Miami Hurricanes 2016 camp preview: Offensive line

The Hurricanes are back on Greentree on Thursday. Let’s go position-by-position and tell you what we know, what we don’t know, and what we want to learn this month. 

Let’s take a look at the offensive line, which UM hopes has improved greatly from 2015.

2016 Canes Camp Previews:  QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ST

Ten important storylines for Hurricanes camp

For review: spring grades Offense | Defense 

It hasn't been easy for quarterback Brad Kaaya the last two years. Is this the year his offensive line keeps him clean? (Getty Images)

It hasn’t been easy for quarterback Brad Kaaya the last two years. Is this the year his offensive line keeps him clean? (Getty Images)

Projected depth chart

LT
73 – Trevor Darling, Jr., 6-4, 320
79 – Bar Milo, R-Fr., 6-6, 300
77 – Jahair Jones, R-Soph., 6-4, 315
76 – Tre Johnson, Fr., 6-7, 300

LG
52 – Kc McDermott, Jr., 6-7, 308
54 – Hunter Knighton, R-Jr., 6-5, 300
62 – Hayden Mahoney, R-Fr., 6-5, 295

C
68 – Nick Linder, Jr., 6-3, 305
67 – Alex Gall, Sr., 6-5, 305

RG
63 – Danny Isidora, R-Sr., 6-4, 305
74 – Tyler Gauthier, Soph., 6-5, 300

RT
78 – Tyree St. Louis, Soph., 6-5, 305
66 – Sunny Odogwu, R-Jr., 6-8, 325
75 – Brendan Loftus, R-Fr., 6-7, 300

Numbers to know

Miami ranks 25th nationally in returning offensive line starts (85), with Isidora (26), Darling (18) and Linder (17) leading the way. Odogwu (nine), McDermott (eight) and Gall (seven) have experience as well.

UM ranked along the lower third nationally in rushing (112th in yards per carry), third down conversion rate (107th) and scoring touchdowns in the red zone (111th). Another sore spot was penalties. UM ranked last in the nation in both flags and yards per game (9.3 for 84.2 yards). The O-line had more than its share of holding and procedural issues.

On a per-game basis, the Hurricanes ranked 34th in sacks allowed (19) and eighth in tackles for loss allowed (57).

Quote of note

“I don’t know if we have a boatload [of reliable players], but if we stay healthy we’ll be OK.” – Coach Mark Richt

Breakdown

Finally, the Canes have experience up front. Those 85 starts UM’s line boasts this year? It had about a quarter of that total (22) in Aug. 2015. Isidora was the only returning full-timer. Now he’s a fifth-year senior entering his third year at right guard. Darling and Linder each has a full year of experience in the spotlight. McDermott and Odogwu started most of the time in 2015.

The bad news? Linder (shoulder) and Odogwu (knee) missed the spring recovering from surgeries, and though each has said they are healthy, they haven’t strapped on the pads and banged around with the likes of Al-Quadin Muhammad and Kendrick Norton. Gall, the starting center with Linder hurt, injured his knee and missed the spring game. His status is unknown.

How good is this line? That’s very much up for debate.

UM hopes for health and continuity, first. While UM’s previous staff liked to rotate offensive linemen regularly, new coach Stacy Searels will likely keep his front five together. Additionally, UM’s linemen spent the summer in the weight room – position groups didn’t always lift together in previous years – and Richt has praised the transformation of several O-line bodies.

UM’s second unit was hardly impressive in the spring, but coaches were encouraged by the development of St. Louis, who appears ready to battle a returning Odogwu for the starting spot at right tackle. Also, injuries to Linder and Gall put Gauthier in the spotlight, and he seems to have a future as a guard or center. UM needs the redshirts – Milo, Mahoney, Loftus – to take a step forward, and hopes Jones can find his footing after transferring from junior college in 2015. Johnson, a lanky, nimble athlete, could push for time if others aren’t up to the challenge.

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