Here it is folks, I have developed the perfect way to score and rank offensive line units. I took a plethora of statistics and weighted them by various standards to develop a season point total that was then divided by the total number of games played that season. In theory, there is no perfect value achieved although it became clear that strong units scored over a 7.0. I looked into rushing and passing performances, sacks allowed, first downs gained while rushing, third and fourth down conversion rates, and a number of other factors to develop this ranking. The heaviest influencers of a positive score include rushing yards and rushing touchdowns while the biggest negative contributor resulted from sacks allowed and third and fourth down rushing conversion rates below 50%.
Okay, let me be honest with you for a moment: The calculation is probably trash. I mean it doesn’t even take into account strength of schedule/opponents and the weights are entirely arbitrary and could significantly impact the overall rank, but I was asked to rank the top 10 service academy offensive line units and I tried to develop some metric to make that happen. Considering the amount of useless math that went into it I only went back the last ten years and figured I might as well publish the results (even if I don’t entirely agree…).
So, without further ado, let’s dissect the top ten service academy offensive line units over the last decade using magic.
Stats were compiled using cfbstats.com and Air Force, Army, and Navy Football 2019 Media Guides.
10. 2017 Navy (6.93) and 2010 Air Force (6.94) - a virtual tie
So, this was essentially a tie. My completely flawed scientific method only had 1/100th of a point between these two units so they must have some pretty striking similarities right?
Well, the 2017 Navy unit contributed to an eye-popping 4,568 rushing yards. While this was the second most rushing yards by a Navy team over the last ten years, the 42 rushing touchdowns was just the sixth most. This group earned the Joe Moore Award Midseason Honors. Line included: Jake Hawk, Evan Martin, Andrew Wood
2010 Air Force accounted for 41 rushing TDs and nearly 4,000 rushing yards but also finished first in the county in sacks allowed that season by giving up only five sacks in 13 games. Line included: AJ Wallerstein (2nd team All-MWC), Michael Hester, Chase Darden (2nd team All-MWC)
9. 2016 Army (6.96)
46 rushing touchdowns and 4,414 yards on the ground will certainly earn you a top ten performance using any measure of an offensive line unit. 4th down conversion rate wasn’t the highest at just over 50% but the 232 first downs gained on the ground certainly helped. This line will always be credited with playing a huge role in breaking the streak against Navy and earning Army’s first bowl game victory since 2010. Line included: Bryce Holland, Brett Toth, Mike Houghton
8. 2016 Navy (7.14)
The smallest of consolation prizes for Navy here finishing just ahead of the 2016 Army squad that beat them in Philadelphia. Truth be told Navy was on quite a run before injuries to QB Will Worth and SB Toneo Gulley in the AAC title game slowed the Mids down to close out the season. This 2016 offensive line unit produced 61 rushing touchdowns (the most by any service academy team) and added over 4,300 yards on the ground and another 1,700 through the air for good measure (*all through 14 games). The metric that kept them out of the top 5 (or better?): sacks allowed. No Navy team gave up more sacks in this ten year period than the 23 given up in 2016. Line included: Maurice Morris (2nd team All-AAC), Blake Copeland, Adam West (1st team All-AAC, AAC Fifth Anniversary Team)
7. 2019 Air Force (7.19)
One of the most efficient and balanced offensive line units in Air Force history attributed 227 rushing first downs, 3,881 rushing yards, 41 rushing TDs, 1,602 passing yards, and 14 passing TDs. The 2019 squad also led the country in sacks allowed by giving up just four on the year - making them the second best unit in Air Force football over the last decade in that category. This offensive line unit helped guide Air Force to top 25 rankings in both the AP and Coaches Polls and earned Joe Moore Award Honorable Mention honors. Line included: Connor Vikupitz (2nd team All-MWC), Nolan Laufenberg (1st team All-MWC), Scott Hattok (1st team All-MWC)
6. 2018 Army (7.25)
The fourth-down champions of the world (or so you would think), the 2018 Army offensive line unit helped the Black Knights convert ~90% of their fourth-down opportunities - the second-most for any team considered on this list. Bryce Holland anchored this squad as a senior and helped amass 4,062 rushing yards and 47 rushing touchdowns. Passing TDs don’t carry as much weight as those on the ground in these calculations, which is a good thing here considering Army only scored two in the air in 2018. While two passing TDs is low, it certainly didn’t hurt their scoring when they only gave up one sack (yes, one!) in the entire season. The Black Knights also found themselves finishing this season ranked 19th in the AP Poll and also earned Joe Moore midseason honors. Line included: Bryce Holland, Jack Sides, Austin Schuffert
Editor’s note: Okay, we are half-way through and I think this secret and proprietary metric might actually work...
