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Miami continues to test offensive line combinations

With youth and inexperience across the line, Coach Barry needs to field the best 5 lineman regardless of position.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Miami
Miami is in search of a starting offensive line.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With only 13 offensive lineman on the roster after the Spring session (including walkon’s), Miami’s coaching staff have expressed their concerns with the lack of depth and leadership at the position. For comparison, Clemson and Alabama both had 17 OL coming out of spring.

With the leadership of Redshirt Senior’s Tommy Kennedy and George Brown still unproven, Junior Navaughn Donaldson must step up and lead the way as the most experienced offensive lineman on the roster. The remaining 10 OL are redshirt Sophomore’s or younger, so the offense is going to have to lean heavily on Navaughn and Coach Barry this season.

Here are some comments from OC Dan Enos on the young offensive line:

Extensive youth across the line is a concern, but it can also be an area that could offer tremendous upside if managed properly. With changes to the way the game is played defensively, offenses have to adjust to the speed and athleticism they are facing. Longer, leaner offensive lineman are going to emerge as staples at the Tackle position, and Miami may have found one in Zion Nelson.

The recent revelation of Zion Nelson potentially becoming the starting LT as a True Freshman is eye opening. His early success can be attributed to his work ethic, his eagerness, and his desire to learn. What Zion has done in a short period of time should not be under appreciated. Coming in as a 2 or 3 star offensive lineman, the expectations were low for him, but he may end up being the most important signee in the Surge19 class. We’re a long way from knowing, but his initial progress has far outpaced that of his peers.

As the team turns its attention towards the incoming class, they can expect minimal relief as there are only 2 OL signees joining the program before fall camps. One of those players is Jakai Clark, from Grayson High school in Loganville, GA, who enrolled last week. Jakai is expected to back up Corey Gaynor at the Center position.

Coach Barry and staff understand the need for leadership in the position group, so they are currently exploring options for picking up grad transfer offensive lineman in the portal, or game ready JUCO transfers. Sources said one name to watch for was Justin Murphy. Murphy, a journeyman OT that played at both Texas Tech and UCLA previously, will have 1 final year of eligibility remaining. I haven't heard much about him lately, so Miami may have moved on in their evaluations. We’ll keep an eye out for activity here.

In the meanwhile, look for Coach Enos to scheme his offense for the players he has, and to adjust his play selection as they continue to develop throughout the season.

Let’s take a look at a breakdown of the current OL roster by class.

  • Zion Nelson Freshman - Sumter, S.C. Sumter
  • Cleveland Reed, Jr. Redshirt Freshman - Fort Meade, Fla. Fort Meade
  • Jared Griffith Redshirt Freshman - Sarasota, Fla. Riverview
  • John Campbell, Jr. Redshirt Freshman - Orlando, Fla. Dr. Phillips
  • Dj Scaife, Jr. Sophomore - Miami, Fla. Southridge High School
  • Kai-Leon Herbert Redshirt Sophomore - Plantation, Fla. Plantation American Heritage
  • Corey Gaynor Redshirt Sophomore - Parkland, Fla. Douglas
  • Zach Dykstra Redshirt Sophomore - Spirit Lake, Iowa Spirit Lake
  • Zachary Lerman Redshirt Sophomore - Virginia Beach, Va. Img Academy
  • Zalon’tae Hillery Redshirt Sophomore - Brunswick, Ga. Glynn Academy
  • Navaughn Donaldson Junior - Miami, Fla. Miami Central
  • Tommy Kennedy Redshirt Senior - Lake Bluff, Ill. Lake Forest
  • George Brown, Jr. Redshirt Senior - Cincinnati, Ohio Winton Woods
*Bold are projected starters

New Arrival

  • Jakai Clark Freshman - Grayson (Loganville, GA)

Incoming freshman:

  • Adam ElGammal Freshman - Christ The King Regional (Middle Village, NY)

When asked about the performance of the OL, Coach Diaz had these comments “Our offensive line made a big jump this spring.” “...if I had to grade the entire spring from the offensive line standpoint, I think they’ve really made a big jump for us.” We know this is coach speak for “they ain’t there yet” so help is going to be needed to keep our QB upright.

With 15 (potentially 1 or 2 more) lineman on the roster this fall, I expect the TE and FB positions will be used as pseudo O lineman to sure up the pass protection on certain plays, and as wide blockers on others. Enos will likely call quick passes, designed QB runs, pre-snap motions, and misdirection plays outside the Tackle to keep opposing defenses on their heels. It’s hard to quantify how much I hated our backs repeatedly running into a pile on rushing attempts over the last few years. I believe that those days are over. Power is fine when the offense is near the goal line, or in short yardage situations, but it has no place elsewhere on the field with the explosive athletes we have.

If Miami can get average offensive line play and extend drives this season, the domino effects of the offense remaining on the field will be that the defense will be able to rest and defend longer fields more often. That bodes well for a defensive unit that should again be top 10 nationally next season.

What are you’re thoughts on the topic? Share your perspective in the comments below.