October 29, 2001
The Dynamic Duo
by Keith Weiland
BLAM! POW! SPLAT!
These aren’t the sounds of Batman and Robin fighting crime in Gotham City. These are the sounds of Bryant McKinnie and Joaquin Gonzalez, Miami’s behemoth tackles, fighting defensive linemen and linebackers and throwing them into the turf.
Holy NFL Specimen, Batman!
First, McKinnie looks like a prototypical left tackle. His size separates him, literally, head and shoulders above the rest of the lineman available in the 2002 NFL Draft. "Big Mac," a name McKinnie acquired after arriving in Miami following two seasons of junior college football, checks in at 6’9" and tips the scales at 335 pounds. His wingspan has been reported anywhere between 90 and 96 inches.
He’s fast for a big man, too. McKinnie finishes 40 yards in just 5.1 seconds, but more impressive is his quick first step. He lacks some technical refinery, but that’s because McKinnie is playing in just his sixth full season (fourth on the O-line) of football since ditching the bass drum in his high school marching band.
In fact, McKinnie had a hard time even getting involved in football. He was deemed too heavy as a kid to play the game by Pop Warner league rules. Instead of football, McKinnie participated in other activities, such as wrestling, basketball, and step aerobics, the latter of which helped him develop his impressive footwork. As far as agility goes for big men, McKinnie, as an NFL offensive tackle, may be what David Robinson is as an NBA center for the San Antonio Spurs.
And don’t forget The Streak. McKinnie has never allowed a sack. Ever.
"He’s a phenom," said Miami’s Head Coach Larry Coker.
Miami offensive line coach Art Kehoe added, "We’ve been playing with a guy that has shut out the world for two years."
To exploit his NFL potential as the next Orlando Pace or Jonathan Ogden, McKinnie will need to keep learning the little tricks of his trade, things acquired over a period of time that he may have missed while banging on the drums. With his height and arm length, McKinnie can use his leverage to wear down opponents, but he needs to stay low in his blocking stance to be more explosive and dominate at the next level. While he’s impossible to get around on passing downs, his size is underutilized on rushing downs.
McKinnie’s proven his almost prodigious prowess against some of the top college defensive lineman out there. He first made a name for himself against Florida State last year, neutralizing Seminoles’ defensive end – and Green Bay’s tenth overall pick in the 2001 draft – Jamal Reynolds. Reynolds entered the game with hype of being the best sackmaster on the college level. Not only did McKinnie shut him out for zero sacks, but he also manhandled him into only one assisted tackle.
"Big Mac completely stopped him," Gonzalez said.
In last year’s Sugar Bowl, he also mellowed Florida’s defensive monsters, Alex Brown, a top prospect in his own right for the 2002 draft, and Gerard Warren, who was taken third overall last April by the Browns. He was able to do so in part because of his intelligence and dedication to film study.
But, if McKinnie is the Big Mac, then teammate Joaquin Gonzalez is the Super Size Fries.
Gonzalez is the four-year starter on the opposite side of the line from McKinnie. While ESPN’s Mel Kiper rates Big Mac as the #1 tackle prospect, he didn’t leave Gonzalez too far behind at #4. Gonzalez is big in his own right at 6’5" and almost 300 pounds.
For as much credit as McKinnie receives for his intelligence, Gonzalez is even smarter. After scoring a 1320 on his SATs, Gonzalez turned down several academic scholarship offers at Ivy League schools, including Harvard, to stay at home in Miami with his Hurricanes. He already owns an undergraduate degree and is pursuing his MBA in the business school.
He’s not a bad football player, either. Gonzalez was the 1998 Rookie of the Year in the Big East conference, the first time the honor was ever bestowed on an offensive lineman. He’s a terrific pass defender who is also a strong finisher. Compared to McKinnie, Gonzalez is far more polished in his blocking skills. He is moving steadily up draft boards, and he should know who’s cutting his NFL checks by the end of the first day of the draft, if not by the end of the first round.
Gonzalez has his own version of The Streak, too. No, not the zero sack streak. He’s given up just two sacks (most recently to Brown in the Sugar Bowl), which is almost as impressive. Gonzalez’s streak is that he has started every single game for Miami since redshirting his first year, establishing himself in the process as tough and reliable.
Together, McKinnie and Gonzalez lead the best line in the country, nicknamed by the Hurricane faithful as "Kehoe’s Krushers", in deference to their offensive line coach of 21 years. They paved the way for a 1,000-yard rusher last season in James Jackson, and they keep quarterback Ken Dorsey atop the list of Heisman hopefuls. Dorsey has all the time he wants to pass the ball with the protection they provide, and the running attack is averaging about 200 yards a game this season.
Butch Davis, who left the Hurricanes for a job with the Cleveland Browns — allegedly snubbing Houston’s Bob McNair in the process — probably wishes he could’ve taken this superhero tandem with him. The irony present if one or both of them line up next season in Cleveland wearing Houston’s Liberty White jerseys and Steel Blue pants would be sweet revenge for McNair and the Texans.
Keith Weiland sincerely apologizes to Burger King for not calling Gonzalez the Whopper next to McKinnie’s Big Mac. Joaquin Gonzalez Home