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Do The Canes Have Enough to Contend: Offensive Line

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Miami was dreadful on the line in 2019, can a new scheme, coaches and players help them become contenders?

Miami v Florida International Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Miami has 1 goal every year, and that is to win a National Championship in football. Yes, there are other small goals along the way, including beating FSU, winning the Coastal, getting to and winning the ACC title, but the ultimate goal is to put Championship trophy #6 in the trophy case. Unfortunately, outside of 2005 and 2017, the Canes haven’t been in the discussion past the month of September in most years. The question has always come up, whether it was coaching, QB play, or the overall talent on the field.

This is part 5 of 10, where I ask, Do the Canes have enough to contend for the College Football Playoffs?

It has been some years since Miami put a really good offensive line unit together. 2017 the Canes were solid, and produced some really good running numbers against quality competition, but they were far from a dominating group. 2018 and 2019 saw play on the offensive line dip to unacceptable in 2018 and downright offensive in 2019.

Miami had one of the 2 or 3 worst offensive lines in the country in 2019, and Jarren Williams, N’Kosi Perry, DeeJay Dallas and Cam’Ron Harris should’ve received battle pay for the beatings they had to endure. As we examine the viability of Miami being a contender for anything, the offensive line MUST be maketably better in 2020. You’d have to go back to 2002 for the last time Miami was truly dominant on the line of scrimmage, and that along with mediocre QB play have hindered the Canes for far too long.

Miami spent the offseason retooling this group, from coaching to transfer portal additions, but the question remains, did Miami do enough to be contenders in 2020?

The 1st question that has to be answered is, who are the starters?

Ideally Miami would like to have 5 solid starters, 3 rotation pieces and everyone else vying for mop up duty and special team action. In the last 2 years the Canes have played musical chairs on the offensive line and the continuity has not been there. Can new OLine Coach Garin Justice find the right, cohesive group and mold them into an ACC caliber line?

The Contenders

Tackle could come down to two of the following guys stepping forward during fall camp and taking command at the position. Jarrid Williams, who just transferred in from Houston, has the inside track for one of the tackle positions. He started 19 games for the Cougars and could be best suited to play Right Tackle for Miami. If he gets the starting nod at RT, then LT would be a much more wide open competition. John Campbell held down the fort for spring practice(all 4 practices)at LT and could have the inside track to win the job. Also in the mix is last year’s starter Zion Nelson who struggled mightily as an overmatched true freshman, and would be best suited to take a redshirt to get his body right for the 2021 season. Nelson also spent time at RT during the spring but with Williams coming on board he could be the odd man out. Incoming freshmen Jalen Rivers and Issiah Walker both could fight for the job, but both would be better served redshirting as well. Zalon’tae Hillery, Adam El Gammal and Kai-Leon Herbert will round out the tackle roster, though none of them may factor into the race for a rotation spot in 2020. Herbert may also play some guard which will add to the versatility on the line. DJ Scaife Jr has started multiple games at RT, and could move there if no one takes command at tackle. Chris Washington is a 3 star signee who will surely redshirt in 2020.

Houston v Tulane Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

If I had to guess Campbell and Williams will be the starters vs Temple week 1, which would be an improvement from the group Miami trotted out a year ago vs Florida.

Guard should be a position of relative strength in 2020 if everyone is healthy and they get to stay at their original spots. Health is a huge question though as Navaughn Donaldson has been dealing with an offseason knee injury, and his status is up in the air as we head into fall camp. If Donaldson is ready to go, you have to imagine the senior will hold down one of the starting spots. If he is unable to go, Jakai Clark, who started multiple games, would get the 1st look at one of the guard spots. On the other side DJ Scaife would slide back to his more natural position, which would strengthen the running game, as Scaife is very stout at the point of attack. Cleveland Reed is back from the transfer portal, and should factor into the mix with a renewed drive to fight for a spot. Ousman Traore got some run with the 1’s during spring ball, and will get a chance to compete in August, but figures to be a depth player who will fight for minutes with the ones.

Miami v Florida International Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Center will see Corey Gaynor man the pivot for the 2nd straight year. Gaynor started 13 games for Miami a season ago, and was probably the best offensive lineman. He will bring plenty of experience which the Canes desperately need. Jakai Clark will serve as the backup if he’s not starting at guard.

Virginia v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Miami finally has the ability to allow guys to redshirt and not be forced into action before they are ready. The starting lineup should look like this:

Left Tackle - John Campbell

Left Guard - Navaughn Donaldson (if healthy) or Jakai Clark

Center - Corey Gaynor

Right Guard - DJ Scaife

Right Tackle - Jarrid Williams

Verdict: This will be an improved group, because there is nowhere to go but up, but this is not close to a CFB Playoff group. At best Miami will be able to allow their young players to develop, but not play major minutes, and the line stays with the same group for all 12 regular season games. At worst D’Eriq King will be running for his life, and the line will get destroyed by all equal competition. Miami, with the change of scheme and upgrade in talent should be better, and Coach Justice has already made his mark on the recruiting trail, but Miami is at least 1 more recruiting class from having a good offensive line. King’s mobility and Rhett Lashlee’s new scheme should mask some of the deficiencies from 2019, so this should be a group that can at least contend for the Coastal.

Up Next Defensive Line

Go Canes!