Barry Jackson

Miami Hurricanes football roster gets a boost at area in need of one

New UM offensive tackle Navaughn Donaldson
New UM offensive tackle Navaughn Donaldson

A six-pack of Canes notes:

▪ If UM receivers coach Ron Dugans had particular reason to feel great about Miami’s recruiting class in the wake of National Signing Day, offensive line coach Stacy Searels is assuredly right there with him.

UM netted two four-star offensive tackles in Miami Central’s Navaughn Donaldson and Plantation American Heritage’s Kai-Leon Herbert, two quality out-of-state prospects in Georgia-based Zalon’tae Hillery and Iowa-based Zach Dykstra and promising Marjory Stoneman Douglas High center Corey Gaynor.

“We needed numbers in this class,” Searels said. “I really like that we got three local kids … I think all three of those kids have qualities that will help the offensive line get better. [Along with Dykstra and Hillery] … each one of them brings qualities we think will help the offensive line.”

Donaldson and Herbert will compete immediately at tackle with Trevor Darling and Kc McDermott (who both could also play guard), Sonny Odogwu and Tyree St. Louis.

Searels expects “fighting, scratching and clawing” for starting jobs.

Seniors Darling, Nick Linder (the incumbent starting center) and McDermott “understand what’s expected. They’ll feel pressure to step their game up. We all want to be better than we were last year.”

▪ On UM’s ability to flip Herbert from Michigan, Searels said: “We were fortunate being close. I got to see him play three times this year. Spring game, a game early in the season against Don Bosco and the playoff game. We always stayed in contact, even when he was committed to other people. Tried to build a relationship, built a relationship better with the family toward the end of the recruiting process. It worked out really well....

“It gave us a big boost. To get such a quality lineman that we weren’t sure we were going to be able to get, it was a position of need. He’s local. I know a lot about him, really familiar with him. I think he can come in and help us quickly.”

Searels said: “I’ve always envisioned him being an offensive tackle. Very athletic young man, been coached very well over there at American Heritage. … I’ve enjoyed watching him progress. He’s gotten better every time I’ve watched him since spring ball.”

And what about Donaldson?

“I’ve told all these kids to get ready to fight for a starting job. If you sit and wait, you’re getting passed by. It’s been made real clear to him. I expect him to be ready to play.

“I can’t wait to get my hands on him this spring and really work with him. … Get a grasp of our system, our scheme, our technique. Physically, he’s got all the tools you’re looking for. It’ll be a process. Hopefully by the time that first game rolls around, he’ll be ready to play.”

▪  Searels said Gaynor will play in “the interior, a center or guard. I think that kid’s toughness, attitude, demeanor is awesome. I love the kid. He’s going to be a great addition to our room.”

Gaynor would be a top contender to be Linder’s successor at center in a year or two.

▪  Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz calls Lake Worth defensive end Jonathan Garvin the sleeper in UM’s class because of what "he did as a senior, terrorizing Palm Beach County" with a reported 25 sacks. 

▪  Rumph is aware of a published report that UF told Columbus High/UF-bound corner Christopher Henderson not to go to UM because Rumph has been coaching defensive backs only a year at the college level.

“I know who I am,” Rumph said. “I know who I covered in my career and what I’ve done.”

▪  After initially believing Gus Edwards might change his mind and stay at UM, Canes coaches are now pessimistic, though UM won’t publicly rule it out and one UM official said hope will remain alive until he actually leaves.