It might not be hyperbole to say that this position group is going to decide Miami’s 2018 season. No pressure guys.
It doesn’t matter how much better Malik Rosier, or any QB, is this year. If they don’t have time to throw, the passing game is going nowhere. It doesn’t matter how much talent and depth Miami has with their collection of fleet-feeted RBs. If this O-line can’t generate push off the line of scrimmage, the backs won’t have room to run. And it doesn’t matter how many times the defense brings the turnover chain out. This O-line could make the offense stagnant and over the course of an entire season, Miami can’t expect their defense, big on talent but short on depth, to bail them out game after game.
Nonetheless, here are what the best case, worst case and likely scenarios should be for Miami’s 2018 offensive line.
Best Case Scenario
The offensive line gels quickly and remains healthy through the season. Tyler Gauthier anchors the line as the center and helps two new interior lineman compete to their highest level. Jahair Jones steps in as a starter for the first time and proves he has used his time up to this point well. He’s solid if unspectacular at one guard spot while the other one, whoever grabs that opening, is filled by someone up to task of being able to open rushing lanes and pass block week after week.
At the all-important tackle position, Tyree St. Louis shows improvement as a senior and isn’t overwhelmed as a first-time starter at Left Tackle. He manages to hold off the best of the best at edge rusher and keeps his signal caller clean. Navaughn Donaldson turns his freshman flashes into consistent outings of dominance, crushing defensive ends in the run game and looking lighter on his feet as a pass blocker. The success of the offensive line enables Miami to produce a top ten offense.
Worst Case Scenario
The offensive line is train wreck. After losing George Brown Jr. to knee surgery before the first game has been played, more losses, either short-term or long, really hamstring this already questionable unit. The front five can’t find a combination that is either healthy or effective and CMR & co. have to constantly churn out new lineups. The o-line can’t get into any sort of groove and the only players that look capable of putting pads on are Gauthier and Donaldson. Neither guard impresses and Jones proves why he hasn’t played much in his career. St. Louis is a liability at left tackle and doesn’t have the foot speed or technical ability to pass block effectively.
The quarterback is under siege all season, runningbacks can’t pick up consistent yardage and Miami loses several games on its way to a disappointing season and dreadful offensive performance.
The Canes’ o-line is up and down. One week, Tyree St. Louis limits FSU’s Brian Burns. The next, he’s getting abused by some second teamer from UNC. Injuries crop up here and there and a few games out of the season, we see at least one lineman with a big target on his back. Donaldson continues to improve but we likely have to wait to 2019 to see the player we expect him to be. Gauthier is good but not great at center, but looks especially reliable considering who is next to him. Jones is a lot more down than up and CMR throws one of the young guys into the right guard spot for a trial by fire. It produces mixed results.
Miami has some great offensive outputs followed by some rough ones. When the line can open lanes for their talented runners, the Canes have tremendous success. When they can’t, Rosier becomes more important and that might spell trouble. Miami finishes around the 30th best offense in the nation but still manages to find themselves in the ACC Championship game.