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Spring 2021 Spring Preview: Offensive Line

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Matthew_Suero

Junior
Editorial staff
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Feb 22, 2018
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Offseason Additions: Michael McLaughlin (2021 signee)

Offseason Departures: Adam ElGammal (transferred)



For the second spring in a row, Miami returns every consequential piece of their offensive line from the year before. This leaves Garin Justice’s room with everything necessary to take another step forward this spring.

One trend along the offensive line this spring is age and experience. This leads us to Miami’s right tackle from the 2020 season, 7th-year player Jarrid Williams. Williams stabilized one of the tackle spots when he arrived on campus last summer and will do so again during his first spring as a Miami Hurricane. Williams’ 7th college season will be his last, so this is his final opportunity to present himself to NFL scouts.

3rd-year tackle Zion Nelson followed up a painful freshman season with a huge step forward in 2020 and is now poised to become one of the top tackles in the ACC. Nelson will look to take another step forward this spring and if he does, he could be one of the top linemen in next year's NFL draft.

5th-year center Cory Gaynor has been the most consistent offensive linemen on the team on top of being the leader of the group over the past few seasons. Gaynor will look to become more than just a solid player this spring and make that leap into the tier of top centers nationally.

4th-year player and three-year starter DJ Scaife will be someone to watch this spring, as he struggled in 2020, which could open the door for someone to take his starting guard spot. Scaife could also potentially kick back out to tackle or even get reps at center this spring. Wherever he plays, a sense of urgency will be required.

3rd-year player Jakai Clark has started or played in nearly every game of his college career, but he will have to fight to keep his spot in the rotation this spring. The guard spots were the two weakest on the offensive line last season and the two spots where we are most likely to see a new face emerge.

4th-year tackle John Campbell will look to hold his position in the rotation with the younger guys looking to take his spot. Campbell will likely start spring as Miami’s third tackle. Let’s see if he stays there, as Issiah Walker will attempt to show what he has this spring and supplant Campbell. Although his future is most certainly as a tackle, Walker could also potentially try out guard this spring. Regardless of what happens, Walker will get to fight to be the top tackle off the bench and position himself well for a starting role in the 2022 season.

5th-year guard Navaugh Donaldson will participate in his first spring practice in two years. Donaldson is fully recovered from a 2019 knee injury and with his years of eligibility beginning to run out, Donaldson will look to take one of the starting guard spots this spring. 2nd-year lineman Jalen Rivers played sparingly in 2020 but is still nowhere near his full potential. Rivers is also in the running for a starting guard spot, and a full spring could allow him to take a big step forward this year. Rivers could potentially have a future as a tackle, but his most likely route to playing time in 2021 is at guard and that is where we expect him to spend the majority of his time this spring.

The rest of Miami’s OL group has some work to do starting this spring to see meaningful time in 2021. Ousman Traore played and even started at times at guard in 2020, but is starting spring with some ground to make up if he is going to be a contributor in 2021. Cleveland Reed will look to finally crack the rotation and emerge as a contributor at one of the two guard positions. With Miami’s starting guards struggling at times in 2020 you could see someone new emerge, but Reed will have to earn it over the next month. Kai-Leon Herbert and Zalon’tae Hillary will make their return to the practice field after opting out of the 2020 season. That setback will hurt the two unseasoned veterans since they are still relatively new to offensive line coach Garin Justice.

2nd-year tackle Chris Washington was considered somewhat of a project when he signed with Miami in the 2020 class. This spring is an opportunity for Miami to make some progress on that project. Speaking of projects, 1st-year tackle Michael McLaughlin certainly fits that description. McLaughlin has an NFL frame but is still very raw when it comes to his technique at the position. This spring will be his chance to learn some tricks of the trade and further his development to possibly take a role in 2022.


Bottom Line

Miami has far more age, experience, depth, and talent on the offensive line this spring than any in recent memory. All of the pieces are in place for a strong, connected starting five to emerge heading into the summer. The areas to watch in spring are the guard spots and the battle for the 3rd tackle job. Donaldson has the experience and upside to supplant either Scaife or Clark, while Justice has been extremely high on Rivers; it will be interesting to see how far Rivers has progressed since we last saw him. Campbell is in a strong position to keep hold of the 3rd tackle job going into spring, but will certainly be pushed by a young riser like Walker.
 

