- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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The oldest cliché in football is that you win up front.
The more I watch the sport, especially in this league, the more I’m convinced that it’s not just a cliché.
I went back and looked at which schools in the SEC had produced the most offensive and defensive linemen to be selected in the top three rounds of the NFL draft over the past five years.
Any guesses which school topped that list?
Not surprisingly, Alabama and Florida tied with six apiece.
The Crimson Tide have had four offensive linemen and two defensive linemen taken in the top three rounds of the draft over the past five years. That doesn’t include Courtney Upshaw, who was an outside linebacker in the Tide’s 3-4 scheme and was drafted at the top of the second round last year.
The Gators have had three offensive linemen and three defensive linemen go in the top three rounds.
Right behind Alabama and Florida (surprise, surprise) was LSU with five.
In fourth place was Auburn with four.
And with those four schools, you have the past seven national champions.
Every SEC school but Texas A&M has had at least one offensive or defensive lineman go in the top three rounds dating to the 2008 draft. Von Miller went No. 2 overall in the 2011 draft, but he was an outside linebacker.
Not since Chris Ruhman went in the second round of the 1998 draft have the Aggies had an offensive or defensive lineman drafted in the first two rounds. That’s getting ready to change, because offensive tackle Luke Joeckel is being projected as a top 5 pick in the 2013 draft, and defensive end Damontre Moore could also go in the first round.
In addition to Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky are the only other schools in the league that haven’t produced a first-round selection in the offensive or defensive line over the past five years.
LSU leads the SEC with the most first-round defensive linemen over the past five years with three -- Michael Brockers in 2012, Tyson Jackson in 2009, and Glenn Dorsey in 2008.
South Carolina has put together its best run in school history despite producing very few premium draft selections up front. Defensive end Melvin Ingram went in the first round last year, and is the only offensive or defensive lineman for the Gamecocks to go in the top three rounds over the past five years.
South Carolina hasn’t had an offensive lineman go in the first or second round of the draft since Ernest Dye was taken in the first round in 1993.
LSU is the only school in the league to have produced an offensive or defensive lineman that was taken in the first four rounds each of the past five years.
Mississippi State had defensive tackle Fletcher Cox go in the first round last year, and offensive tackle Derek Sherrod go in the first round in 2011. Prior to that two-year run, the last offensive or defensive lineman from Mississippi State to go in the first round was defensive end Glen Collins in 1982.
Tennessee has gone five straight years without an offensive lineman being selected in the first three rounds of the draft. The Vols haven’t had an offensive lineman go in the first round since tackles Charles McRae and Antone Davis went Nos. 7 and 8 overall in the 1991 draft.
Below is a listing for each SEC school of the offensive and defensive linemen selected in the top three rounds of the draft over the past five years:
Alabama: 6 (Four OL, Two DL. Three first-rounders)
Florida: 6 (Three OL, Three DL. Three first-rounders)
LSU: 5 (One OL, Four DL. Three first-rounders)
Auburn: 4 (No OL, Four DL. One first-rounder)
Ole Miss: 3 (Two OL, One DL. Two first-rounders)
Arkansas: 2 (No OL, Two DL. No first-rounders)
Georgia: 2 (One OL, One DL. No first-rounders)
Kentucky: 2 (No OL, Two DL. No first-rounders)
Mississippi State: 2 (One OL, One DL. Two first-rounders)
Missouri: 2 (No OL, Two DL. Two first-rounders)
Tennessee: 2 (No OL, Two DL. Two first-rounders)
South Carolina: 1 (No OL, One DL. One first-rounder)
Vanderbilt: 1 (One OL, no DL. One first-rounder)