Following untimely injuries to tackles Kc McDermott and Taylor Gadbois, Miami's offensive line might have been forgiven for a slight drop off in play.
But despite a disappointing loss to Georgia Tech in Atlanta this past weekend, the big guys up front played very well.
One of the biggest reasons why is the somewhat surprising play of true freshman G/C Nick Linder.
In his first ever start at the collegiate level, the true freshman played in ever single one of UM's offensive snaps at left guard. And he did not let the moment get the best of him, often mauling the man across from him.
"It was extremely exciting. 50,000 fans. The white out. I settled down after a few plays and I told the older guys that this is a lot of fun." Added Linder, "I told them that after the first series. It was surreal to march down the field on the first series."
"I think Nick did a really good job." Miami Head Coach Al Golden added after the game. "He held up. As I told you before the game, Nick’s strong, so I didn’t think that would be an issue. He played with a lot of poise."
This afternoon Golden continued his praise of the freshman guard.
"He did a good job. I was looking at that match-up early in the game to make sure we could hold up. He really held up. He's smart, very few ME's (mental errors)."
But Linder himself isn't satisfied,
"I graded out pretty well but there are some things I still have to work on. The speed of the game is a lot different. One second in high school he’s coming at you. Now he’s already there."
He played well enough to find himself back at the top of the depth chart again this week Vs Cincinnati.
Other touted freshman players like DE Chad Thomas, RB Joe Yearby, and of course QB Brad Kaaya were expected to make impacts.
But Linder was expected by many to redshirt. It's a testament to his maturity that he was able to step in so seamlessly in his debut.
"Talking to Nick is like talking to a senior," observed Kaaya following the GT loss. "He knows all of his calls. For us, it was an away game, so we run off silent count. Not only did he have to look back at me for the snap call, he also had to tap (center) Shane (McDermott) to let him know he was ready, and also make his guard calls."
With so many negatives swirling around Coral Gables of late, at least one thing that UM fans can look at positively is an offensive line that should be in good hands for years to come with players like Gadbois, Danny Isidora, McDermott, Trevor Darling, and Linder all 1st and 2nd year players.
- Golden praised Justin Vogel's kick offs, and said he saw improvement.
- I asked him about Michael Wyche being listed at the top of the depth chart (an error on my part) and Golden quickly corrected me that Wyche was "part of the rotation" but not necessarily a starter.
Wyche has has conditioning issues and injuries, and has yet to make the impact to UM's D that many had hoped.
- Golden has a lot of praise for G Jon Feliciano, noting his humble background, versatility (said he can play all 5 OL spots) and credited his development on staying hungry.