University of Miami

Miami’s offensive line makes progress in second scrimmage, but issues still evident

Watch Canes offensive coordinator Dan Enos instructing Hurricanes quarterbacks

Miami Hurricanes' offensive coordinator Dan Enos instructing UM quarterbacks in April 11, 2019.
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Miami Hurricanes' offensive coordinator Dan Enos instructing UM quarterbacks in April 11, 2019.

The reports from inside the Miami Hurricanes’ first scrimmage of the spring last Saturday — closed to the public and media — weren’t very positive toward the offensive line. The unit was already one of Miami’s biggest question marks heading into the spring and injuries have made it even more uncertain.

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos criticized the line’s inconsistency Tuesday. After the Hurricanes wrapped up their second scrimmage Saturday, Manny Diaz harped on the level of progress from a week ago, when it was apparently bleak for Miami.

“The plays had a chance today, which is kind of rule one for the offense,” the coach said. “A lot less negative plays, a lot cleaner pocket for the quarterbacks.”

On Saturday, the Hurricanes played their first open scrimmage of the spring and, by all accounts, the offensive line played significantly better than it did the weekend before. Last Saturday, Miami had to quickly plug Donaldson in at center when Corey Gaynor, the usual starting center, went down with an injury, which left an already uncertain group even more in flux.

The Hurricanes haven’t given a specific diagnosis yet for Gaynor, simply calling the offensive lineman’s status, “day to day.” He was dressed in pads Saturday with his left knee wrapped, but Gaynor didn’t actually get on the field at Nathaniel “Traz” Powell Stadium in Miami.

In his place Saturday, Donaldson led a makeshift offensive line as the first-team center. Flanking him on the first team were fellow offensive linemen DJ Scaife and Zalon’tae Hillery at left guard, and John Campbell at right guard and Kai-Leon Herbert at right tackle. On the second-team unit, the Hurricanes used Herbert at left tackle, Hillery at left guard, Tommy Kennedy at center, Cleveland Reed Jr. at right guard and George Brown Jr. at right tackle. There are about five players across the two units who are in a different position than they arrived in Coral Gables expected to play.

Even with Miami putting its offensive line in some favorable situations, Diaz walked away pleased with some of the progress.

“He has been a center for eight days in his life and I don’t think we had a fumbled snap today, I don’t think [he] had a bad snap in shotgun today, so he’s been outstanding filling in at center,” Diaz said of Donaldson. “For the most part I thought we saw a lot less missed assignments today.”

Although the Hurricanes’ first-team offense didn’t score a touchdown against the first-team defense, quarterbacks N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams were still given enough time to show off some of the progress they’ve made this spring. The officials, however, did swallow their whistles on about half a dozen plays which could have been blown dead as sacks.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” said running back DeeJay Dallas, who ran for three touchdowns. “We’ve got a hole in our line and they’re meshing how it’s supposed to be. Next man up.”

Ed Reed addresses team

Miami held its alumni banquet the night before the scrimmage and players couldn’t stop talking about the speech Ed Reed gave. The Hall of Fame safety spoke for about 10 or 15 minutes and Diaz felt like the former Hurricane’s message from Friday carried on to the field Saturday.

“His message was about team. “Here’s a guy that is really in the argument for being the greatest safety of all time — and we throw around the GOAT phrase a lot — but he’s a guy that really is in the mix for that. If he spoke for 10 or 15 minutes to our team last night to our team, he might have mentioned 20 to 25 of his teammates.

“We kind of came out here today with that mentality of like, You know what? Everyone wants to do well, we get it. Everyone wants to put good numbers up, put on a good show for the fans, but instead of worrying about yourself, how about let’s just worry about the team? How about being a guy that just makes the team better? And you know what’s crazy? When we kind of put our own little selfish worries aside, you know what happens? You individually do well and whatever you wanted, you end up getting, so that was a great message that carried over from last night and it looked like our guys took it to the field today.”

Linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, a team captain last season, sat next to Reed at the dinner, so he was able to an even better idea of Reed’s leadership ability.

“He talked about the essence of what this program is all about and he made it simple, and the message is we can’t do anything without one another,” Quarterman said. “That’s what made them so special. They understood that for them to be great and for them achieve rings you all had to do it together.”

This and that

Linebacker Bradley Jennings went down with an groin injury early in the scrimmage, Diaz said. The coach said the team does not yet know the severity of the injury.

Gaynor was one of several banged up Hurricanes who dressed and didn’t play. Wide receivers Mike Harley, Jeff Thomas and Brian Hightower were all held out, as were defensive lineman Jon Ford and striker Zach McCloud. Running back Asa Martin, who is sitting out 2019 after transferring from the Auburn Tigers, had a boot on his left foot and was using crutches.

Brevin Jordan, whose knee injury earlier this spring initially worried some around the program, was on the sidelines in pads Saturday, wearing a heavy brace. The tight end did not play, either.

Running back Lorenzo Lingard seems to be making progress after having knee surgery in the fall. The running back was also in pads and didn’t participate in game action.

Running back Robert Burns and linebacker Waynmon Steed weren’t present after sustaining injuries earlier this spring. Offensive lineman Zion Nelson was also absent.

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