The Miami Hurricanes must replace five offensive starters from the 2013 campaign, and one-time right tackle Seantrel Henderson departs from an important position.
While Henderson never quite lived up to his 5-star billing, per Rivals, the vacated spot by the monster lineman makes for an interesting competition.
Additionally, junior Ereck Flowers is the clear front-runner to retain his job as the starting left tackle, protecting the blindside of either Ryan Williams or Kevin Olsen. So if any player wants to earn some snaps at tackle, it's going to be on the right side.
During both spring practice and fall camp, Al Golden and offensive line coach Art Kehoe will closely watch the challengers for the open spot. And by the time September arrives, the key starting role will officially be occupied by a first-year starter—and perhaps even a first-year team member.
Candidates to Replace Henderson
As of this writing, redshirt sophomore Taylor Gadbois is the favorite to win the job, but he has a long road ahead of him.
Gadbois appeared in four games last season, but he is earning praise from his head coach during spring practice. Per Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald, "Taylor is as gifted as any of our offensive lineman," Golden said. "I think the only one that's more gifted is probably Ereck Flowers. ... For Taylor, it's time."
Kc McDermott enrolled for the spring semester, and the true freshman is already talented enough to join his older brother, Shane, as a starter on the line.
According to Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, McDermott and fellow early enrollee Trevor Darling are ahead of Golden's schedule and impressing the fourth-year coach. "They're smart. Obviously, good work ethic. Both stronger than I thought they would be."
Redshirt freshman Sunny Odogwu is well behind Gadbois, but he is certainly a candidate. After the final practice before spring break, Miller Degnan noted Golden thought Odogwu had his best day of practice.
Youth is the biggest prevailing factor for right tackles, so the coaches can explore a couple options as to how they can utilize the trio on the edge.
First Option: One Starter
Gadbois is a physical specimen, standing 6'8" and listed at 316 pounds. But overpowering opponents is only one part of the game, and the mental side of football is nearly as important.
According to Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Gadbois has changed his mental approach to the game since his early days at Miami.
"You don't always want to listen, but you mature. You hear what [team veterans are] saying," Gadbois said. "You see what they're saying and you see them in the League and know there's a reason they're in the League. I took all that information and learned from it."
A tender 17 years old, McDermott has both remarkable size and outstanding technique, and he used both qualities to be flat-out dominant in high school. The trick for McDermott, now, is translating that success from high school to college.
Considering Odogwu has only played organized football for just three years, he is essentially a project player. Of course, having a 6'8", 324-pound project with at least four more seasons of football at the collegiate level is exciting.
While Odogwu is still working to perfect the playbook, if he flips the switch by the end of spring ball, he could be a dangerous lineman when fall practice begins.
Second Option: Starter by Committee
Though one player should solidify the starting job by the end of year, an early-season rotation would not be an awful scenario. Ultimately, Golden and Kehoe could decide to give opportunities to a couple players.
As it stands, Gadbois appears to be headed toward significant playing time, regardless of his role being a starter or simply a top reserve.
McDermott is expected to become a dominant left tackle in college, and he could get an early jump by winning the job outright. But even if McDermott isn't a starter, he can still earn a decent number of in-game reps each week, which would assist his much-anticipated development.
And if the 'Canes are comfortable enough to throw Odogwu in more than just garbage-time snaps, it would lessen the burden on the other two tackles. However, that is only an option if the coaches feel Odogwu is ready for the spotlight.
Rotating between a couple tackles is not an necessarily optimal situation, but it's certainly something that must be analyzed given the lack of a clear starter.
Though one player should solidify the starting job by the end of year, an early-season rotation would not be an awful scenario for the Hurricanes.
Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.
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