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College football opening weekend: Top 5 offensive linemen to watch

Which offensive lineman should you be watching as the college football season kicks off this weekend?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last time we took a look at the top five quarterbacks to watch this weekend with the thought the the New York Giants might have an eye toward life after Eli Manning.

Now we turn our attention to a much more immediate need: The offensive line. As of this writing, the likely opening day starters at right guard and right tackle are John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse, respectively. While Jerry is an acceptable starter, Newhouse is a backup pressed into a starting role, and plays like it. The Giants tried to upgrade the position through free agency, but it takes two to tango and free agent tackles still see the right side as a less desirable position than the left.

With that in mind, the Giants’ best bet for improving their offensive line is to draft their right tackle of the future.

1 - Cam Robinson, OT (Alabama vs. USC - 9/3, 8 p.m., ABC)

Robinson is everything the NFL is looking for in an offensive tackle. Big (6-foot-6, 325 pounds), athletic, good, and still has plenty of upside. Robinson is both quick and agile in pass protection and his run blocking helped pave the way for Derrick Henry’s Heisman campaign.

He has yet to play up to his full potential and was arrested over the summer, both of which could give NFL evaluators reason to pause, but he should still be the first lineman drafted in 2017.

2 - Mike McGlinchy, OT (Notre Dame vs. Texas, 9/4, 7:30 p.m., ABC)

McGlinchy has been Notre Dame’s right tackle for the last two seasons, and will slide over to left tackle with Ronnie Stanley in the NFL. He was an athletic and hard-nosed run blocker as a right tackle, while also being a capable pass protector. The combination of senior status, experience at right tackle, and size could pique the Giants’ interest. Mike Solari has always coached big, mauling offensive lines, and Ben McAdoo learned from Mike McCarthy, who favors the same.

3 - Zach Banner, OT (USC vs. Alabama - 9/3, 8 p.m., ABC)

Speaking of big, mauling offensive linemen, USC’s Zach Banner. The hulking right tackle is just "block out the Sun" massive at 6-9, 360 pounds. But as a former basketball player, he has surprising athleticism for his size. He would likely be well served to drop a pound or 30 to be able to keep up with the speed of the NFL, but he does know how to use his size and be a bully at the point of attack. He bears watching this week against Alabama’s talented front seven, and his stock could rise, or fall, dramatically over the course of the season.

4 - Billy Price, OG (Ohio State vs. Bowling Green, noon, Big Ten Network)

If the Giants are looking for a right guard in the 2017 draft, they could look at the guard from Ohio State. He doesn’t enter the season as the best guard prospect, but he has the upside to potentially get there. Good size for a right guard at 6-4, 315, he opened plenty of holes for Ezekiel Elliott and is reliable in pass protection. Not blocking in a pro-style system is a bit of an issue, but Urban Meyer’s coaching is second to none.

5 - Kareem Are, OG (Florida State vs. Mississippi, 9/5, 8 p.m., ESPN)

Keeping with the theme of looking at guards who helped open holes for dynamic running games, we have FSU’s Kareem Are. Are is a former JuCo transfer with terrific size (6-6, 330 pounds), natural athleticism, and still has upside to get better. He suffered a knee injury in 2015, but he was impressive opening holes for Dalvin Cook at the start of the season. If he can take a step forward with his technique, he could rise up draft boards to a solid second rounder by the draft.