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Miami Hurricanes 2022 Spring Position Preview: Offensive Line

New Miami offensive line coach Alex Mirabal has potential to work with, but unrealized potential isn’t enough to win the ACC in ‘22.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Cal at Oregon Photo by Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Alex Mirabal is the new Miami Hurricanes offensive line coach. Mirabal, the former Oregon Ducks OL coach that helped produce 1st round NFL Draft pick Penei Sewell, has over a dozen years of Division 1 coaching experience under his belt. Prior to Miami and Oregon, Mirabal also coached OL or tight ends at Marshall, and Florida International.

A former high school teacher and coach, Mirabal is a favorite on the coaching clinic scene for his humility, attention to detail, enthusiasm, and ability to connect with coaches. A few of those items are things Mario Cristobal finds extremely important in a coach, including the ability to teach to incoming freshmen and not pontificate about the game over an 18 year old player’s head.

Mirabal will have over 15 spring bodies to work with. That gives him around three teams of guys to get right before the start of the season on September 3rd.

Returning ‘Canes

The ‘Canes offensive line loses Navaughn Donaldson, Jarid Williams and Corey Gaynor as regular starters from the 2021 depth chart. Gaynor is headed via the transfer portal to UNC to play for Mack Brown and the Tar Heels. Donaldson and Williams will more than likely be going pro in something other than sports. Kai-Leon Herbert is also in the transfer portal, however he’s hardly had an impact while at The U.

Mirabal’s position room has 15 players who have played in games and even started in their careers while at Miami. The overall talent level in Coral Gables is questionable, and I was hoping Victor Oluwatimi from UVA would make it to Miami, but he wound up at Michigan.

Miami Introduces Mario Cristobal as Head Football Coach Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The guys that look like starters heading into ‘22 would be Jakai Clark, Zion Nelson, and Jalen Rivers. Clark wasn’t perfect but he played well at center for Miami and was an upgrade over Gaynor at the position. Clark, from Grayson HS in GA, is a six-foot-three, 305 pound 4th year player with 32 starts.

Nelson had to start too soon for Miami being pushed into the lineup as a true freshman in ‘19. Heading into year four, Nelson has started 32 games with high-highs and low-lows. He’s six-foot-five, 315 pounds and has an NFL frame but needs to be more consistent in his play.

Rivers was the young prospect I was most excited about before ‘21. He’ll head into year three with only three starts because of an injury last season. When Rivers was in the line was much better than after his injury. Hopefully Rivers has made a full recover because he’s a difference maker inside.

NC State v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

DJ Scaife Jr is an enigma on the ‘Canes O-Line. Scaife has been hampered by playing multiple positions and will have his fourth OL coach in five seasons in ‘22. Scaife is a six-foot-three, 305 pounder from Miami Southridge. Scaife has started 40 games for The U and brings experience but shouldn’t be moved back to guard under Mirabal.

Cleveland Reed, John Campbell, and Zalon’tae Hillery have been ‘your potential is going to get me fired’ types at Miami. Campbell has the most upside of the three at six-five and has six starts. Hillery and Reed have played at spots for Miami.

Previously transfers, Justice Oluwaseun (UNLV) and Ousman Traore Hutch C.C. have started at Miami and have have 10 seasons and 26 starts between them. Oluwaseun has the best chance of the two to start as he’s tall and lean which is good in a zone scheme.

Limited Playing Time

Coach Mirabal will have five or so inexperienced but highly regarded big guys to work with, too. I have been extremely high on Chris Washington and Michael McLaughlin. Both needed seasoning in a college S&C program in order to be ready, but both have NFL size that can’t be taught, standing at 6-foot-7. Washington is from Tennessee while McLaughlin is from Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida.

Two young bucks that could push for playing time at guard are Ryan Rodriguez and Laurance Seymore. Both players prepped in South Florida, Rodriguez at Columbus High School and Seymore at Miami Central. Both are shorter, six-foot-two, and project as interior linemen.

The highly regarded but rarely seen Issiah Walker is also still on the roster heading into spring football. Walker is six-foot-five, 280 pounds, and a former four-star prospect. He originally signed with Florida out of Miami Norland but transferred to Miami before sitting out.

Transferring in

Mirabal and Cristobal brought over one Oregon Ducks lineman for the ‘22 season. Redshirt freshman Logan Sagapolu comes to Miami as a first-time transfer. Sagapolu is a 6-foot-3, 340 pound former three-star from 2019 signing class. Sagapolu played his high school ball at West Jordan High School in Utah. I can see Sagapolu immediately taking up a starting offensive line spot between his size and experience in the scheme. Sagapolu is a 3rd year player but hasn’t played due to redshirt and injury.

True Freshmen

Miami signed two true freshmen for the ‘22 class. Anez Cooper and Matthew McCoy are both ‘projects’ that will redshirt in ‘22. Both players have the natural length to play tackle being six-foot-six. Cooper, from Pleasant Grove High in Alabama, will need to lose bad weight while McCoy from Creekside in Florida will need to add muscle mass. I would expect both to redshirt in 2022.

The Starting 5

When the ‘Canes roll out the first team offense for the spring game, I would expect Alex Mirabal’s group to look like group below. Remember, he’s looking for tall, lanky and athletic tackles and can get by with a squatty guard in his zone scheme, but would still seemingly prefer the tall athletic type like Rivers.

This makes me think Nelson, McLaughlin and Rivers are shoe-ins with Sagapolu and Clark likely to start. Shorter players like Scaife and the guys I listed that are six-two will have an uphill battle in this scheme.

LT Zion Nelson

LG Jalen Rivers

C Jakai Clark

RG Logan Sagapolu

RT Michael McLaughlin

Experience can both be crucial part of an OL, but also just a bunch of years on a football field. I would expect a major push for PT from McLaughlin who is tall and lean and can move with Mirabal wants in his zone schemes.

Of that group, Sagapolu and McLaughlin are obviously the least likely to have their job on lockdown. Scaife, Campbell, Oluwaseum, and Washington could push for PT throughout spring and into fall camp.

*Shoutout to Jake Marcus for compiling and sharing data