The latest challenge for Miami’s offensive line can only be blamed on the Hurricanes defense. With each progressive takeaway, and turnover chain ceremony, Hard Rock Stadium grew louder and louder last Thursday. After an eventual 47-10 win against North Carolina, Mark Richt likened the atmosphere in Miami Gardens to a party.
There was only one issue: It can be hard to hear what people are saying at a loud party.
“That chain comes out and it’s like the fans get a new level of loud. They get loud when we make a big play, but that chain brings something else out in them,” offensive lineman Tyler Gauthier said after practice Tuesday in Coral Gables. “We have to go silent.”
It’s not exactly something an offense thinks it has to be ready for at home, but a six-takeaway game is hardly normal. For a few plays after some of those takeaways, quarterback N’Kosi Perry had to use a silent snap count to get the offense started.
Even with the unusual challenge, the Hurricanes’ offensive line kept Perry upright and untouched throughout the conference game. It might not be quite so easy Saturday at 3:30 p.m. For all of Florida State’s flaws this season, the Seminoles are still strong up front, led by defensive lineman Brian Burns (American Heritage), who ranks third in the ACC with five sacks.
“They’re big, they’re strong, they’re athletic,” Gauthier said. “It’s a typical Florida State defensive line. It’s what you expect.”
Entering the season, the offensive line was one of the biggest questions for No. 17 Miami’s offense. Kc McDermott, the Hurricanes starting left tackle in 2017, graduated, forcing Tyree St. Louis to shift from right tackle to left tackle and Navaughn Donaldson to kick out from right guard to right tackle. Trevor Darling, the starting left guard in 2017, also graduated, leaving Miami to mix and match at the two guard spots. Offensive linemen Jahair Jones, Hayden Mahoney and Venzell Boulware have all started at various points.
The past two weeks. the revolving door has settled on Boulware as the starter at right guard. A graduate transfer from Tennessee, Boulware joined the Hurricanes late in the summer and has steadily earned a bigger role, culminating with starts against Florida International and North Carolina in the final two games of September.
In each of the two games with Boulware as a starter, Miami conceded two sacks. As much of a test as the Hurricanes offensive line get in practice, this weekend will be the first major test for the reshuffled unit.
“We go against our ones all the time. We go against Gerald Willis every day. We go against Joe Jackson and Jon Garvin,” Gauthier said. “They are a talented front and probably the biggest part is their line.”
Guard isn’t the only spot Miami has rotated, though. The Hurricanes have also continued to take advantage of its depth at tackle by rotating freshman DJ Scaife in at both spots, which means he could see himself occasionally lined up directly across from Burns on Saturday.
To fend off an upset, the Hurricanes need to keep Burns and the Seminoles front from rattling Perry. Miami has the ability to keep its group fresh as long as it can trust less experienced contributors like Scaife.
“He’s athletic enough to get the job done and he’ll get better as time goes on,” Richt said. “He also went up against good high school players on his team. The guy also went to a lot of camps and competed against a lot of great players, so that helped him transition. He’s done very well as a true freshman and I’m proud of him.”