Miami Hurricanes could move Navaughn Donaldson to right tackle. What would that mean for the OL?

Miami offensive line coach Stacy Searels talks to his group, including Navaughn Donaldson (55), during UM’s loss to Pittsburgh in 2017. (Miami Herald)

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CORAL GABLES — Stacy Searels runs hot anyway, but the play of his offensive line in last Saturday’s scrimmage burned him up.

Searels’ boss, Mark Richt, didn’t mind sharing their frustration over an inability to get the job done, particularly at right tackle. After watching defensive ends roast his tackles time after time, Searels shuffled the deck. He sent senior center Tyler Gauthier to the right side.

Tuesday, Gauthier was back in the middle, and Searels pulled an ace from the sleeve of his trademark gray crewneck sweatshirt: right guard Navaughn Donaldson. A freshman All-American last year, Donaldson has potential as big as his frame (6-foot-6, 350 pounds). Putting him at right tackle long-term would seal the edge, but would leave a crater at right guard.

Is he a serious candidate?

“You think we’ll come out here and practice it and not be serious about it?” Searels said, prickly as usual. “If he’s at tackle, it’s serious. It’s serious. … It’s based on [the fact that] we want to protect our quarterback. And we are going to put the best five out there to protect our quarterback.”

The best five, as Miami prepares for Saturday’s spring game (6 p.m., Hard Rock Stadium, no TV, 560 WQAM radio), includes senior left tackle Tyree St. Louis. “Very good,” Searels said. He also trusts Gauthier, who performed well at right tackle and has game experience at left guard. Donaldson, still reshaping his body, looks like a future star.

He’s also encouraged by redshirt senior Jahair Jones, who has to this point held off other challengers at left guard.

“He’s doing a good job,” Searels said. “He’s stepping up. His play is starting to reflect his ability. He’s got to continue to get better, but he’s done a good job.”

Then there’s right tackle.

“Most of the time I’ve got two tackles but who’s the third?” Searels said, referring to both sides of the line. “Right now, we’ve got one tackle (St. Louis) and who’s the second?”

It doesn’t appear to be redshirt junior George Brown Jr., the LSU transfer who spent the first nine practices as the first-teamer. “We’re trying to get a little better” at that spot, Searels said. He likes his youngsters — sophomore Kai-Leon Herbert, redshirt freshman Zalon’tae Hillery and true freshman John Campbell — but none are ready for a starting job. “They’re going to be really good,” he said. “But they’ve got to grow up quickly.” True freshman Delone Scaife, who has taken every snap this spring at second-team left guard, is “a talented young man,” Searels said, and could play anywhere on the line, but he, too, is brand-new to college ball.

Three players could provide the answer.

The first is Tennessee grad transfer guard Venzell Boulware, who plans to arrive this summer and reportedly has two years of eligibility remaining. Boulware started four games for the Volunteers the last two years combined and was, according to reports from Rocky Top, in the mix to start at left guard last fall camp. He fell out of favor by October. According to Pro Football Focus’ grading system (as reported by 247Sports), Boulware’s grade in the 90 snaps he played was 48.2, which is subpar.

At worst, he will compete for playing time at one of the guard spots — and if he impresses, could make Donaldson a fixture at right tackle.

The same could be said for Hayden Mahoney, a redshirt junior who filled in at both guard spots last year and has practice experience at center. He took Donaldson’s spot at right guard at Tuesday’s practice. “He’s consistently graded high, so why not give him a chance?” Searels said.

Additionally, sophomore Corey Gaynor is “right there in the mix” at center and both guard spots, according to Searels. If Gauthier winds up at right tackle — which wouldn’t be out of the question — perhaps Gaynor or Mahoney could be the center.

“Gauthier did an outstanding job” at right tackle in last Saturday’s scrimmage, Searels said. “Once we put him in there, we took it down and we scored, we did a good job.”

Miami has three players it clearly trusts. A few more are showing encouraging signs. With less than five months before the season-opener against LSU (7:30 p.m. Sept. 2, ABC), the Hurricanes’ best five — and the configuration they’ll be in — is anyone’s guess.

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