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Notre Dame Is the New Offensive Line U.

We crunched 10 years’ worth of data to determine—based solely on the numbers—which college programs have the right to brand themselves the modern ‘U.’ Part IV: O-Line U.
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We determined each “Position U.” by measuring what every college should strive to do, in sports and beyond: Prepare students for professional careers. For the full explanation of our scoring system, scroll to the bottom of this article.

In was the closest race we had in the Position U. series. Notre Dame has only put 10 offensive linemen into the NFL over the past decade, but three became All-Pros, with a combined seven first-team All-Pro nods: guards Zack Martin (four) and Quenton Nelson (two), and tackle Ronnie Stanley. Wisconsin’s program has had 14 O-linemen enter the league since 2010, second only to Ohio State (16) during that span, including four first-round picks and two All-Pros (Travis Frederick and Ryan Ramczyk). Eleven Badgers linemen have gone on to start at least 10 games in the NFL. However, all that wasn’t quite enough.

One school nowhere near the top of our rankings is Clemson. Despite appearing in four national championship games in the past five years, Dabo Swinney’s program only had two offensive linemen drafted last decade, and none since the 49ers took guard Brandon Thomas with the 100th overall pick in 2014.

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WELCOME TO POSITION U.: Quarterback U. | Linebacker U. | Wide Receiver U. | Running Back U. | Tight End U. | Defensive Line U. | Defensive Back U.

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Zack Martin

Zack Martin

1. Notre Dame, 69 points
2. Wisconsin, 68
3. Florida, 66
4. Alabama, 56
5. Ohio State, 54
6. USC, 51
7. Oklahoma, 49
8. Iowa, 44
9. Texas A&M, 41
10. Stanford, 38

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Zack Martin (2014 first round, 94 starts, 4x All-Pro)
Quenton Nelson (2018 6th overall, 32 starts, 2x All-Pro)
Ronnie Stanley (2016 6th overall, 56 starts, All-Pro)
Mike McGlinchey (2018 9th overall, 28 starts)
Nick Martin (2016 second round, 46 starts)
Chris Watt (2014 third round, 8 starts)
Sam Young (2010 sixth round, 21 starts)
Trevor Robinson (2012 undrafted, 21 starts)
Eric Olsen (2010 sixth round, 4 starts)
Alex Bars (2019 undrafted)

Travis Frederick (2013 first round, 96 starts, All-Pro)
Ryan Ramczyk (2017 first round, 47 starts, All-Pro)
Kevin Zeitler (2012 first round, 118 starts)
Gabe Carimi (2011 first round, 26 starts)
Rob Havenstein (2015 second round, 68 starts)
Rick Wagner (2013 fifth round, 87 starts)
Peter Konz (2012 second round, 28 starts)
Michael Deiter (2019 third round, 15 starts)
John Moffitt (2011 third round, 15 starts)
David Edwards (2019 fifth round, 10 starts)
Ryan Groy (2014 undrafted, 17 starts)
Bill Nagy (2011 seventh round, 4 starts)
Tyler Marz (2016 undrafted, 1 start)
Beau Benzschawel (2019 undrafted)

Maurkice Pouncey (2010 first round, 121 starts, 2x All-Pro)
Mike Pouncey (2011 first round, 114 starts)
Marcus Gilbert (2011 second round, 87 starts)
D.J. Humphries (2015 first round, 43 starts)
Trent Brown (2015 seventh round, 55 starts)
Max Garcia (2015 fourth round, 41 starts)
Chaz Green (2015 third round, 7 starts)
Jon Halapio (2014 sixth round, 23 starts)
Jawaan Taylor (2019 second round, 16 starts)
Jonotthan Harrison (2014 undrafted, 42 starts)
Maurice Hurt (2011 seventh round, 9 starts)
David Sharpe (2017 fourth round, 4 starts)
Fred Johnson (2019 undrafted, 1 start)
Xavier Nixon (2013 undrafted, 2 starts)

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In order to make it modern, we used a 10-year data set. Dipping further back would mean going across different coaching eras at the college level, as well as including a lot of players who are no longer active in the NFL. (We did run an unofficial 20-year data set for the quarterback position, which you can read about at the bottom of this article.)

We came up with a scoring system that balanced not just the quantity of players programs put into the NFL, but the quality of those players' careers. One measure we used is draft position—an inexact but still relevant measure of a player's approximate value when he left college. We credited players for career games started. But rather than assigning a point value to every game started, which would weigh too heavily in favor of older players, we lessened that effect by using ranges.

We also awarded points for the highest achievements (MVP, and for non-quarterbacks, Offensive/Defensive Player of the Year and All-Pro) and awarded a smaller amount of credit for Rookie of the Year, an indication of a player's preparedness when entering the league. (We made the decision to exclude the Pro Bowl. Between fan voting and the league's need to dig deep into the pool of alternates with so many players dropping out annually, there's been a reduction in the legitimacy of that achievement.)

For all positions in this series, scoring is based on alumni who entered the NFL between 2010 and 2019 and were either (1) drafted or (2) undrafted but appeared in at least one game. Players who transferred during their college careers are counted only as part of the last program they played for. Players are only credited for the position at which they were drafted. Our full scoring system:

Top 10: 4 points
Round 1 (non-top 10): 3 points
Rounds 2-3: 2 points
Rounds 4-7: 1 point
Undrafted: 0 points

80-plus: 5 points
48 to 79: 4 points
16 to 47: 3 points
5 to 15: 2 points
1 to 4: 1 point

Offensive Player of the Year: 4 points
First-Team All-Pro: 3 points
Offensive Rookie of the Year: 2 points

Research by Reid Foster and Gary Gramling.

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