He feels silly admitting it, but the first thing Kansas State linebacker Elijah Lee noticed about Arkansas during his preparation for the Liberty Bowl was the size of its offensive line.
“Whenever you look at them,” Lee said, “you are like, ‘Man these guys are big.’ ”
That may be an understatement. Arkansas’ offensive line is massive. Put all five of its starting blockers on a scale and they total 1,638 pounds. From left tackle to right tackle, their average weight is 327.6 pounds, making them the largest front five in all of football. Not just college — they also outweigh every offensive line in the NFL.
That factoid has turned them into local celebrities. The Razorbacks placed their offensive line on the cover of their media guide as a way to showcase their skills in a run-oriented offense.
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Their size could pose a problem for the Wildcats on Jan. 2. There is no way for K-State to simulate that during bowl practices.
Still, players don’t seem worried.
“They put their pants on like we put our pants on,” K-State linebacker Charmeachealle Moore said. “We were taught that when we were young. Size don’t matter.”
K-State’s defensive line, led by Jordan Willis, Travis Britz, Will Geary and Marquel Bryant, has grown comfortable battling against bigger offensive lines. Nearly every offensive line in the Big 12 sports a size advantage over them, yet the Wildcats have been mostly stingy against the run.
Willis, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end who played at Rockhurst High, may draw the toughest assignment. He will go up against Arkansas right tackle Dan Skipper, a 6-10, 331-pound NFL prospect. Skipper will have a size advantage of 5 inches and 81 pounds.
Much like his teammates, though, Willis isn’t intimidated.
“I want to give them their credit, because they are a good offensive line, but a lot of time if you use good fundamentals size doesn’t matter,” Willis said. “We deal with big guys every day. They will be the biggest offensive line we have played against, but there are big offensive lines in the Big 12, too.
“Every offensive line is different. You just have to play the game. I mean, I am always going against 300-pounders. That is nothing new. We have a lot of good offensive linemen we go up against every day in practice that will get us ready.”
The Razorbacks’ offensive line paved the way for an average of 456 yards this season, with 192 coming on the ground. Arkansas has the nation’s 39th-ranked rushing offense.
Texas Tech and Toledo overwhelmed them early, but the Razorbacks battled back and muscled their way past SEC teams such as LSU and Mississippi to finish 7-5.
Size could be a factor in the Liberty Bowl, but K-State is working hard to ensure it is up for the challenge.
“You have to step up,” said Lee, a sophomore who played at Blue Springs. “We are going to be put in a position to make plays and fight against them. We have gone up against physical offensive lines against Oklahoma and other Big 12 teams. They may not be as big as Arkansas, but they are very good. They prepared us well.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett