Miami Hurricanes Position Preview: Guards and Centers
Despite returning all five starters from a year ago, the Miami Hurricanes offensive line depth chart, particular among the interior, is about as clear as a mud puddle. Offensive line coach Art Kehoe has continued to experiment with different lineups. Additionally, injuries forced players into playing in unfamiliar spots. This much we know: regardless of who plays or where, the Hurricanes will be very good up front.
An injury to junior guard Jon Feliciano (6-foot-5, 320 pounds) in the spring forced the Canes to insert senior Malcolm Bunche (6-foot-7, 327 pounds) into his position. Bunche, who started every game last year at left tackle, exceeded expectations at guard, and could make a transition there full time. However, if Feliciano returns to full strength, he will be hard to beat out. Despite being frequently subbed last season, he graded out the highest among the offensive line. If he starts at left guard, as I suspect he will, Bunche will move back to his natural left tackle spot.
The other guard spot will be occupied by what most consider the best overall offensive lineman of the group, Brandon Linder (6-foot-6, 320 pounds). The senior Linder has wowed coaches with his footwork as well as his leadership. He rarely makes mistakes, and mauls opponents in the run game. He was slowed by a knee injury this past spring, but should be ready to go for preseason camp. Backing up Linder will be redshirt freshman Danny Isadora (6-foot-4, 310 pounds). Isadora is a solid player, but has been slow on picking up the playbook, and simply isn’t ready physically to step in and challenge for a starting role.
The most interesting position battle on the offensive line will be at center. Shane McDermott (6-foot-4, 300 pounds), a junior, started every game at center last season, but like Feliciano, was sent to the sidelines due to injury. That allowed senior Jared Wheeler (6-foot-5, 320 pounds) an opportunity to impress the coaches, and impress he did. Wheeler has been solid, but not great, in his college career, but his play during the spring has made this battle a dead heat. I expect McDermott to win out in the end, but Wheeler will be more than capable if injuries to McDermott slow him down.
Overall, the Hurricanes are very talented and very deep at the center and guard positions, but they need to find a consistent group and stick with them so that they can gel. If everyone remains healthy, they could be the best group in the nation.