University of Miami

Where’s the Hurricanes’ front-line beef? UM hopes these two additions are Grade A

University of Miami offensive lineman Venzell Boulware throws up the U during Media Day at the University of Miami Newman Alumni Center on Monday, August 13, 2018.
University of Miami offensive lineman Venzell Boulware throws up the U during Media Day at the University of Miami Newman Alumni Center on Monday, August 13, 2018. MIAMI HERALD

They are two big bodies with experience, but new to the University of Miami.

And the Miami Hurricanes hope those two young men— one inside each of the front lines— can add the talent and depth needed to help compensate for the loss of players who graduated, moved on to the NFL or were recently injured.

Defensive tackle Tito Odenigbo, 6-3 and 300 pounds, is a graduate transfer redshirt senior out of Illinois.

Offensive guard Venzell Boulware, 6-3 and 306, is a graduate transfer redshirt junior out of Tennessee.

Both will be counted on this season, as the Canes have already lost one second-team offensive line player to injury, causing a reshuffling there; and former starting tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton are now in the NFL.

“I think we have the talent to go far here,’’ Odenigbo said this week on media day. “Right now campus is pretty good and the team has been awesome. I’m just doing my best to make an impact.”

Odenigbo made a definite impact at Illinois, where he started four games in 2017 and was second on the team in tackles for loss with 4 1/2. He played in 10 games last season and had 29 tackles, a sack and two pass breakups. He also blocked a field goal at South Florida.

He is especially pleased with UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz — and vice versa.

“Coach Diaz is a no-regret man,’’ Odenigbo said. “He loves penetration and using my athletic ability, so it’s kind of fun playing in this defense.’’

Said Diaz, who has Pat Bethel and Gerald Willis as his starting tackles in the rotation: “Tito has been outstanding. He has exceeded our expectations. He can move, make plays in the backfield [and he] chases the ball.’’

Even if it’s stifling hot compared to Illinois. Odenigbo was the first player this fall camp to jump in the giant ice tubs at the end of the opening practice Aug. 4.

“The weather is kind of crazy here compared to the Midwest,’’ Odenigbo said. “Not that I didn’t take my hydration seriously at Illinois. I’ve just got to drink a double amount because I wasn’t aware of the humidity here.

“My biggest reason for coming here was so I could play in as many games as possible. I just wanted to go to a team that was solidified and had a chance to make progress...and be happy. They lose two D-tackles this year and I can have an impact because my style of game is much the same as theirs.’’

On the other side of the line, Boulware is pushing starting left guard Jahair Jones, UM coach Mark Richt said this week. Boulware moved from backup right guard to left guard earlier in the week after it was announced that backup left tackle George Brown Jr. was scheduled for knee surgery. That, in turn, shifted the second-team lineup, Richt said, with true freshman Cleveland Reed moving up to right guard. The backup center is Corey Gaynor, with Kai-Leon Herbert practicing at backup right tackle Wednesday and true freshman DJ Scaife Jr. at No. 2 left tackle.

The starting offensive line: left tackle Tyree St. Louis, left guard Jahair Jones, center Tyler Gauthier, right guard Hayden Mahoney and right tackle Navaughn Donaldson.

Boulware, a four-star prospect when he played at Union City (Georgia) Creekside High, said Wednesday that “the opportunity to come in and contribute immediately’’ was “appealing’’ because former starting left tackle Kc McDermott, as well as left guard Trevor Darling, had graduated and departed. He also knew Richt during his recruiting process.

He said he chose Miami over Ohio State.

“I feel like I’m in the mix,’’ Boulware said regarding the starting job. “It’s competition all throughout the line. Coach Searels is holding everybody accountable. We’ve got to prepare like we’re the starter and go out every day and earn our keep.’’

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