Miami Hurricanes freshmen tackles have played well versus first-team defense

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 15: Offensive lineman Carlos Joseph
MIAMI - NOVEMBER 15: Offensive lineman Carlos Joseph /

The Miami Hurricanes will be starting a pair of freshmen at both offensive tackle spots in Saturday’s season opener against Florida. Head coach Manny Diaz stated the new bookend starters on the offensive line have been impressive in training camp.

True freshman left tackle Zion Nelson and redshirt freshman right tackle John Campbell have played well throughout training camp for the Miami Hurricanes and look comfortable with the first team according to head coach Manny Diaz.

Nelson and Campbell have the task of protecting fellow freshman Jarren Williams who is making his first start at QB. Williams played nine snaps against Savannah State last season.

Campbell got into four games to maintain his redshirt status and Nelson will obviously be taking the first snaps of his collegiate career in a game when the Hurricanes kickoff against the Gators on Saturday.

Campbell will be playing in the second game of his career against a Power Five opponent. He played against Savannah State, Toledo, FIU and Pittsburgh last season. Nelson and Campbell have made incredible transformations during the offseason.

Nelson arrived at Miami, 6’5 and 235 pounds. According to the official Miami Hurricanes athletic website, Nelson is now up to 285 pounds. Nelson was put into the first-team left tackle spot during spring practice and has not relinquished it since.

Diaz compared Nelson’s ascension to first-team left tackle to Miami’s all-senior linebacking corps entering 2019 in their fourth year as starters. Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pickney and Zach McCloud began their Miami careers as starters in 2016. Quarterman has started every game during his Miami career. Nelson has the potential to do the same.

"“It was one of those deals where you’re like, ‘He might be our best guy there. Let’s put the freshman in and let’s kind of see what happens.’ I remember saying the exact same thing with Shaq Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud in spring of 2016.And what happened is (Nelson) just maintained the job. He is a highly motivated young man, very mature beyond his years. And he does not look like a young guy out there.What helps — very similarly like Pinckney and Shaq for example — is he has above-the-charts athleticism. So even if he makes a mistake, he’s got the quickness to make up for it sometimes."

Campbell came to Miami as a three-star signee in 2018. He has surpassed redshirt sophomores Kai-Leon Herbert and Zalon’tae Hillery on the depth chart on the offensive line. Herbert is listed as Campbell’s backup at right tackle. Diaz has been impressed by the redshirt freshman during training camp.

"“John is a guy that got better and better and it was probably the second scrimmage where he just took a step up,. You always see how they do when they work with that first unit.A couple things can happen when that happens like you are working with guys that know what they are doing a little bit more and there is a kick-on effect from that and then you want to see if the guy can handle it.John never looked out of place. We always felt like he was very talented. We have a young offensive line and we feel like we have guys that are going to be really good and John has earned a spot.”"

After beginning training camp listed behind Nelson at left tackle, Campbell’s play earned him the first-team spot at right tackle. Diaz seemed to know Campbell belonged with the first-team team offense with how he performed against Miami’s exceptional defensive line.

"“We went ones versus ones (in camp) up until (last) Friday night’s (scrimmage). John never looked out of place. We’ve always thought that John is very talented. We have a young offensive line. We have guys that we know are going to be really, really good and John has earned the spot.”"

Not many surprises on Miami offensive depth chart. dark. Next

Nelson and Campbell have proven throughout spring football and in training camp that they belong with the first-team Miami offense. Now they have to go out and prove it against an elite Florida defense. Practicing against Miami’s front four should be a good simulation for the Gators.