5. 2015 Air Force (7.27)
The most rushing-yards by a Falcons team here (4,468) helped contribute to becoming its rushing touchdown total leader (45) as well. This particular line did well in the passing game too as the team scored 15 passing touchdowns and only gave up three sacks. While a loss to Navy prevented this Falcons team from winning the CIC they did earn the Mountain Division title. They also hold the record for most yards in a season (*the only 14 game season in their history). Line included: Sevrin Remmo (1st team All-MWC), A.J. Ruechel (2nd team All-MWC), Matt Rochell
4. 2011 Air Force (7.32)
The 2011 unit is the leader in the last decade for the Falcons for average yards per rushing attempt with 5.7 yards (4,092 rushing yards total). While they were obviously successful on the ground they also contributed to passing protection that led to 16 passing touchdowns, the most for a Falcons team since 1972. You want 4th down conversion rates too? Okay, how about converting over 81% of the time on fourth down tries? Not bad at all. When you look at these numbers you have to wonder how this team only went 7-6. Line included: AJ Wallerstein (1st team All-MWC), Jason Kons, Michael Hester
3. 2017 Army (7.42)
4,710 rushing yards is the most in a single season by any service academy team ever and its 50 rushing touchdowns is good enough to sit atop the charts in West Point history. What they earned in rushing really showed a mostly absent passing game that led to just 361 total passing yards and 2 touchdowns - but only one sack given up! A fourth down conversion rate of 63% is certainly worth boasting about as well as an impressive 241 first downs gained on the ground. The unit also contributed to two of the top five rushing yard game highs for a player when Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 265 yards against Air Force and another 244 yards against North Texas. Bradshaw also has the most rushing yards in a season for Army which he earned behind this unit in 2017. Somehow this squad was never mentioned in the quest of the 2017 Joe Moore Award. Line included: Brett Toth, Bryce Holland, Mike Houghton
2. 2015 Navy (7.54)
Speaking of the Joe Moore Award, this unit achieved semifinalist honors due to their dominating campaign in the AAC. The 2015 Navy unit used 4,247 yards on the ground to convert 53 rushing touchdowns and added another 1,280 yards through the air. This squad had a 92%!! fourth down conversion rate which was actually more than Army’s well-known 2018 squad. The Mids also took care of converting in the red zone with a 95% success rate. This squad will always be linked to the success of Keenan Reynolds as this was his senior year campaign. Line included: E.K. Binns (1st team All-AAC, AAC Fifth Anniversary Team), Joey Gaston (HM All-AAC), Robert Lindsey
1. 2019 Navy (7.6)
Just like Keenan’s success will forever be linked to the 2015 campaign, 2019 will always be synonymous with “Senior Malcolm Perry.” Make no mistake, however, this Joe Moore Award Honorable Mention squad contributed to Navy’s most season rushing yards (4,687) in history and second most in the history of all service academies. While Perry set the single season rushing record for a quarterback with 2,017 yards which included a 304-yard performance in the Army-Navy game, the offensive line helped contribute to over 6-yards per carry and a service academy decade leading red zone conversion rate of 96% scoring 47 times in 49 tries. Navy’s success wasn’t limited to just the ground as their passing protection led to 10 touchdowns and another 1,300 yards through the air making it the most combined offensive (rushing and passing) yards for any service academy team with a 13-game season. Line included: David Forney (1st team All-AAC), Billy Honaker (HM All-AAC), Ford Higgins
And there you have it...