Miami will open the season in the not so distant future, and to help you prepare for what is sure to be a great year, we are back to preview each position on the team. We will let you know who is back, who is new, and how each player projects for the 2014 season.
The Miami Hurricanes are breaking in a new starter at QB. Whether it's redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen or true freshman Brad Kaaya remains to be determined. But either option is going to need the utmost protection. Even if senior Ryan Williams continues his miraculous comeback and is an option by week 3 or 4, coming off of knee surgery and not being the most mobile guy in the first place, he too will need a clean pocket.
Establishing the run is also going to be key, as it will take a lot of pressure off under whomever is under center.
One can argue that outside of perhaps the defensive line, this unit more than any other could be the single biggest key to Miami's season.
So let's break down who should start and who should be key cogs for the big men up front in Miami's offensive line.
LT Ereck Flowers, JR 6'6 322 - Started all 13 games last season at LT after starting 12 as a true freshman in 2012 at RT. The Miami Norland prospect has arguably been UM's most consistent offensive lineman since arriving on campus. Some project that with a big junior year, he could declare early and be a very high draft pick in the NFL next May. His play will be most critical when UM takes on the talented fronts of FSU, Virginia Tech, and Nebraska. It would be a major disappointment if Flowers, with his great footwork, terrific size, and mean streak, was not an ALL ACC type player this year.
G Jon Feliciano SR 6'5 320 - 25 consecutive starts and a two time Honorable Mention ALL ACC player. In my opinion, the 'Canes best run blocker. Very successful as a mauler but could use some work on technique, nevertheless could very well have a future at the next level. With subtle improvement, should have a very big senior season.
C Shane McDermott, SR 6'4 296 - 3rd team ALL ACC as a junior. 23 career starts. The only question with McDermott is how well his left foot heals. He played the better part of last season banged up, and had offseason surgery and missed spring camp. If healthy there is no doubt about his leadership, technique, and athleticism (4.98 40). Should be a Rimington Award Finalist for best C in the country IF he is 100%. If not would still more than likely fight his way through the pain, but at his best really keys the machine that is Miami's offensive line.
G Danny Isidora, SO 6'4 316 - Isidora was expected to be a major contributor last season before a foot injury sidelined him for the first 10 games of the season. Will have major shoes to fill, taking over for NFL 3rd round pick Brandon Linder, but has the talent and size to step right in and dominate. The Weston, FL native was highly touted coming out of H.S. and has the talent and versatility to play multiple positions up front. Look for him to cement himself at right guard opposite Feliciano.
RT Taylor Gadbois SO 6'8 316 - The Dallas, GA product who also spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy has no shortage of confidence, and even went on record as saying he felt he was as good if not better then Seantrel Henderson and Linder last year. Did play approx 150 snaps last season, so does have some experience. Nonetheless is likely the player on the O line with the smallest margin for error, as All World freshman KC McDermott is waiting in the wings if he falters.
OT KC McDermott FR 6'6 310 - You would be hard pressed to find a more highly touted incoming freshman offensive lineman in the country than Shane's younger brother, KC. The Palm Central Prospect was 5 star across the board by all major recruiting services. If he adjusts quickly to the speed of Division I College Ball, he could step in and be a starter ASAP. If not, he still should see significant PT and by season's end challenge Gadbois for snaps regardless of how well the sophomore plays. He's that good!
G Trevor Darling FR 6'5 320 - Another true freshman and also another early enrollee, Darling is nearly as highly touted as McDermott. Like KC, it will all be about how quickly he adjusts to the next level. But certainly talented enough that I would not expect him to redshirt. Should be part of the O line rotation immediately.
C Alex Gall SO 6'5 306 - Gall is not a name you will hear that much of, unless McDemott (Shane) is not 100%. In which case it will be of comfort to note that he saw action in 11 games last year, mostly on special teams.
G Hunter Wells JR 6'6 312 - Depth guy who saw action in 5 games last year. Solid back-up but likely will not see extended time with out a plethora of injuries.
OT/C RS FR Hunter Knighton 6'6 295 - Would be the story of the season if he made his way up the depth chart and saw major action after collapsing during the spring in what was described as a "serious health issue" (Later reported as a heat stroke). Before the issue was emerging as a versatile performer. Considering what he has gone through, even the most optimistic prognosis would likely be for slow and careful handling of his PT and practice.
OT RS FR Sunny Odogwu 6'8 324 - Raw, intriguing prospect who has shown enough ability to challenge Gadbois for the starting RT position. Coming from Nigeria, lacks a ton of big time experience on the gridiron. Size and athleticism make him a potential factor. Look for him to get some action early as be a major insurance policy should Gadbois struggle and McDermott need more time to adjust.
OL FR Nick Linder 6'3 285 - Good prospect for the future, but likely redshirts this year as he gets bigger and stronger.
Miami has the hogs up front to be a very good group, if not one of the better offensive lines in the ACC. Flowers, Feliciano, and McDermott are all experienced and very talented. Isidora and Gadbois on the other hand are a bit green, despite their potential. The Hurricanes will need to stay healthy up front and allow the slow transitions of KC McDermott and Darling, both of whom have sensational upside. Depth is more a concern than in previous seasons, but I expect this O line to perform with more consistency due to experience (not to mention the subtraction of an underachiever or two) and overall talent. They will need to be on top of their games from the get go, as UM breaks in a new QB, who will need all the help he can get. Look for the 'Canes to run the ball quite a bit behind Flowers and Feliciano in particular.
Stay tuned for more updates as we close in on the start of the 2014 season.