Of the 16 offensive linemen who will be on scholarship this fall, position coach Stacy Searels estimated he “might have nine or 10” he’d feel comfortable putting in a game.
“That’s what we should have at Miami,” he said.
That would be a welcome sight, since that number has hovered around six or seven the last few years.
One who will be in the rotation, no doubt: Navaughn Donaldson.
Last week, Mark Richt told the story of how Donaldson, during one of his first practice reps as a Hurricane, made easy work of a power running play. The freshman right tackle plowed into a three-technique defensive tackle — “washed it all the way down,” in Richt’s words — and jumped ahead to eat up a linebacker.
Searels had a feeling he could do that, and more.
“Now we’ve got to get him to do that on a consistent basis,” he said. “He comes off the other day and knocks the crap out of a linebacker. It was the wrong linebacker. But he smacked him. Put him on the ground. I went to him and I said, ‘That’s an outstanding job. Now, trust that somebody else is going to block him. You block your guy.’
“That’s sort of where we’re at with him at times. I tell these guys, if you’re not sure what to do, go hit somebody and hit him hard. We’ll teach him which way to go.”
They have time. Donaldson, listed at 6-foot-6 and 350 pounds, already looks a lot better than he did in January; one teammate estimated he lost 20 pounds.
By August, he could look a starting right tackle.
“He has really picked up things quickly. He’s a very intelligent young man,” Searels said. “The thing we’ve got to do is get him in better shape, and boy, he’s worked his tail off in this offseason program and done a good job.”
Elsewhere up front, Searels continues to try players in new places.
Seniors Trevor Darling and Kc McDermott opened the spring as the left and right guards, but were tackles earlier in their careers. Junior Tyler Gauthier is the center with senior Nick Linder out for the spring, but he played well at left guard last November and December. Junior Tyree St. Louis opened spring as the left tackle; LSU transfer George Brown, a sophomore, took first-team reps there Tuesday, the fourth practice of the spring.
In the last two years, Darling started 22 games at left tackle, and McDermott has 15 starts at left guard, four at left tackle and two at right tackle. Last year, St. Louis started eight times at right tackle, and Gauthier four times at left guard. Brown hasn’t played in college.
Aside from those five and Donaldson, injured seniors Nick Linder (center) and Sunny Odogwu (right tackle) figure to be in the mix. Searels said he “hopes” Linder (shoulder) and Odogwu (leg) will be able to practice this spring.
“We’re not sure exactly where the starting five is,” Searels said. “We know we’ve got some guys who are capable, but we’ve got to get them in the right spots.”
Other thoughts from Searels on …
Gauthier: “Tyler’s a strong kid. Sometimes he needs to be more assertive. He’s done a good job in there at center but he also played really well at guard last year. I like the way Tyler’s worked.”
Brown: “George is showing some good things. Having these young kids that can play just adds depth and competition.”
Freshman Zach Dykstra: “He’s probably going to be an inside [guard or center] guy. Zach’s working hard. He’s young. He should still be in high school right now. He’s working hard.”