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.
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.