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Alex Mirabal Q&A: New Players, Importance of Cross-Training and More



LifeWallet Sports interviewed Miami Hurricanes assistant head coach and offensive line coach Alex Mirabal at UM’s media day on Monday and discussed some of Miami’s newest offensive linemen and the importance for the unit to cross-train at different positions, among other topics.

Here are some lightly edited highlights from the conversation.

Chaney: A lot of new faces on the offensive line … How would you assess the overall talent level of your group?

Mirabal: We have eight new faces. The talent level I think is really good, but again, what does that talent level do when it goes against someone, so that’s the ultimate test, right? So we’ll find out that. The talent is good, but to me, it’s their work ethic. To me, that’s more important. [Francis] Mauigoa, Samson [Okunlola], five-star whatever. They got a five-star work ethic. To me, that’s what makes them different. That’s what makes those guys special. Matt Lee, I don’t even know how many stars he didn’t have coming out of high school, but that’s a five-star worker. Same with Javion [Cohen]. Same with Jalen Rivers. Same with Anez Cooper. That’s what makes them different and special.”

Chaney: [With] a few players graduating and such, who do you look towards as leaders [on the offensive line]?

Mirabal: Matt Lee. Matt Lee, Anez Cooper and Jalen Rivers are the leaders of our offensive line room, specifically Matt Lee, which is great because that’s what you need to do. Your center’s got to be the leader of your unit because he’s the one that calls out the front, makes the line-of-scrimmage calls. So yeah, he’s our leader.”

Chaney: What impresses you, both as a leader and as a player, about Matt Lee?

Mirabal: Toughness, urgency. He’s an urgent guy … He’s an edge-of-the-seat kind of guy. That’s what impresses me about him.

Chaney: And then about your freshman in Samson [and] Francis?

Mirabal: We’ve got Francis, obviously right now he’s going out with the starting group at right tackle. Samson, right now, he’s our next guy in the game, so he’s doing a great job. And then we’re really excited about Tommy Kinsler. Tommy was not here for spring football because he went to a Catholic school, and they couldn’t graduate early, but he’s here and he’s been doing a lot of great things since he got here in mid-June. He’s a big, 6-foot-6, 340-something pound guy who can move and [is] flexible and powerful, so I’m really excited about him as well.

Chaney: And then I also wanted to ask about Frankie [Tinilau].

Mirabal: Frankie’s much [in] the same boat as Tommy was, got here a little bit later than Tommy, but again, someone who cannot come in the [spring] and got here and is working his tail off. We’ll be excited to see what he does during fall camp.

Chaney: And I understand one of the principles of your coaching and such is cross-training guys.

Mirabal: Yeah. They all cross-train.

Chaney: Is that something that carries over into the fall, or is that more of something that’s [worked on in the spring]?”

Mirabal: Here’s the deal. If you’re a starter, then not so much. But if you’re not a starter, you better cross-train because, if somebody gets hurt, the key is, I need to get the next-best guy in the game. I’m not gonna put the second right guard in the game if our second left tackle is better than he is. So, that’s why you continue to cross-train … When we start the season and we start practice tomorrow, the guys who we feel are the best five are the guys that are going out there. If I thought our second right tackle was one of our best five, his butt wouldn’t be there. He’d be somewhere else. And I keep telling people, our starting left tackle was a left tackle in high school. Our starting left guard was a left tackle in high school. Our starting right guard was a left tackle in high school. Our starting right tackle was a left tackle in high school. But it’s our job to put those five guys in the best possible spot, so that’s what we do.

Chaney: So the main importance for you with cross-training is just so you could literally put the five best guys [on the field]?

Mirabal: And also for their future because if, for instance, Jalen Rivers plays left tackle for us. If he gets drafted by the Miami Dolphins tomorrow, the Miami Dolphins are not gonna put him at left tackle because they got Terron Armstead there. They may tell him to play somewhere else, which is exactly what they did when they drafted Penei Sewell when he got drafted by the Detroit Lions … Yeah, it helps the University of Miami right now, but it also helps them in the future because you never know where you’re gonna go play, so that’s why we do it.”

Chaney: I also wanted to ask about Matthew McCoy.

Mirabal: So Matt’s a guy who last year was banged up, so he had to have surgery, but he’s back. He’s 100% full-go now, and he looks great. Matt’s almost 6-foot-6. Right now, Matt weighs 320-some-odd pounds. [McCoy] did not play [offensive line] until July of his senior year of high school. So he’s new to it, but he’s a former basketball kid, former tight end, so he’s got good feet. We expect a lot out of him. He’ll go out tomorrow and play some right tackle for us, but he’s a guy that could play right, play left. I’m really excited about him. I know a lot of people don’t talk about him because he got hurt last year so he was kind of out of people’s minds a little bit, but not ours. We knew that, ‘Man when we get him, we’re gonna have something there.’”

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