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All-22 Review: Miami Hurricanes offensive line

The ‘Canes return a handful of linemen that got reps in ‘21, including starters Zion Nelson, Jakai Clark, and Jalen Rivers.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Miami Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes return three major starters, and a few other spot starters for the 2022 season. Under new coach Mario Cristobal, and former NFL and Miami Hurricanes offensive tackle, The U will put a new and improved focus on line play.

For day two of spring practice, Coach Alex Mirabal’s 1st team O-Line was reportedly: LT Zion Nelson, LG Ousman Traore, C Logan Sagapolu, RG Jakai Clark, and RT Justice Oluwasesun.

I would suspect Jalen Rivers won’t be held out of the line-up for long, he’s just coming off of an injury. Right tackle has to be an area of concern for the ‘Canes. Now let’s look at Nelson and Rivers in game action from the ‘21 season.

Nelson and Rivers

Zion Nelson and Jalen Rivers are two key returning starters to the ‘Canes lineup in ‘22. By fall camp expect both to have secured the LT spot (Nelson) and LG spot (Rivers) for Coach Mirabal’s offensive line.

Above- You can see Nelson falling over himself while Rivers maintains balance and footwork. Rivers with a big chest, eyes, up, feet shoulder width apart... textbook stuff.

Above- Nelson here makes me think of the Sir Mix-A-Lot line “Knock-kneed bimbos walkin’ like h*es.” I mean dear god brother, what is that? Mallory is getting abused on the edge but Rivers is hand fighting like a senior against a powerful Bama DT.

Above- Anderson for Bama is driving Nelson 10 yards across the backfield. You can see issues everywhere as the now former center, Corey Gaynor, stands straight up on contact.

Rivers or Nelson

Above- Rivers’ balance, footwork, and body control are NFL quality. Nelson is falling into his D-End which makes for an easy play for his opponents when necessary. King pulls for no reason here.

Slide pass pro for sprint out

Above- just take a look at the footwork, the balance, the movement pattern and the visual IQ of Rivers. He’s got his eyes backside, his arm jabbing front side, with his eyes back side while his footwork doesn’t miss a step.

Pass protection

Below- Both players get pushed around a little by the MSU D-Line but hold their ground. This is one of Nelson’s better snaps in the game. He doesn’t over set and stays back with more balanced weight. He doesn’t lunge which keeps the DE from being able to sling him. The bull rush doesn’t work as he’s balanced over his center of mass instead of falling back on his heels.

More pass pro

Above- Change of story on this rep. Rivers is looking great again, Nelson is falling forward and falls down on the rep. He’s lucky he wasn’t called for holding as in the end zone that’s a safety call.

IZ looking meh

Above- Rivers misses his block as he’s slow to engage and Nelson is falling over once again. His initial contact is solid but he’s thrown off easily by the DE.

More pass pro: Rivers- good; Nelson- bad

Above- Nelson’s hands are down, he’s over setting as kick-slide just isn’t a great technique for him. He’s a drive-catch OL all the way.

Above- You can see where he winds up vs. where Rivers winds up. I would prefer Rivers shoulders stay square in case of a delayed blitz or to see 86 win that block but it’s probably too late anyway.

Trading off on a twist

Above- I really like the work of both players here. Rivers uses a push-pass to Nelson and picks up Nelson’s guy here. Both do a fine job of fighting off defenders on a tough twist.

Above- You can see the perfection above.

Jakai Clark

Clark had ups and downs after taking over for Corey Gaynor at center in the ‘Canes offense. In this game against FSU, Clark was doing a hell of a job on all fronts. He was strong in pass pro, base blocking, pulling and down blocking. For every 1-2 ‘bad plays’ he has a dozen solid performances. The FSU D-Line was no slouch, either.

Pass Pro over-commit

Above- Clark does a great job of staying square and looking for places to help. In pass pro, a center can’t over-commit when he has no defender in a 1 (on the shoulder) or 0 (had up) technique. Even a 2i (guard’s inside shoulder) CAN be the C’s first but the G should do most of the work there.

Combo with Donaldson

Above- Clark does a great job on the double. Uses the jam and rub technique to ‘hump’ the DT over to Donaldson.

Above- Donaldson lets him go for the stop. Clark stays on the LB at the second level.

Powerful hands

Above- Clark snapping 33’s head back. Through the 1st quarter Clark has beat on the LB.

Clark looking good, Williams looking bad

Below- Clark is working hard against an aggressive DT. He doesn’t lunge, stays balanced, and has the footwork and agility with the power to hold off the rush.

Great pass pro

Below- While others might not have held their own on this rep, Clark does. His initial first step was QUICK, and he’s able to lock up and fight with a bigger DT.

Michael McLaughlin

I’m a really big fan of Mike McLaughlin, 79 at right tackle here, and his upside. He got reps against CCSU in what was essentially a scrimmage. There is a lot to clean up in his game, for sure, but he has what Coach Mirabal is looking for.

McLaughlin has the size, length, athleticism, and balance needed to play the tackle position at a high level. You can reference my March 5th tweets above where I broke down each clip, and enjoy the full show from the end zone All-22 below.

The wrap

There’s a lot of potential to work with in Coral Gables on the O-Line. However, if guys who started and got worked all season don’t improve, or new blood doesn’t transfer in, it’ll be a long season again for Tyler Van Dyke.

Expect some strong leaps forward from Nelson, Rivers, and Clark. I’m excited to see what the spring game, no matter how vanilla, brings from this unit. They’re the ones that are the most likely to play at 100% in a spring game because it’s not a position where you take off plays and don’t get exposed.