Speaking to reporters on Monday Mario Cristobal said offensive linemen Jonathan Denis, Zion Nelson and Antonio Tripp and running back Tre’Vonte Citizen are all expected to miss the season opener for the Miami football team on Friday night versus Miami (Ohio).
Linebacker Chase Smith is healthy and expected to play versus the Redhawks. Injuries to Citizen, Denis and Smith have minimal effect on the Miami football team entering the 2023 season. Nelson missed almost the entire 2022 season, but if he can get healthy will challenge to a significant part of the Miami offensive line.
Citizen was a highly regarded signee in the 2022 class for Miami. Early into his Miami tenure, signing Citizen was huge for Cristobal. Citizen was the 133rd-ranked signee, eighth RB and 11th-best recruit in Louisiana in the 2022 class. Miami signed Citizen despite all three crystal balls logged to Florida on National Signing Day.
Denis transferred to Miami from Oregon following Cristobal during the 2022 offseason. Denis played in five games with two starts during the 2022 season. A fourth-year redshirt sophomore, Denis was primarily the backup center in 2022 and can also play guard. Luis Cristobal is expected to be the backup center in 2023.
"“Right now we feel that our entire team, minus the guys that had surgery, are going to be able to play. So the guys that had surgery were TreVonte’ Citizen. Jonathan Denis is really close. He may not play in this game but we think he’ll be ready for Game 2 or 3. Chase Smith is cleared.And he’s been repping with all the groups on special teams and on defense…I would say Zion [Nelson] is going to be held back a little bit more. We expect him back, just not yet. We’ve taken this long to get it right. We want to get it right completely.Maybe Antonio Tripp, because he’s still about three weeks back with his shoulder stuff. But besides that we feel like we’re a pretty healthy team going in.”"
Matt Connolly of On3 transcribed the comments above from Cristobal to reporters on Monday. Nelson is one of the most experienced players on the Miami football roster with 36 games and 32 starts in his career. Nelson played in only one game during the 2022 season which allowed him to use a medical redshirt.
Prior to needing knee surgery in July 2022, Nelson was projected as a 2023 NFL first-round pick on multiple mock drafts. Now, the question is when will Nelson return this season as Cristobal said they expect that he will. Jalen Rivers is expected to start for Miami at left tackle, with freshman Samson Okunlola as the backup.
Tripp is a true freshman who was not expected to break the two-deep depth chart entering the 2023 season. If Miami can avoid the massive injuries they had on the 2022 OL, Tripp will be a candidate to redshirt in 2023. Tripp was the 709th player, 60th interior OL and 111th in Florida in the 2023 class.
Entering his redshirt sophomore season, Smith has played in 15 games during his first two years with Miami. Smith has 17 tackles, one tackle for loss and two passes defended during his Miami career. The majority of the playing time for Smith has been on special teams. Expect Smith to primarily play special teams in 2023 as well.