While much of an offense’s prowess is often credited to the skill positions, it’s important to remember how much the offensive line can dictate that level of success. Whether they’re mauling opposing defenses on the ground or providing ample time for the quarterback to go through his progressions, a functional offensive line often marks the difference between a prolific offense and a sputtering one.
Year after year, the Big Ten has set an extremely high bar for offensive line play, and that bar isn’t getting any lower in 2019. Although Maryland doesn’t play against Wisconsin or Iowa, both of whom are notorious for having outstanding offensive lines, there will still be plenty of talent lining up opposite of the Terps’ defensive line.
Here are some of the top offensive linemen on Maryland’s 2019 schedule.
Ben Bredeson, LG, Michigan
The Wolverines will return four out of their five starting offensive lineman from last season, with Bredeson being the star on the interior. He’s been a mainstay on the Wolverine offensive line for each of the last three seasons, projecting to be one of the top lineman in the conference in his senior season.
The 6’5, 320-pound behemoth has collected his fair share of accolades during his time in the maize and blue, earning multiple All-Big Ten selections in both his sophomore and junior years. As a player who will most likely find himself playing on Sundays in the NFL following graduation, Bredeson will be looking to play a major role in the Wolverines smashmouth ground attack for one final season.
Jon Runyan, LT, Michigan
Returning to start next to Bredeson, Runyan also figures to be in the conversation for the top offensive lineman in the conference. The son of the former Pro Bowl tackle and Michigan alum Jon Runyan Sr., Runyan looks to cement his own legacy with the Wolverines in his final season with the team.
Despite seeing limited action in 2016 and 2017, Runyan stepped into the starting job at left tackle last season, starting all 13 games en route to earning First Team All-Big Ten honors. Expect Michigan to pound teams on the ground behind their two maulers in Runyan and Bredeson.
Thayer Munford, LT, Ohio State
Munford will be the lone returning starter to the Buckeyes’ offensive line next season. The now-junior earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention after staring 13 out of 14 games last season, doing a fine job protecting Dwayne Haskins’ blind side to allow for the former-Maryland commit to have a Heisman-level season.
Now, Munford returns to an offense that has a new head coach and a new starting quarterback, which could bring some significant schematic changes for the whole unit. But a player of Munford’s caliber should be able to adjust to whatever head coach Ryan Day has planned.
Steven Gonzalez, LG, Penn State
As part of two high-powered Penn State offenses in 2017 and 2018, Gonzalez now returns for his senior season to try and help maintain that same level of success. The New Jersey native hasn’t missed a start in either of the last two seasons, starting in all 26 games while helping lead the Nittany Lions to No. 5 in Power Success Rate, per Football Outsiders. As an All-Big Ten honoree in each of the last two seasons, Gonzalez will look to bring some stability to an offense that will look a lot different without Trace McSorley at the helm.
Stepping outside of the Big Ten, Maryland’s second game of the season against Syracuse should provide some interesting matchups in the trenches. With preseason All-ACC selections in Evan Adams and Airon Servais solidifying the right side of the line, the two could help pave the way to another top 15 finish in scoring for the Orange offense.
Wrapping up the top linemen on the schedule are Nebraska’s Brenden Jaimes and Indiana’s Coy Cronk. Jaimes has had an impressive first two years with the Huskers, starting in 21 games in his freshman and sophomore seasons at left tackle while earning an All-Big Ten honorable mention for his play last fall. Cronk has been a starter for the Hoosiers since his freshman season, missing just one out of the last 36 starts. Now in his senior season, Cronk will likely push for a spot on an All-Big Ten team.