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Calm amid the storm -- that's been Jason Fox

Left tackle Jason Fox enters his senior season with 36 career starts. The rest of UM's offensive line (Orlando Franklin 14, AJ Trump 10 and Joel Figueroa 4) has 28 combined.

He's blocked for two head coaches, three position coaches, three offensive coordinators and four different starting quarterbacks in three seasons at the University of Miami.

To say Jason Fox has been through a lot since arriving from Fort Worth North Crowley High School in Texas would be an understatement. But the truth is, if there has been one constant for the Hurricanes over the past three up-and-down years -- one real good constant -- it's been No. 64.

Jason Fox has been around for some ugly football at Miami. But with 12 more starts, he'll match Richard Mercier for the most career starts by a Canes offensive lineman. Fox has started 36 games at left tackle (it would have been 37 if he hadn't gotten hurt at Virginia) and has been the one familiar, calming voice in Miami's offense three years running. And if not for all the losing, he would probably be a lot more recognized than he is today.

Despite being among the few players in the country entering their senior season with more than 30 starts, finding Fox on any Preseason All-American lists can be as challenging as playing Where's Waldo. Some magazines don't even have him on the ACC's Preseason First Team.

Fox (6-7, 310) isn't complaining. He'll be the first to tell you his experience of mediocrity with the Hurricanes isn't what he signed up for when former offensive line coach Art Kehoe convinced him to come to Miami instead of signing with Texas A&M or Oklahoma State. But eventually, somebody is going to have to take notice of what Fox has done at Miami. Because he hasn't just been just good, he could make some Canes history this season.

If he stays injury free yet again, he'll match Richard Mercier and Mike Sullivan for the most career starts ever by an offensive lineman (48). If the Canes make it to the ACC Championship and then a bowl game, he'll tie William Joseph for the most career starts ever by a Cane (50).

"That would mean a lot to me," Fox said. "When I was a freshman I actually added it up. I definitely set that as one of my goals and now we can do it."

But individual goals aren't really what Fox is about. What matters more to him is being one of the leaders to break UM out of its funk. Truth be told, Miami is beyond lucky Fox is around. Because even with him, their offensive line situation isn't pretty.

Beyond junior guards Orlando Franklin (14 career starts) and Joel Figueroa (4 starts), and senior center AJ Trump (10 career starts), offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has a group of college football virgins to break in this year. Senior Matt Pipho, penciled in as the starter at right tackle, saw his most action in four years last year when Fox went down against Virginia. But by the time Fox was back after Virginia Tech, Pipho was the fourth man on the offensive tackle rotation.

Jason Fox believes AJ Trump and Matt Pipho, expected to be two new full-time starters, will be able to handle the pressure of playing in the ACC The rest of UM's offensive line has about as much college football playing experience as I do. Redshirt sophomore Harland Gunn played sparingly against Charleston Southern, then went back to the scout team. Ditto for sophomore Tyler Horne. Redshirt freshman Ben Jones missed most of the season with an arm injury and began his first real college work this spring. The rest of the group? Freshmen. Tackle Jermaine Johnson and guard Brandon Washington come highly regarded and enrolled in January. But both were in prep school last year. Cory White, working at tackle, and Jared Wheeler, working at guard, are fresh out of high school.

It sounds daunting -- especially when you consider UM's first four opponents were all ranked among the Top 25 nationally for sacks last year. But Fox, somehow, has faith. When asked about his buddies Pipho and Trump, who have never had to be "the man," Fox exudes confidence.

"They've had playing experience, but it's different when you're out there all game long," Fox said. "They've been waiting for their opportunity and now they've got it. They're not going to take anything for granted. They're working hard."

But it's going to take more than hard work to protect quarterback Jacory Harris -- and Fox knows that. He's trimmed more fat off his body from the end of last season and improved his strength numbers. Among offensive linemen, his 455 pound squat ranks third and his 308-pound power clean is second.

And even if sports writers and magazines haven't noticed him, the NFL has. Among the seniors in the 2010 NFL Draft at tackle, he currently ranks 11th and projects to be between a fourth or fifth round pick.

Of course, that matters little to him in July. What he wants more than anything else is to leave this rocky place a little more sturdy than when he got here.

"I know a lot of younger guys look up to me," Fox said. "I've played so much here and started so many games. I welcome that role. I want that role. I think I try to lead by example and when the time comes I have to speak up. The great thing about us is we don't have guys that are scared to do that. I think this senior class gives us something we haven't had the last couple years."

No Jason, this team has always had it. It's just been hard for some people to spot you amid the mess.

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