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2021 MAC Football Positional Previews: Miami RedHawks offensive line

Replacing Tommy Doyle will be a key storyline for an offensive line group which combines for just 31 starts in Oxford.

MAC Championship - Central Michigan v Miami Ohio Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The Miami RedHawks won the MAC in 2019. Unfortunately, in 2020, we never witnessed the team withstand the grind of another full season. Instead, Miami (OH) only participated in three contests and finished with a respectable 2-1 record in the diminutive sample size.

In those three games, the RedHawks allowed four sacks and tied for 18th in the FBS in fewest sacks allowed per contest. The running game — operating without Miami’s top two halfbacks — never quite got a jump start behind the line and no RedHawk player finished the year with more than 100 yards rushing.

While the team returns a majority of its pieces at the skill positions, Miami’s offensive line doesn’t retain as much experience as most MAC lines heading into 2020. The entire depth chart combines to start 31 games for the RedHawks, and the 3-game pandemic season certainly contributed to the inexperience of the current group.

Miami lost two massive pieces of the offensive line, but it certainly wasn’t anything unexpected. When the MAC originally canceled its fall season in August 2020, offensive tackle Tommy Doyle and center Danny Godlevske both declared for the NFL Draft. However, both linemen reversed their course of action when the conference announced the return of the fall season later in September. Doyle, a two-time First Team All-MAC selection, was drafted in the fifth round by the Buffalo Bills in April. Godlevske, a two-time Third Team All-MAC selection, wound up transferring to Oklahoma State this offseason.

Doyle’s left tackle spot leaves a gaping hole on the offensive line, one expected to be fulfilled by the similarly-sized Sam Vaughan. At 6’7” and 306 pounds, Vaughan provides a massive frame suitable for anchoring the left side. The redshirt freshman saw action in all three games last season, preparing him for the moment to become Doyle’s successor.

Attacking defensive ends from the other side of the line will be right tackle Bennett Clark. The 6’6”, 309 pound Indiana native provides additional size to one of the taller offensive lines in the conference, and he also offers starting experience. Clark started two of the RedHawks’ three games in 2020 and a pair of games during the 2019 MAC title run.

But with four combined starts at the tackle positions, Rusty Feth becomes one of the more experienced members in the trenches. The 6’5”, 322 pound sophomore has started nine consecutive games at right guard for the RedHawks, dating back to the 2019 MAC championship season. The interior line also features left guard Pete Nank, who earned four starts across that 2019 campaign. Nank also stands 6’5”, as does the center Caleb Shaffer. Thus, the RedHawks’ five men in the trenches are all at least 6’5” and 300 pounds.

Shaffer is expected to transition to center to replace Godlevske. Of the five projected starting linemen, none have more starts as a RedHawk than the sophomore, who logged seven games in 2019 and three games in 2020 as a starting guard.

One other name to consider on the offensive line is David Redding, who owns the remainder of the starts on the team. He was inserted into the lineup four times in 2019 at guard. A member of the roster since 2017, Redding has seen action in 22 games as a RedHawk and is certain to be a reliable member of the rotation.

Key reserves on the line include a younger regiment of players. Center Andrew Todd, guard Reid Holskey, and tackle Ben Jackson are all either freshmen or sophomores. All three players stepped on the playing surface in 2020 and will serve as the next crop of depth for the line.

Replacing a talent like Doyle will be the primary focus for the line as it looks to generate another run to Detroit for the MAC Championship. The RedHawks’ offensive line will launch 2021 with a difficult matchup, as they face a potential AP Top 10 team in Cincinnati led by Nagurski watchlist pass rusher Myjai Sanders. The annual battle for the Victory Bell will serve as a solid benchmark to determine the status of this offensive line.