Big Miami Hurricanes are drawing a line up front

Despite starting a true freshman, the UM offensive line played well against Boston College. A trip to No. 21 Kansas State is next.

09/06/2012 12:01 AM

08/10/2014 10:55 PM

Miami offensive line coach Art Kehoe earned a Hurricanes national championship ring for each finger of one hand. Along the way — since captaining the Canes as a guard in 1979-1980 — he has witnessed many elite linemen.

But few Hurricanes aficionados, Kehoe included, knew exactly what to expect when the newest group lined up against Boston College Saturday and implemented a no-huddle offense. Except for two plays by substitute Jeremy Lewis at left guard, those 1,556 collective pounds — including true freshman Ereck Flowers — went 79 consecutive plays on fast-forward without leaving the game.

They gave up one sack, which coach Al Golden attributed to quarterback Stephen Morris failing to find his outlet in the flat.

‘Goldenization’

“We could have played a doubleheader,” Kehoe said. “It’s year two of the Goldenization. It’s year two of, ‘This is how we do it: We’re getting up early, we’re busting our [behinds], we’re doing UTough days, we’re doing everything we can to get our guys in shape.’

“I remember walking out during pregame and I looked at [first-time starting center] Shane McDermott and [right guard] Brandon Linder and they go: ‘Coach, are you kidding me? We can play three games today.’ ”

And that’s without 2009 USA Today High School Offensive Player of the Year Seantrel Henderson, the 6-8, 340-pound right tackle who missed much of fall camp because of personal issues that interrupted his football life. Henderson, who didn’t travel to Boston College, will make his first trip of the season to Manhattan, Kan., for the noon game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

“He’s been through a lot,” Kehoe said of Henderson, who went to two funerals recently in his home state of Minnesota, and spent time recuperating from a concussion sustained in a car accident. “It’s pretty rough when your friend gets shot. I’m hoping Seantrel comes right back in the fold and gets intertwined with our offensive line and we start meshing.”

The starting five, from left to right: 6-7, 325-pound tackle Malcolm Bunche, 6-5, 314-pound guard Jonathan Feliciano, 6-4, 295-pound McDermott, 6-6, 308-pound Linder and 6-6, 314-pound Flowers.

Kehoe, who wants to play five backups at KSU, was asked if Henderson would have a “hard time unseating” Flowers. The freshman graded out a fairly spectacular 94 percent in his college debut — tied with Feliciano.

“I don’t know how that’s going to work out,” Kehoe said. “Sometimes in life your opportunities come and those guys [Bunche and Flowers] took advantage of it.”

Flowers blooming

Linder, a junior, has been mentoring Flowers since the spring.

“I don’t even consider him a freshman anymore,” he said. “He loves the game of football. He’s special. He just gets it.”

Feliciano, the most affable person you could imagine off the field, is a beast on it.

“He had about five or six shots in that game that were just ugly, man, where he was hitting guys and knocking them down,” Kehoe said. “He’s a violent guy, which you don’t get a lot of all the time on offense. It’s nice.”

UM gained 207 yards passing and 208 rushing — 135 of those ground yards by freshman Randy “Duke” Johnson. Feliciano said Johnson made the line look even better than it is, and was especially fond of his 56-yard second touchdown.

“I was running down field and I see the safety’s eyes widen,” Feliciano said. “I look to my left and there goes Duke.”

Said Johnson: “Nothing can happen without the offensive line. Nothing.”

Bring the noise

Feliciano conceded that because of the noise factor, there were glitches in the communication Saturday, creating problems in the center exchange. But the Canes have been blasting music this week while attempting to improve their silent counts and hand signals. They know it will be much louder in Manhattan, with a capacity crowd of 50,000 expected.

The 21st-ranked Big 12 Wildcats, who defeated Missouri State 51-9 Saturday, had no sacks. But former Hurricane Arthur Brown, the Wildcats’ star middle linebacker, can do plenty of damage.

“He’s really fast and really shifty,” Feliciano said. “We’ve got to stay low and make sure we get him down.”

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