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Top offensive line evaluators

USC does offensive linemen well.

Peter Konz had offers from both Iowa and Wisconsin but not many others.

Matt Kalil was a 247Composite five-star in the class of 2008 and he was the first offensive lineman selected in the 2012 draft. He’s one of five offensive linemen drafted to the NFL out of USC over the past five years.

Kalil is joined by Sam Baker, Charles Brown, Tyron Smith and Chilo Rachal as NFL draftees since 2008 out of USC. It constitutes an impressive run by the Trojans but each of the five would have been a take for almost any program in America. Credit USC for developing NFL players. Credit USC for recruiting NFL players. But hold off on praising the USC staff for finding them. Anyone would have.

The evaluation tip of the cap over the past five years should go to the staffs at Iowa and Wisconsin. In that span, both programs have produced six NFL draftees on the offensive line and they’ve identified those players where others haven’t.

Wisconsin boasts Gabe Carimi as a first round draft pick in 2011 and a year later Peter Konz was drafted in the second round. Carimi was a 247Composite three-star with his only other significant offers coming from Michigan State and Indiana. Konz was a four-star on and a three-star on Scout but his offer list was hardly a who’s who, featuring the likes of Duke, Illinois, Minnesota and (go figure) Iowa.

In addition to Carimi and Konz, Wisconsin has offered up Kevin Zeitler, John Moffitt, Bill Nagy and Kraig Urbik to NFL teams. None of those prospects received an industry generated 247Composite rating of higher than three stars. The offer lists collectively consisted of the likes of Purdue, Rutgers, Army and Air Force.

Iowa’s track record is just as impressive. Bryan Baluga was drafted in the first round in 2010 after being highly recruited out of high school and earning a 247Composite ranking as the nation’s No. 8 offensive tackle. Aside from Baluga, Iowa has turned Kyle Calloway, Riley Reiff, Julian Vandervelde, Seth Olsen and Adam Gettis into NFL draftees. None of those prospects earned a four-star rating from any recruiting site and none had an extensive offer list from more than regional Midwestern programs.

To put it a different way, if Iowa and Wisconsin see something in a high school offensive lineman, everyone else ought to start taking a closer look.

Who has the eye?

Kirk Ferentz played linebacker at UConn but has spent most of his coaching career working with the offensive line.

While Wisconsin and Iowa as programs have had unmatched success identifying offensive line talent, it’s not Bucky the Badger and Herky the Hawk that are scouting prospects. For Iowa though, it might as well be.

Kirk Ferentz has been the head coach at Iowa since 1999, and he has an extensive background and expertise on the offensive line. Much of Ferentz’s 14 years at Iowa have been spent with Reese Morgan coaching the offensive line and most recently his son Brian Ferentz took over offensive line duties. While Morgan has moved over to the defensive side of the ball, the pieces are all in place for Iowa to continue to mine for offensive line gems.

Wisconsin is not quite as streamlined. Much of the Badger elite offensive line talent was dug up during the Barry Alvarez era with Jim Hueber holding the coaching reins at the position. Since Bret Bielema’s hiring in 2006, he has leaned on offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and offensive line coach Bob Bostad to continue the success in the trenches.

Bielema is now at Arkansas, Chyrst is the head coach at Pitt and his offensive line coach is Hueber. Bostad is now the offensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The next finds

Currently Iowa has two offensive line commits in the class of 2013. Colin Goebel out of Naperville, Ill. is the Hawkeyes’ highest rated prospect as the No. 22 offensive guard in the country according to the recruiting industry generated 247Composite rankings. A solid but unspectacular offer list hints at Goebel being another potential steal for Iowa.

Alongside Goebel, Ferentz has found Sean Welsh out of Springboro, Ohio. Welsh is ranked as the nation’s No. 39 offensive guard by 247Composte, picking Iowa over the likes of Indiana, Bowling Green, West Virginia and Miami (FL).

Wisconsin’s commit list features a pair of 6-7 offensive linemen that fit the mold of those Badger steals of the past. Jackson Keeler out of Barrington, Ill. may be the best bet at a future NFL kid. Since committing to Wisconsin, the 290-pounder recently added an offer from Ohio State to his list that includes SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 programs.

It would also be wise to take a look at some of the potential steals on the Pitt commit list as the brain trust on that staff features some of the same eyes that spotted first rounders at Wisconsin.

While Pitt has secured the commitment of a “no-brainer” type offensive tackle in 5-star Dorian Johnson, the offensive line coach Jim Hueber and Paul Chryst have identified Carson Baker and Aaron Reese as off-the-beaten-path types with a chance to be very good.

Baker is a 247Composite two-star who chose Pitt over Buffalo, Ohio and Toledo. Reese is a 247Composite three-star who committed without any other significant offers to speak of. Despite limited offers and modest rankings, at 6-6 and 6-5 respectively, Baker and Reese looked just right for the Pittsburgh staff.

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