Written By: Ryan Lippert|@Lippert42
Now that we finally have a clearer picture of what the 2020 college football season is going to look like, it’s time to get back to previewing some of the top returning talent. For the past couple of months, I have been focusing on the top five returning college football players at each position. With the offensive skill positions spoken for, I’m changing my focus to the guys upfront. As a disclaimer, I’m only listing the players that will be playing in the fall season so there will be no Big Ten, Pac 12, or other conferences that postponed to the spring in consideration and I will be leaving out players that have chosen to opt-out. With that being said, here are my top five returning offensive tackles heading into the 2020 college football season.
1. Alex Leatherwood - Alabama
With Oregon not playing in the fall, that means we won’t see OT1 favorite Penei Sewell until the pre-draft process comes around. The next man up that I believe could truly rise up some draft boards is Alex Leatherwood from Alabama. After starting at right guard during his sophomore season, Leatherwood moved back to the starting left tackle in 2019. He only allowed two sacks and three quarterback hurries all season, leading him to First Team All-SEC honors by the coaches and First Team All-America by the AFCA. Leatherwood has a big frame at 6’6”, 310 pounds and is very physical with his hands while also being reliable protecting the blindside in pass protection. I fully expect a big year from him along with the Crimson Tide offense as a whole and he shouldn’t be waiting long to hear his name called in the 2021 NFL Draft.
2. Samuel Cosmi - Texas
Next on this list, we have the strong, physical tackle for the Texas Longhorns. Cosmi has played a huge role in the Longhorns’ offense for the past two seasons after redshirting as a freshman. After starting in 13 out of 14 games as a redshirt freshman, Cosmi started in all 14 games in 2019. After a solid 2019 season protecting quarterback Sam Ehlinger in what was an outstanding campaign statistically for him, Cosmi received Second Team All-Big 12 honors and was named to Walter Camp’s First Team Preseason All-American team for 2020. While he started at right tackle as a freshman, he played on the left side last season. He has a stout frame for a tackle at 6’7”, 309 pounds and is at his best in the run game where he uses his physicality to create movement off the line of scrimmage. He also does a good job of mirroring edge rushers in the passing game. Cosmi is a name to watch for teams needing an offensive tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft. If he decides to declare early, I could see him being right in the first round mix with a solid 2020 season.
3. Jackson Carman - Clemson
At the third spot on this list, I have the man responsible for protecting the blindside of QB1 for the 2020 college football season, Trevor Lawrence. Carman is coming into his third season with the Tigers after being a key piece of the offensive line for the past two seasons. After playing in a rotational role as a freshman, Carman started in all 13 games in 2019 as the Tigers made their way to another National Championship berth. He had a solid sophomore campaign, earning Third Team All-ACC honors. Carman is a load at left tackle, listed at 6’5”, 345 pounds. He does a great job of turning that size into power as he creates movement in the run game and has a very strong anchor. With the Tigers looking to be one of the favorites to make the College Football Playoff this season, Carman has a huge opportunity to put together a strong enough season to declare early for the 2021 NFL Draft and be right in the mix of the top offensive tackles.
4. Liam Eichenberg - Notre Dame
Next up on my 2020 returning offensive tackle rankings, we are sticking in the ACC (at least for the 2020 season) with the left tackle for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. As I just mentioned, Notre Dame will be playing in the ACC for the 2020 college football season, which will give us a chance to see Liam Eichenberg against some solid defensive linemen. Eichenberg is heading into his grad year with the Fighting Irish with two seasons under his belt as the starter at left tackle. He put together a very solid 2019 season, not giving up a single sack and only allowing three quarterback hits with nine hurries. Eichenberg is a big, long offensive tackle at 6’6”, 305 pounds. He uses his length to his advantage showing the ability to lock out on edge rushers and also get extended to create movement in the run game. Eichenberg is a player that should find himself selected somewhere in the first three to four rounds with a solid 2020 season.
5. Landon Young - Kentucky
To wrap up my list, I have a player that I have become very familiar with while watching football in Lexington, KY. After deciding to stay home to play for the Wildcats, Young has had a role since his freshman year on the offensive line. After earning the starting job at left tackle for six games as a sophomore in 2017, Young unfortunately, had to miss and redshirt during the 2018 season due to a knee injury. However, Young came back strong as the starter in 2019, earning Third Team All-SEC honors and being named to several All-SEC preseason lists for the 2020 season. He has an ideal build for a left tackle at 6’7”, 321 pounds and turns that size into strength with very good anchor ability as well as the ability to lock out of defensive linemen. 2020 will be a nice test for Young with an All-SEC schedule and more opportunities to display his pass blocking ability as they have Terry Wilson returning at quarterback after having a run-heavy offense with Lynn Bowden Jr. last season. With a strong 2020 season, I see Young as a player that could sneak into the third or fourth round, possibly even late second in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Honorable Mention: Robert Hainsey (Notre Dame), Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech), Teven Jenkins (Oklahoma State), Darrian Kinnard (Kentucky)
While we are on the subject of football season finally getting kicked off, the Blitzalytics team has produced a must-buy book for all football fans. We have released the Blitzalytics Prospect Encyclopedia 2020 which gives in-depth analysis of the top 22 prospects for all 32 NFL teams along with team previews and more. It is currently available in both hard copy and PDF form on https://www.blitzalytics.com/shop and Amazon. Make sure you grab your copy today!