat Elflein, Ohio State: Elflein's play against Michigan State in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game -- his first ever start -- portended his first-team all-conference sophomore season. The former state qualifier in high school wrestling grappled with older defenders all year, rarely giving ground. Now a year stronger and wiser, Elflein (6-3, 300) can be dominant as well as technically sound.

Landon Turner, North Carolina: Watching Turner lead the way in the run game is an absolute pleasure, as this nephew of former West Virginia and Buffalo Bills fullback Jim Braxton is a road grader with nimble feet for his size (6-4, 325). Turner will end up using his solid pass-protection skills more than usual if senior quarterback Marquise Williams and his strong group of receivers take the lead on offense this fall.

Others in the hunt

Joshua Garnett, Stanford: Garnett, the son of an NFL nose tackle (Scott) has fantastic feet for his size (6-5, 325). He'll be protecting senior quarterback Kevin Hogan and blocking for Barry Sanders, Jr., with the hope that the Cardinal can bounce back from a disappointing 5-4 conference performance last season.

Greg Pyke, Georgia: The emergence of Pyke (6-6, 313) was one reason Nick Chubb and 2015 first-round pick Todd Gurley had great success on the ground last season. The former lacrosse star went from playing in two games in 2013 to displaying excellent movement skills and one-on-one tenacity as a second-team All-SEC pick as a sophomore last season. If Chubb reaches the 2,000-yard mark in 2015, look for Pyke on the highlight reels as he plows a pathway in front of the super sophomore.


Early Favorite

Jack Allen, Michigan State: The former state champion wrestler still works his man as if he's on the mat. Allen (6-2, 300), possibly the most tenacious blocker in the country, earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last year and is likely to earn more accolades in 2015 with linemates like junior left tackle Jack Conklin and senior right guard Donavon Clark helping him block for quarterback Connor Cook and a host of young running backs.

Others in the hunt

Matt Tuerk, USC: Tuerk has started pretty much everywhere up front for the Trojans. The tall, lanky (6-6, 285), effective senior is planning on staying at center for 2015, which is the spot where he earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors last season. He'll look to continue a successful partnership with quarterback Cody Kessler.

Dan Voltz, Wisconsin: Voltz has been an excellent fit for the Badgers' offensive scheme since his freshman year. Big Ten media voted him second-team all-conference last season, as he helped running back Melvin Gordon rush for 2,587 yards. He had an issue with his ankle late last year, and injured it again in spring practices -- Wisconsin has to hope he'll be healthy for the season.

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