Miami Hurricanes left tackle Ereck Flowers doesn’t like to do interviews.
He prefers to let his play do the talking.
And last Saturday against Florida State, his play spoke volumes.
Less than two weeks removed from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, the 6-6, 324-pound junior anchored an offensive line that didn’t allow a sack to the Seminoles, who boast defensive linemen Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards Jr., projected to be first- or second-round NFL Draft picks.
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Flowers’ performance was so impressive that at least one NFL analyst now believes he could sneak into the bottom half of the first round of next May’s draft if he decides to forgo his final season. UM hasn’t had a first-round pick since safety Kenny Phillips went 31st overall in 2008.
“Flowers returns to the Big Board after a very impressive performance against Mario Edwards Jr. and Florida State,” senior analyst Rob Rang wrote Wednesday for NFLDraftScout.com.
Added Rang: “Flowers is light on his feet and balanced in pass protection. He is aggressive and active as a run-blocker, including looking for defenders in pursuit. If Flowers checks out medically, he’s a likely first-round pick.”
Said another NFL scout who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the NFL frowns on discussing underclassmen: “I think he’ll go first round or early second. I haven’t watched the tape of FSU yet. But I don’t have to. He’s a big, physical, good player. And he’s tough as hell.”
Flowers is also tough to track down for questions. Despite multiple interview requests from local media this week, UM’s sports information staff wasn’t able to rope Flowers down.
His teammates and coaches had plenty of nice things to say on his behalf.
Fifth-year senior Jon Feliciano, who started next to Flowers at left guard against FSU, said it was hard to tell Flowers had recently undergone surgery.
That’s surprising because at one point a few UM officials privately believed Flowers wouldn’t play again this season. When Flowers got hurt late in UM’s 30-6 win at Virginia Tech, coach Al Golden said the player aggravated an old injury. Last Saturday, he called him a warrior.
“That guy – that’s crazy what he did,” Golden said. “He played a really good game, worked his tail off to get back after surgery. It wasn’t too big for him. He played his [butt] off and he was ready to go.”
Said running back Duke Johnson, who won a state title at Miami Norland running behind Flowers: “Watching him grow and watching him [Saturday], I’m really proud of him. He didn’t have to come back this season. But he wanted to make a statement to this team and show us that he’s tough and he’s in it just like we are.”
Flowers has faced some of country’s best pass-rushers this season and more than held his own. He went toe-to-toe some with Nebraska’s Randy Gregory, considered the top prospect at the position by NFLDraftScout, and has also blocked Louisville’s Lorenzo Mauldin.
In all, Flowers has made 26 career starts since arriving at UM in 2012, including 22 of UM’s last 23 games at left tackle. He missed only the North Carolina game, which was played a few days after his surgery.
Golden said UM (6-4, 3-3 ACC) is going to need another strong performance from Flowers and the offensive line Saturday night in chilly Virginia. The Cavaliers (4-6, 2-5) have 27 sacks this season (28th-most nationally) and rank 15th at stopping the run (118.60 yards per game).
“This front we’re going up against this week, this is a good front,” Golden said. “They’re long, have strength inside, a big [middle] linebacker that plays downhill, elite pass-rushers on the outside. This is a good outfit.”
Four invited to Senior Bowl
It appears four Hurricanes have been invited to play in the Senior Bowl, set for Jan. 24 in Mobile, Ala.: linebacker Denzel Perryman, cornerback Ladarius Gunter, receiver Phillip Dorsett and tight end Clive Walford.
Eric Galko, an editor at Optimum Scouting who also provides content for Sporting News and the National Football Post, tweeted the news out Wednesday evening.
NFLDraftScout.com projects all four seniors as NFL draft picks, with Perryman currently tabbed as the best of the group at 58th overall (second round) – seven spots behind Duke Johnson, who has not announced if he will return for his senior season.
Walford, who is enjoying a stellar senior season, has seen his draft stock rise over the last couple weeks and is now tabbed as the second-best available tight end and 74th-best prospect overall (second or third round).
Gunter is tabbed as the 18th-best available cornerback and projected to go in the fourth round along with Dorsett, ranked the 20th-best receiver.