Stacy Searels was informally introduced as “Stacy SEAR-els’’ — as in the famous department store — before taking questions Saturday after the University of Miami’s practice.
“Girls, squirrels and Searels,’’ the Hurricanes’ new offensive line coach corrected in his Georgia twang. “Searels.’’
A couple minutes later, the coach described himself as “surly,’’ which sounds a lot like Searels, as he gushed about first-team right tackle Sunny Odogwu when told that Odogwu occasionally unleashed his frustration on opponents after the whistle sounded.
“I would rather say ‘Whoa’ than ‘Go,’ ” Searels said, explaining that the 6-8, 325-pound redshirt junior from Nigeria “has the best attitude of anybody I’ve ever been around.
“I would rather somebody have some juice and energy than being a knot on the log — a bump on the log that just sits there and doesn’t do anything. It’s very refreshing.”
Four of UM’s five first-team O-linemen spoke Saturday, all enthusiastic about Searels, 51, a 25-year veteran who coached the past two seasons at Virginia Tech and before that at Texas, Georgia, LSU, Cincinnati and Appalachian State. He was an All-American at Auburn who blocked for Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson in 1985 before becoming a fourth-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers.
“Great guy, man,’’ Odogwu said. “Great coach. Very intelligent, very savvy, always trying to learn, too, like us. He brings the energy. There are no days off with him.”
Searels is eager to help his linemen take their game up a few notches in protecting quarterback Brad Kaaya — even if they apparently got manhandled by the defense on the third day of camp.
The first-team line, left to right: 6-4, 320-pound junior tackle Trevor Darling; 6-7, 308-pound junior guard Kc McDermott; 6-3, 305-pound junior center Nick Linder; 6-4, 305-pound senior guard Danny Isidora; and Odogwu.
Behind them, said Darling, for now: 6-6, 300-pound redshirt freshman Bar Milo; 6-5, 295-pound redshirt freshman Hayden Mahoney; 6-5, 305-pound senior Alex Gall; 6-5, 300-pound sophomore Tyler Gauthier; 6-4, 315-pound redshirt sophomore Jahair Jones; and 6-5, 305-pound sophomore Tyree St. Louis.
“The defense kicked our butts [Saturday],’’ said McDermott, echoing what coach Mark Richt said minutes before. “Everybody better watch out for that defense because that’s going to be one of the top five defenses in the country this year, and it’s great for us to be able to practice against them.’’
Said Richt of the first day in shoulder pads: “The defense definitely won the day. They looked like they were more excited about playing football today. It started well for them, and it just kept going. Overall, the defense looked like a more physically tough team. …’’
When asked if he would like to see his defense always dominate in practice, Richt, who oversees the offense and quarterbacks, said: “I would be sick if the offense won every day. … If at least one side of the ball is getting after it, sooner or later the other side of the ball is going to rise.”
Last year’s young O-line is this year’s experienced one — minus not only unneeded body fat while maintaining muscle mass and becoming fitter, but also the injuries that made it resemble a MASH unit at times.
“One thing that no one realizes is that a lot of those guys were playing with injuries,’’ Kaaya said. “Guys had torn MCLs, torn meniscuses. …Those guys were laying it out on the line for me.
“Sunny played a game with a torn MCL, Danny had a torn knee, Nick had both of his shoulders hurt and played the entire Florida State game with whiplash — basically he couldn’t move his neck.’’
Linder, all healed after shoulder surgery, said he’s ready to go.
“I understand where [Kaaya is] coming from,’’ he said.
“We’re all brothers. …You don’t really pay attention to that stuff. You just have to deal with your own pain. It’s a physical game.’’
Last year, the Canes were ranked 33rd nationally in sacks allowed (19 total), 107th of 127 teams in third-down conversions, 84th in red-zone offense, 117th in rushing and 29th in passing.
Odogwu, down to 13-percent body fat, believes Kaaya will rise to new heights.
“Some plays he makes out there I just look at him and go crazy,’’ he said.
This year, said the upbeat Nigerian, “is a new era.’’