FanPost

Phil Steele: UCLA Has Nation's Most Returning Offensive Line Starts

UCLA returns more offensive line starts than any other FBS school in the country. - Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

College Football prognosticator/blogger/analyst/guru Phil Steele is well known and highly regarded for breaking down virtually every aspect of the game, including some aspects no one's thought to consider before. Today's entry however is important and it is something near and dear to my heart - returning offensive line starts.

Guess who is number one in the country?

Go Bruins!

UCLA's returning offensive line has 131 starts under its collective belt, more than any other school in FBS. That line is led by Rimington Award semifinalist Jake Brendel, who accounts for 39 of those starts and has missed only one game in his career. That was last season's opener against Virginia, a game in which the offense, not coincidentally, struggled mightily. The Bruins also finally expect to have two healthy and true tackles, Simon Goines (20 starts) and Conor McDermott (7), to start a season for the first time in Jim Mora's era. That leaves twice all conference honorable mention Alex Redmond (21) and versatile Caleb Benenoch (22) to fill the guard spots. Benenoch could also stay outside at right tackle and give some of the two or three deep a chance to compete for a starting spot. And all of this allows Scott Quessenberry (18) the luxury of recovering from shoulder surgery at his own pace and not being forced back sooner than he is ready.

History suggests that returning starts is associated with improved performance that year.

Last year the #1 most experienced Offensive Line belonged to Appalachian St and they improved from 138 ypg rush and just 3.9 ypc to 242 ypg rush and 5.4 ypc with the sacks allowed dropping from 20 down to 11. This despite moving from an FCS schedule to an FBS schedule!

Eleven sacks? Man, we can book the Pac-12 Title game if that comes true. Consider also that Paul Perkins was the Pac-12 leading rusher last season with 1,575 yes, and you have a line that is primed to produce some huge numbers.

Of course, Mark Twain said there are "lies, damned lies, and statistics".

I actually asked my Psych 41 (Stats) prof if he knew that quote and he not only knew it, he agreed with it, but noted I still had to take the final anyway. So of course the number or returning starts is skewed by things like injuries making players sit and forcing others into starts, inconsistency forcing players to sit and allowing others to start, and bad decisions letting players like Najee Toran (1) start when they aren't ready.

Steele also points out that Ohio State had the third fewest returning starts last season, and while the beginning of the season was shaky, those players improved as the season went along and they ended up doing rather well in the end. So while experience counts for something, improvement and talent count for a lot, too. This is where Coach Klemm absolutely has to be on the hook for the line's performance this season. That is, whenever he returns from wherever he is for whatever it was he did.

In short, the talent and experience on the offensive line are there. Will the coaching development and scheme take advantage of it, or will we lead the conference in sacks given up again?

What this data does do however, is eliminate the youth excuse. The coaches will have to save that one for their quarterback this year.

Steele knows that quarterbacks and receivers and flashy players make the highlights, but the trenches are where things matter.

However, very few look at the offensive line and yet the team that controls the line of scrimmage wins the game more often than not.

In other words, line wins games.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.

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