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Latest class of offensive linemen could become one to remember


Surprised by the recent flurry of offensive linemen to give oral commitments to the Kansas University football program?

You’re not alone. Analysts and experts throughout the region have expressed varying degrees of shock regarding KU’s most recent crop of commitments, which has included verbal pledges from four offensive linemen from the Class of 2011 in the past six days and a total of five in the past two and a half weeks.

It all began with 6-foot-5, 295-pound Travis Bodenstein, of Springdale, Ark., who committed to KU on June 12. Little did we know, Bodenstein’s act would be the one that led to KU filling the cupboard at the position.

Bryan Peters (6-5, 305 from La Mirada, Calif.) was next, followed by juco transfer Nick Johnson (6-3, 290, Navarro College), Damon Martin (6-5, 265, Arlington, Texas) and finally Luke Luhrsen (6-5, 275, Wheaton, Ill.).

That fivesome, should they stick to their words, represents KU’s largest offensive line class since 2003, when former KU coach Mark Mangino inked six offensive linemen, two of which were juco transfers and two more, Cesar Rodriguez and Joe Vaughn, who went on to have a big impact at the position.

KU’s 2006 Class eventually included six linemen, but only four at the time. Sal Capra came in as a linebacker and Brad Thorson signed with Wisconsin before transferring to KU. Both are projected starters on this year’s squad.

There’s been talk that the current KU staff would have no problem bumping its number of linemen from five to six should Bishop Miege standout Phil Ford — 6-6, 342 — choose to commit to Kansas. KU offered a scholarship to the Miege monster last week and Ford and his mother, Michelle Walker, are expected to take another visit to the KU campus this afternoon.

A little perspective for those fans concerned about the fact that all of these guys are of the two- and three-star variety... Since 2002, KU has received just one commitment from a four-star offensive lineman. His name was Nathan D’Cuhna, in 2008, and he never played a single snap for the Jayhawks.

In fact, the top six linemen on this year’s unit all were either two- or three-star guys out of high school and two of them entered the KU program at different positions.

Sal Capra — 2-star — Class of 2006 — linebacker
Brad Thorson — 2-star — Class of 2006 (Wisconsin) — offensive lineman
Jeremiah Hatch — 3-star — Class of 2007 — offensive lineman
Jeff Spikes — 2-star — Class of 2007 — offensive lineman
Tanner Hawkinson — 3-star — Class of 2008 — tight end
Trevor Marrongelli — 2-star — Class of 2008 — offensive lineman

Say what you will about the success of the KU offensive line during the past seven or eight seasons, but make sure to recognize that this year’s group — on paper — did not look like anything to write home about but could become one of the top units to play at KU in quite some time.

Hawkinson is a legitimate NFL prospect and likely would’ve been a two-star lineman (at best) out of high school. Hatch and Spikes, based on size alone, have the potential to dominate. And Thorson, a two-star guy who transferred from Wisconsin, has emerged as a solid anchor on the O-Line, much like Ryan Cantrell, a two-star guy in his own right, who became a three-year starter at Kansas. Capra and Marrongelli are out of that same mold — solid but not spectacular.

The thing that the linemen in the Class of 2011 have that many that came before them did not is natural size. Most of these guys are monsters already. Imagine what they could become after a couple of years with the KU strength staff.

As the saying goes, “You can’t teach size.” Size alone does not make this class a bunch of can’t-miss O-Line prospects. As you can see from the list below there have been plenty of two- and three-star linemen who never panned out. Still, just because they’re not of the four-star variety does not mean that this latest group of linemen can’t become something special. Just look at the Class of 2004, which includes a familiar name: Anthony Collins. Collins came to KU as a two-star defensive end and left as a fourth-round NFL Draft pick.

KU’s Offensive Linemen Classes since 2002:

Chad Kolumber — 2-star

Gavin Howard — 3-star
Tom Mabry — 2-star
Riley Spencer — 2-star

Nathan D’Cuhna — 4-star
Ben Lueken — 3-star
Trevor Marrongelli — 3-star
John Williams — 3-star
Tanner Hawkinson — 3-star TE

Chet Hartley — 3-star
Jeremiah Hatch — 3-star
Jeff Spikes — 2-star

Carl Wilson — 3-star
John Marshall — 2-star
Rameses Arceo — 3-star
Ian Wolfe — 3-star
Sal Capra — 2-star LB
Brad Thorson — 2-star (Wisconsin signee)

Marcus Anderson — 3-star
Jake Cox — 3-star
Jose Rodriguez — 3-star
Adam Melty — 3-star

Ryan Cantrell — 2-star
Anthony Collins — 2-star DE
Matt Darton — 2-star
Todd Haselhorst — 3-star
Scott Haverkamp — 2-star

Richard Estrella — 3-star
Zack Hood — 2-star
Reid Kirby — 2-star
Cesar Rodriguez — 2-star
Johnny Urrutia — 3-star
Joe Vaughn — 2-star

Travis Dambach — 2-star
David Ochoa — 3-star
Skye Peterson — 3-star
Bob Whitaker — 3-star


DRsmith 7 years, 5 months ago

I'd be a little more excited if any of them were highly ranked. That doesn't seem to be the case. Time will tell.

penguin 7 years, 5 months ago

These rankings are sometimes about the high school they come from or other non-factors. Just look at the careers of our four star signee Nathan D'Cuhna v. two star Anthony Collins (who came in as a DE). D'Cuhna, as the article notes, took no snaps at KU. Collins was a star here and is entering his third year in the NFL. The Rivals rankings when it comes to football always seem to be a bit suspect.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 5 months ago

Here we go again, ratings, polls, rankings, "stars", yada yada yada. Sports writers jumping on the bandwagon trying to make some copy in the middle of summer when absolutely nothing has been seen, or decided. This is what gives these kids unwarranted praise and attention. Until the ball is snapped and the guys across the line of scrimmage are from USC, Brigham Young, Oklahoma, or Slippery Rock, you are just another wannabe and you must prove your ability by beating these guys I mentioned.

I really get upset with all this pre-season hype, nothing counts for loose talk and yammer, the numbers on the board at the end of the game count.

Leave the kids alone and let them find their place, ability and hopefully, success.

riverdrifter 7 years, 5 months ago

Oklahoma, Texas, etc., recruit 6-8 giant offensive linemen every year and begin the process of sorting them out. Only five get to start, so when you've got two dozen on the squad to pick from -huge advantage. Usually, seems like KU has roughly half that many, if that. This is a brick-and-mortar start for Gill and his staff and I think it's good.

Bob Forer 7 years, 5 months ago

You are absolutely right. Stars don't mean nothing. If we're gonna mention Talib, lets not forget "Momm'a Gotta Eat (I love that nicknam), a two star lineman, who bolted to the NFL with Talib after his junior year.

All I can say is them are some big boys coming in. Looking good.

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