ST. LOUIS -- The University of Miami announced Tuesday afternoon that offensive lineman Joel Figueroa had been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, making him eligible to play this coming season for new coach Al Golden.
The 6-6, 323-pound former North Miami High standout, who was recruited by Larry Coker, underwent back surgery in December after playing through the first four weeks of the season last year and making two starts at right tackle. He has played in 36 games in his career, making four starts as a sophomore in 2008, nine as a junior in 2009 (when he graded out at 89 percent at right guard) and two a season ago. But most of his time has been marred by injuries (shoulder, back, etc.)
Figueroa didn't participate in spring practice because he was waiting on the NCAA to grant him a sixth year, but has worked out and stayed in shape.
The issue here isn't whether Figueroa can help the team. If he's at full health, there's little doubt he can play in the rotation at guard and contribute. The issues here for me are: Is Figueroa really, really healthy and whose spot on the 85-man roster is he taking away from someone else?
Two years ago, defensive end Eric Moncur was granted a sixth year of eligibility. But he never really got back to full health and was out-shined by younger players at the same position.
Offensive line is a position the Hurricanes are pretty stacked at. Figueroa made it painfully clear last year he can't play tackle, just isn't fast enough. So if he moves back inside, he'll be in the mix with Brandon Washington, Harland Gunn, Brandon Linder, Jared Wheeler and Shane McDermott. Where the Canes honestly need help is at tackle, where Jermaine Johnson, Ben Jones and Malcolm Bunche still have a lot to prove.
Anyway, here's to hoping Figueroa really is healthy and ready to contribute.