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Next Step For Miami, Build A Championship Offensive Line

Now that Miami has landed quarterback Tate Martell, it’s time to start building up the offensive line.

Duke v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Yes, Manny Diaz and the Hurricanes hit two home-runs Tuesday with Jeff Thomas announcing he’s coming back, and also quarterback Tate Martell making it official that he’s transferring to UM. A great night indeed, and we still have yet to hear from Jalen Hurts.

Now that the quarterback search seems to be over with landing Martell, the Canes now have to switch their attention to rebuilding and developing their offensive line, because as we know, behind every great offense is a great line.

No question about it, the quarterback position is the most important not just on offense, but the entire football field. Though, every great championship offense in football usually has a punishing offensive line.

Nick Saban and Alabama are no strangers to success in recent memory, and their dominating o-line is a big reason for that. In 2018, Bama’s offensive line allowed just 16 sacks, while Clemson gave up 17 sacks and averaged 248.2 yards rushing per game. Even the legendary Hurricanes team of 2001 had anchors on the line like Bryant McKinnie and Joaquin Gonzalez. If you want to dominate college football, a nasty and ferocious line on offense in essential.

In Miami’s case, the pieces are slowly but surely fitting into place on offense. Whether or not Martell can play in 2019 will be huge, and again, we’re still waiting on Jalen Hurts’ decision, and don't forget we still have N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams also.

Jeff Thomas is back, and K.J. Osborn will add depth at receiver. At running back, even though Miami lost Travis Homer early to the NFL Draft, they still return three exceptional players at the position in DeeJay Dallas, Cam’Ron Davis and Lorenzo Lingard.

With the help of a punishing and bruising offensive line, Miami potentially could have a top-10 running game, and give whoever starts at quarterback the time necessary that hasn’t been there in the past.

For the Hurricanes, the o-line unit was dealt much scrutiny this past year under Mark Richt and former line coach Stacy Searels. They gave up 27 sacks throughout 2018, and according to Football Outsiders, Miami’s line ranked 117th in power success rate, 77th in sack rate and 93rd in opportunity rate. From October to the end of the season, the Canes eclipsed 200 yards rushing just twice.

This past Saturday however, new head coach Manny Diaz announced that Butch Barry was joining recently hired offensive coordinator Dan Enos’ staff to coach the offensive line. Barry has spent the last four seasons in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as assistant o-line coach, and before that was with Enos at Central Michigan for five years.

Butch had great success in Tampa the past several years, including helping the Bucs rank third in the NFL for yards per game in 2018, and also boasted a top-ten offense in three of the four years Barry was with Tampa.

During his time at Central Michigan, Barry also produced success coaching the line as well as the tight ends, including developing former No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick offensive tackle Eric Fisher.

Now, Barry comes to Coral Gables and Greentree with a monumental task, establishing and evolving the Canes offensive line. Miami is months away from spring practice, and the Hurricanes have already lost veterans Hayden Mahoney (grad-transfer) as well as Venzell Boulware to the NFL. Seniors like Tyler Gauthier, Jahair Jones and Tyree St.Jones are also now gone.

Though I've made it seem that Butch’s assignment looks impossible, nevertheless there is hope, and better yet there is talent on the Miami line.

Returning in 2019 with more experience will be skilled lineman like guard/tackle Navaughn Donaldson and center/guard Corey Gaynor.

With Mahoney transferring and others leaving, Donaldson is now the only starter returning from the 2018 season. Though having to play tackle at certain points this year, the hope is that Donaldson will be able to move back to his more natural guard position.

Gaynor is a rising-junior in 2019, and sat behind Gauthier for most of the last two seasons. Talented yes, but what most people recognize from watching Gaynor play is his mean streak and physical play, which the Hurricanes greatly need on the line. Look for Gaynor to be a breakout player this fall.

Accompanying them and expected to start also on the line is right tackle Delone Scaife and also left tackle Butler grad-transfer Tommy Kennedy. In 2018, Kennedy was a second-team All-Conference selection.

Scaife will be a sophomore in 2019, and started seven games this past season and played in all 13. The former four-star recruit has a bright future ahead of him in the Orange-and-Green, and expect him to be an anchor for the Canes offense going forward.

With one more spot to fill most likely at the left guard position, Miami can either reach into their already depth, or try and land another transfer player, which has been working well for the Canes so far.

Zach Dykstra, Zalon’tae Hillery and John Campbell are all rising-sophomores that Miami may need to call on in 2019, as well as incoming freshman like Jakai Clark or Zion Nelson.

Lineman to know of who have entered their name in the transfer portal is Benjamin Knutson (guard) from Virginia, Nolan Ulizio (tackle) from Michigan and Ryan Roberts (tackle) from Norther Illinois, among several others.

Until spring ball however, we wait, and then we wait some more until August 31st against Florida. The key will be learning Enos’ playbook as well as adapting to Barry’s coaching, but Miami has the pieces, they’re just missing the dominant offensive line you need in order to be successful in college football.