With the defensive and special teams rankings behind us, it’s time to look at the area’s top offensive players. And we’ll start with the foundation of any productive offense: the offensive line.
For the fifth installment of our eight-part preseason position rankings series, we turn our attention to the trenches, ranking the Big Country’s top 10 offensive linemen with a list of others to watch in 2023.
We hope you enjoy reading through our rankings.
10. Jorge Salas, Sr., Coleman — A two-way line standout for the Bluecats, Salas will be leaned on more heavily than ever on a Coleman team that graduated five offensive and six defensive starters from last year’s 9-3 squad.
After grading out at 90 percent with 21 pancakes a year ago, this 5-foot-11, 245-pounder will join fellow senior Oscar Comacho as the leaders of the CHS O-line this fall.
9. Jayden Overton, Sr., Big Spring — Standing 6-5 and weighing in at 250 pounds, Overton is a physical presence on the Big Spring line. But he’s far more than just a big body.
He showed this last season, when he graded out at 92 percent with 36 pancakes, displaying a combination of size, strength and speed that few in the Big Country can boast.
8. Maddox Cooper, Sr., Jim Ned — A three-year starter at center for the Indians, Cooper was nothing short of spectacular last season, blocking to a 96 percent success rate despite playing most of his junior campaign through some nagging injuries.
Now healthy, the 5-9, 220-pound senior will try to improve upon the 74 knockdowns and 43 pancakes he recorded a year ago.
7. Cameron Vann, Sr., Wylie — Entering his third year as a starter for Wylie, this 6-5, 315-pound senior has established himself as one of the Big Country’s most consistent blockers.
Coming off a junior season that saw him grade out at 94 percent with 34 knockdowns, he’ll look to build on those first-team all-district credentials this fall.
6. Christian Ashby, Sr., Colorado City — At 6-4 and 320 pounds, Ashby is on a short list of the biggest offensive linemen in the area this fall. But as with the others in these rankings, his size only tells part of the story.
A three-time state powerlifter and reigning Lineman of the Year for District 4-2A Division I, this senior is very good at what he does — a point he proved with his 40 pancakes in 2022.
5. Creece Brister, Sr., Stephenville — Another imposing presence at 6-5 and 295 pounds, Brister brings athleticism and physicality to go with his size.
The senior will play collegiately at TCU when his high school career is over, but he’s got plenty of unfinished business remaining at Stephenville, where he graded out at 91 percent with 42 pancakes and no sacks allowed as a junior.
4. Brock Riker, Sr., Brock — With a college-sized frame at 6-4 and 286 pounds, Riker is a tough guy to get through or around.
Brock opponents learned this the hard way last season, when he graded out at 94 percent with 65 pancakes and no sacks allowed to help the Eagles to their second state championship game appearance in as many years.
3. Jake Whitley, Sr., Jim Ned — Continuing Jim Ned’s tradition of elite offensive line play — a big point of emphasis for head coach Matt Fanning — Whitley is the latest to carry the mantle as the Indians’ O-line leader.
After grading out at 97 percent with 89 knockdowns and 39 pancakes in 2022, this 6-3, 290-pound senior appears poised for another big season this fall.
2. Alex Parker, Sr., Cross Plains — Parker’s 6-5, 305-pound frame would be big for any classification, but that size makes him particularly difficult to deal with at the Class 2A Division II level.
Coming off a junior year that saw him grade out at 96 percent with 31 pancakes, this four-year starter will anchor what should be an outstanding Buffaloes line in 2023.
1. Zane Waggoner, Sr., Albany — One of the top offensive lineman at any level, this 6-2, 260-pound senior played a pivotal role in the Lions’ run to the Class 2A Division II state title game last fall.
In addition to grading out at 96 percent, he tallied a remarkable 92 pancake blocks, earning a spot on the Texas Sports Writers Association’s Class 2A all-state team for the second year in a row.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Shetonde Polepole, Jr., Abilene High; Boss Brake, Sr., Abilene High; Xanaan Fletcher, Sr., Cooper; Kayden Bryan, So., Cooper; Sutton Peck, Jr., Wylie; Tony Cagle, Sr., Snyder; Vance Martinez, Sr., Snyder; Kyler Holsey, Jr., Sweetwater; Brock Teel, So., Sweetwater; Antley Rodgers, Jr., Breckenridge; Tim Newell, Jr., Breckenridge; Adam Mueller, Jr., Brock; Hunter Smith, Sr., Clyde; Ethan Adkins, Sr., Clyde; Brett Browning, Sr. Jim Ned; Aven Ochoa, Jr., Ballinger; Nick Martinez, Sr., Ballinger; Manny Ozuna, Sr., Brady; Braiden Boaz, Sr., Coahoma; Josiah Patton, Jr., Coahoma; Dalton Salinas, Sr., Comanche; Christian Anaya, Jr., Comanche; Dalton Adams, Sr., Early; Jacob Braun, Sr., Early; Rohyn Price, So., Early; Gavin McClain, Sr., Eastland; Dalton Duncan, Sr., Merkel; Cayden Rhodes, Sr., Merkel; Lee Brake, Sr., Wall; Kirkland Pritz, Sr., Wall; Josiah St. John, Sr., Anson; Brody Newton, Sr., Bangs; Talon Bruner, Sr., Cisco; Brayden Buckley, Sr., Colorado City; Oscar Comacho, Sr., Coleman; Wyatt Rasberry, Sr., De Leon; AJ Wetzig, Sr., Goldthwaite; Daniel Barrera, Jr., Goldthwaite; Mason Brannan, Jr., Hamlin; Nate Roewe, Sr., Haskell; Carter Crosson, Sr., Haskell; Jaydon Tatum, Jr., Hawley; Joseph Cadena, Sr., Hawley; Jesus Gonzalez, Sr., San Saba; Chance Birdsong, Sr., Stamford; Diego Cantu, Jr., Stamford; Brice Bolin, Sr., Stamford; Will Dunham, Jr., Winters; Lanxton Viertel, Sr., Albany; Jaeden Box, Sr., Cross Plains; Colt Sanderson, So., Cross Plains; Richie Morales, Sr., Hico; Reegan Brister, Sr., Hico; Kayton Shahan, Sr., Munday; Dimitrio Pantoja, Jr., Roscoe; Justin Saenz, Sr., Roscoe; Brett Hamilton, Sr., Santo
BIG COUNTRY PREPS POSITION RANKINGS
Thursday — Defensive linemen
Friday — Linebackers
Saturday — Defensive backs
Sunday — Kickers/Punters
Monday — Offensive linemen
Tuesday — Wide receivers/tight ends
Wednesday — Running backs
Thursday — Quarterbacks