Over the last two seasons, one of the coolest things that Miami Hurricanes fans have been able to see, has been the rise of left tackle Zion Nelson.
Arriving in Coral Gables as a freshman in 2019 at a mere 240 pounds, Nelson worked his way through a rough first year where he was thrown into the starting lineup week-one. In 2019, Nelson surrendered 12 sacks and 38 pressures.
Want to applaud true freshman Zion Nelson. He played his best game vs GT. Kid has been put on an island in more ways than one.— rOmaN (@Romancane) October 22, 2019
Then add you have crack shot YouTube dudes posting him getting beat at times( )
But that kid deserves recognition this week. Thought he played well.
Then in 2020, Nelson became one of the top tackles in the ACC, and enters his junior year as a projected first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Might as well watch a Hurricane while poolside in Miami.... (Dog sitting update: everyone is alive )— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) May 21, 2021
OT Zion Nelson - Miami #60
Hugeeeee hype from @McShay13 by mocking him 5th overall in his 2022 Early Mock - well let’s take a fresh look! pic.twitter.com/KCaQwGH6aO
Nelson has received lots of praise following his 2020 season, and recently, CBS Sports released a list of the top 20 players to watch in college football in 2021. Nelson made the countdown at number four.
Quick S/O to Zion Nelson. After a rough freshman year in 2019, dude came back, worked his ass off, and became a reliable starter at left tackle.— Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) January 5, 2021
Good for you brother. Very excited to see what’s in store next few years for him
While he’s still trying to become a consistent force at left tackle, Nelson showed towards the end of the 2020 season why he’s such a valuable piece of the Hurricanes offense. In the final 6 games last year, Nelson received a 79.7 pass-blocking grade from PFF, allowing 5 QB pressures and giving up just 2 sacks. That pass-blocking grade was 12th best among Power 5 left tackles during those 6 weeks.
The double under hand technique - can look so bad & so good in an instant!— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) May 21, 2021
The danger - hands work from a low position, exposes chest & can easily lose 'inside leverage' - forces wide punch
The beauty - if you land inside, you have prime location to 'lift' & grip/torque/control pic.twitter.com/ao8OiT1udD
Canes OL Coach Garin Justice says Zion Nelson has been best performer for Miami in the past month— Susan Miller Degnan (@smillerdegnan) October 28, 2020
In 2021, Nelson will again be responsible for protecting quarterback D’Eriq King, and he’ll also try and improve on his run-blocking skills. While he emerged as a solid pass-protector, his run-blocking grade was a 63.8.
Todd McShay’s latest 2022 NFL Mock Draft had two Miami Hurricanes in the first round!— Canes Access (@CanesAccess) May 8, 2021
• LT Zion Nelson, #5 pick to the Cincinnati Bengals
• S Bubba Bolden, #20 Pick to the Philadelphia Eagles.
How do you feel about where these two have been projected to land? pic.twitter.com/ir3aa9rgSY
Hurricanes fans are expecting Nelson to take another big leap this upcoming season, and so is Todd McShay. The NFL Draft expert has Nelson going #5 overall in the 2022 Draft, and believes he’s going to continue to improve.
Todd Mcshay talking about Miami’s Zion Nelson being a top 5 pick in next years NFL draft pic.twitter.com/isivybgC70— Grantlong (@Grantlonggg) May 9, 2021
The last offensive lineman from Miami to be selected in the first round was Ereck Flowers in 2015. Before him, it was guard Vernon Carey in 2004. To find the last offensive tackle from Miami to be selected in the first round, before Flowers, you have to go back to Bryant McKinnie in 2002.
Quincy Roche on Zion Nelson: "He turned into a monster...He's already an amazing player but he's going to be even better than he is now."— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) December 8, 2020
If Nelson continues to develop and improve in 2021, there’s a good chance he ends that first round drought.