Damiencane86

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Mar 13, 2018
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I'd love to see left to right:
LT- Zion
LG- Campbell
C- Donaldson
RG- Rivers
RT- Williams
This lineup I feel would give us the added mass and strength up front we're lacking to more consistently get those short yard conversions in the run game. Staff seems more intent on keeping Campbell at tackle but he had some better moments at guard in 2019 IMO.
 

CaneDog66

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May 8, 2018
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I'd love to see left to right:
LT- Zion
LG- Campbell
C- Donaldson
RG- Rivers
RT- Williams
This lineup I feel would give us the added mass and strength up front we're lacking to more consistently get those short yard conversions in the run game. Staff seems more intent on keeping Campbell at tackle but he had some better moments at guard in 2019 IMO.
That would be some serious mass and strength across the starting OL. All I ask is that Gaynor isn’t starting at OC. If he must start he best have had a world record breaking S&C this Spring. Too often he was flat footed or sitting on his rump after getting thrashed on a given play. If Donaldson doesn’t win the OC spot slide him over to RG with Williams at RT. Put either Campbell or Rivers at LG with Zion at LT. That would also make a very good OL group and would get serious push for inside zone plays.
 

Scorpion

Freshman
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Dec 10, 2012
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What's going to happen is the coaching staff is going to shower Gaynor with all kinds of praise this offseason, calling him a great leader, blah, blah, blah, and when next season comes around, he's going to start, again, and he is going to get his sh*t pushed in by any D-line with a pulse, again.
 

Gi0logy

Freshman
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Jan 24, 2013
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1,164
Gaynor and Scaife had bad years but I thought they both played decent year prior. We have the talent and depth now to not need to wait and see if the light turns on for them. Step up or GTFO.

Assuming King comes back healthy, this is the unit that I think will most impact our season. I know Defense as a whole needs to step up but I think OL is the unit that will make or break this season. They got their sh*t pushed in in the games that mattered most. Dominant OL = 10 wins easy. And I say that even if the D is average at best.
 

Ziggy

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Jan 28, 2012
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This group lost no one and we added some young talent. I expect them to make a good size jump and hopefully become an asset for the team and not a liability.
 

CaneThang2020

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Feb 21, 2020
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859
Scaife was a routine disappointment for us last year...however, the years before he was pretty solid so I'm guessing he'll be in there at G with Donaldson at the other G spot. Ideally I'd like to see Campbell at G with Donaldson let Gaynor-Clark battle it out for the C spot with Scaife and Rivers battling for the 1st Guard off the bench spot. Traore and Reed are in danger of falling behind if something doesn't click. A year or two away for Washington and McLaughlin. Herbert and the kid out of GA from Deejay Dallas HS have been passed up and will be on portal watch after spring if they don't push into the 2 deep
 

CaneDog66

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May 8, 2018
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I don’t think the OL is trash, the OT’s played well. Where we didn’t play well was at OG and OC. I think we can have Gaynor and Clark battle it out at OC, then get the best of the other OG spot as I have Donaldson penciled in at RG to help Jarred at RT. That leaves Rivers/Walker/Campbell at LG to help Zion at LT. That’s a lot more beef and strength across the OL, especially with the additional year in the S&C program. I think the boys up front are going to play much better in 2021 than even the improvements they showed for 2020.
 

Jassid82

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Jan 29, 2012
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This OL isnt good enough to be considered in the national conversation but hell..can we just not get pushed around by guys in the ACC and ill be happy as hell! Thats all we need for now until we can get some better talent from recruiting.
 

HOLISTIC CANE

"All Disease Begins in The Gut." - Hippocrates
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Nov 9, 2020
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350
Gaynor is not a top center nationally.
He constantly gets manhandled. Miami needs an intelligent nasty mauler at center. Leadership is great, but if you're trying to win games Gaynor is not the answer at the center position.
 
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