Miami struggled up front last season on the offensive line. The HUrricanes had multiple starters that were true freshmen. The unit as a whole went through a rollercoaster last season. Each player had up and down performances. What was a negative last season should be a strength moving forward. The Miami Hurricanes are returning six players that started on the offensive line at some point last season. Of those six, only one will be a senior and two others will be juniors.
Learning Through Fire
Miami’s head coach, Manny Diaz, was put in a tough position as a first-year head coach. Not only was there a new system in place with a redshirt freshman starting quarterback but the offensive line’s best players were some of the youngest. Some of the hardest transitions were for freshmen like Zion Nelson. The former Appalachian State commit was not offered until December and at the time was only weighing 245 pounds. He ended up enrolling in January and gained over 35 pounds before the end of spring football. Nelson then started as a true freshman and struggled throughout the season.
Another true freshman started was Jakai Clark at guard. The Georgia native arrived in the summer, unlike Nelson, and started camp at center. However, against North Carolina, in the second game of the season, he was moved to starting guard. From that point, he started for the duration and actually became one of Miami’s best players. Redshirt freshman John Campbell was Miami’s best reserve lineman and subbed in wherever needed at guard or tackle. This season look for Campbell to overtake the left tackle position with Nelson moving to right tackle.
Help is on the Way
Diaz realized that the system Miami was utilizing, long-developing plays, didn’t really help the offensive line. The Hurricanes have again switched systems to a more up-tempo offense. This system should benefit the linemen as they are blocking for less time. Houston transfer D’Eriq King will also take over at quarterback and is very capable running with the football. These two factors coupled with the fact that the unit returns with an already established chemistry should help the team overall. Redshirt junior Corey Gaynor, senior Navaughn Donaldson, and junior DJ Scaife provide the leadership on the line as the upperclassmen.
The Hurricanes’ situation this season will likely improve drastically with experience at quarterback and offensive line. This will allow Miami a foundation to find out who their playmakers will be on the rest of the offense.
Miami Hurricanes Returning Offensive Line: Final Review
A big question mark for a long time has been the play of the offensive line. The change in the offensive system and a quarterback that can run should help. Diaz has the luxury of the entire starting line returning with experience, which should lead to better results. It took Miami a long time to finally transition to a spread offense but the move was needed after seeing the line struggle last season.