Miami Hurricanes Offensive Line Key To Success

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File Photo: Mike Harley #3 of the Miami Hurricanes runs with the ball during the spring game on April 14, 2018 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The Miami Hurricanes are preparing to move on from a lackluster 2018 season in which the offense struggled. While most of the criticism fell on the quarterbacks and the playcalling, the offensive line was an issue. For the second consecutive season, the Hurricanes failed to have a 1,000-yard rusher on the team. Although the offense made some improvements in key areas but overall lacked consistency.

The offensive line will be critical to any success especially replacing three starters from last year’s line. If it helps any, the ‘Canes have a group of players that were highly regarded as high school prospects replacing them. In addition to the players being new starters, it’s an entirely new offensive system with Dan Enos coordinating.

Stepping Up To The Plate

For the offensive line, losing three seniors means that the younger players will be in the line of duty. Miami found a gem with Navaughn Donaldson, as he is entering his third year as a starter at guard. Last season, the Hurricanes found a future tackle with DJ Sciafe, as he started seven games during the second part of the season. With a new coaching staff, some changes have been made and it was announced this spring that Scaife will now be playing left tackle. There is an open competition for the right tackle position between John Campbell and Kai-Leon Herbert.

Campbell was able to play in four games last season and maintain his redshirt for his freshman season. Things have been a bit different for Herbert, who enrolled in Miami as a four-star prospect. His career has not gone as many have hoped as he redshirted his first season and was unable to crack the starting rotation. With a new offensive line coach, Herbert has a clean slate and an opportunity to get playing time.

One of the more underrated positions on the field is the center and Miami will have a new starter this season. Corey Gaynor has been getting groomed to become the Hurricanes center of the future. After getting a substantial amount of playing time as a freshman, he was redshirted last season. The previous coaching staff made that move to ensure Gaynor is prepared to start going into next season. His position is solidified, but the Hurricanes lack depth behind Gaynor at center.

Finding Fits

With this spring being new for both the players and coaches at Miami, there have been some changes. One change being Zalon’Tae Hillary moving to guard. Last season, Hillary actually saw playing time at tight end in jumbo packages being used as an extra blocker. Initially, Hillary came to Miami as an offensive tackle.

Another guard Miami hopes they can lean on this season is redshirt freshman, Cleveland Reed. He will be counted on heavily this season as the Hurricanes lack a ton of depth on the offensive line.

One of the more noteworthy changes this offseason has been to graduate transfer, Tommy Kennedy, who hails from Butler University. Many believed Kennedy could be the left tackle this season but the new coaching staff has moved him to center. Transferring into the ACC from an FCS program, Kennedy needs to fill out his frame physically and may be overmatched at center. Being that it’s only spring ball perhaps he could move back to offensive tackle during the summer.

The Hurricanes have had a pleasant surprise in an early enrollee who should be preparing for his high school prom. Zion Nelson enrolled in Miami in January and weighed only 240 pounds. It has been reported that he has already gained upwards of 25-30 pounds since that time frame. Miami has been extremely impressed with Nelson, and he has received some first-team repetitions at left tackle this spring.

Final Thought

The Hurricanes have high hopes that the offense can be explosive this season. Those expectations may have to be tempered a bit until the offensive line has time to gel and find some chemistry. There is much uncertainty as to who will play what position and whether or not they can excel if thrown into the game. However, it is still very early and the Hurricanes still have two more spring scrimmages to learn more about their players. After spring, Miami will face off against a stiff SEC defensive line versus the Florida Gators. There is plenty of talent on the offensive line but now that has to shift into production.

Main Photo Credit:

File Photo: Mike Harley #3 of the Miami Hurricanes runs with the ball during the spring game on April 14, 2018 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

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