Mario Cristobal impressed by Miami Hurricanes OT Zion Nelson

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 23: (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 23: (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Miami Hurricanes left tackle Zion Nelson was praised by his head coach Mario Cristobal during the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte on Thursday. Nelson is one of the most praised offensive tackles in college football entering the 2022 season. Entering the 2022 season, Nelson has 32 career starts in 35 games.

Nelson will likely be first-team preseason All-ACC. The official preseason All-ACC team will be announced this week after the votes that were taken during ACC Kickoff. Athlon Sports already named Nelson first-team preseason All-ACC. Nelson has improved significantly after starting as a true freshman in 2019.

In the final seven games of the 2021 season, Nelson did not allow a sack. Nelson will be a part of an experienced Miami Hurricanes OL in 2023. In addition to Nelson, Miami returns starting OL D.J. Scaife and center, Jakai Clark. Scaife can play guard or tackle. In 2022, Scaife will likely begin the season as the starting right tackle.

As a former OL, Cristobal was asked about his impressions of where Nelson is with his development. Jalen Rivers was a starter as a true freshman in 2020 and the first three games of last season before sustaining an injury that ended his year also returns for Miami in 2022 as the protected left guard.

"“Explosive. Really impressive athlete. Great balance and body control. Heavy-handed, light feet. Great knowledge of the game. Great feel for the game. Understands leverage.You know, can get that second foot in the ground because he digs his heels in the ground and gets his hands inside and unlock those hips and go low to high. He is an impressive guy. He really is. He has a very strong appetite to get better.He allows himself and wants to be pushed. He is always trying to find extra work, and he is joined by a lot of other guys on that offensive line that have the same mindset. Between him and the rest of those guys, just really excited about that group and the team in general. He has a super, super bright future.”"

Nelson has improved significantly after being a three-star signee in 2019. The Miami OL has grown together. Scaife has been a starter since 2018. Clark became the starting center halfway through last season. Scaife was able to return this season after being part of the extra year of eligibility granted due to covid in 2020.

The athleticism that Nelson has shown has him trending as a potential 2023 NFL first-round pick in several mock drafts. Nelson is the most important player on the Miami OL in 2022 at LT protecting the blind side of quarterback Tyler Van Dyke. Miami doesn’t have a lot of experience behind Clark, Nelson and Scaife.

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Clark, Nelson and Scaife staying healthy and productive in 2022 is critical to the success of the Miami Hurricanes offense. Fifth-Year Redshirt Junior John Campbell who has battled injuries throughout his Miami career is the projected backup to Nelson. Campbell can also move inside and play guard.