Part three of a four-part series on UM’s offensive personnel heading into the start of camp on Saturday:
Offensive line is the area that Mark Richt identified as farthest away from national championship caliber when he took the job.
And questions remain with this group, with Kc McDermott and Trevor Darling graduating, Tyree St. Louis moving from right tackle to left tackle, Navaughn Donaldson adjusting to his move from guard to tackle, and some degree of uncertainty at guard.
Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said by phone last week that he feels “good about that group” that closed spring as the starters — St. Louis and Donaldson at tackle, Tyler Gauthier at center and Jahair Jones and Hayden Mahoney at guard.
“Those five guys have been coming on strong,” Brown said. “Tackle is one of the biggest areas of concern [but] Tyree has been adjusting well to left tackle. With Navaughn, it’s a work in progress. He’s an upgrade over what was there before. He’s getting in better shape” so he can be effective against speed rushers that he will need to block at right tackle.
UM shifted Donaldson to right tackle after George Brown, among others, were beaten for a bunch of sacks early in spring.
A No. 3 tackle must emerge among Brown (one of the biggest disappointments of the spring in my view), Kai-Leon Herbert (doesn’t appear ready for a major role), freshman John Campbell and others.
But Jones and Mahoney will need to hold off several challengers, including former Tennessee Volunteers player Venzell Boulware, who enrolled last month, Corey Gaynor and Delone Scaife.
Mahoney played very well in starts against Syracuse and North Carolina last year and came on strong during the second half of spring practice. Jones held down a starting guard job throughout spring practice. He hasn’t started a game in three years, playing primarily special teams last year.
But Boulware looms as a legitimate challenger to both.
Competing for significant playing time “is why we brought him in,” Brown said of Boulware. “We had workouts [last week], and Boulware looks really good. He’s a big physical guy; doesn’t talk a whole lot. He has the experience of big time football.”
I asked Brown which of the young offensive linemen — a group including Scaife, Gaynor, Brown, Campbell, Herbert and Zaon’tae Hillery — has looked the best.
“Of the young guys, Scaife looks really good,” Brown said of the freshman guard from Miami Southridge. “John Campbell looks really good. John has tackle ability. I feel really good about what he can do in the future. Coming in early is a huge help [for both of them].”
Former UM running back Joe Yearby has resurfaced. He signed Wednesday with the Steve Spurrier-coached Orlando team with the Alliance of American Football, per former UM writer Peter Ariz, who works with Yearby’s new agent, Malki Kawa.
Yearby couldn’t find a job in football for more than a year after turning pro after his junior season in 2016. He stands to make $250,000 over the next three years in his new gig.
Former UM tight end Standish Dobard also signed with the Orlando team.
▪ Explaining why UM’s emphasis on recruiting remains South Florida, UM director of player personnel Matt Doherty told WQAM’s Joe Rose: “These kids are a cut above elsewhere in terms of competition and toughness. That’s going to be the identity of the roster for this head coach. We are going to look for what we want here and go outside if we can’t find it.
“The identity of this team is going to be rooted in the geography here. [Defensive coordinator Manny] Diaz is very adamant he wants to build his unit and his identity around South Florida talent. South Florida produces fast, violent talent. The odds are in your favor if you load your team with fast, hungry Florida kids.”
▪ ABC assigned its No. 2 college announcing team, Sean McDonough and Todd Blackledge, to the Sunday night UM-LSU opener on Sept. 2. McDonough and Joe Tessitore essentially switched jobs this year, with Tessitore becoming the voice of ESPN’s Monday Night Football and McDonough returning to the college football booth.
ESPN/ABC assigned its lead team (Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit) to the Sept. 1 Alabama-Louisville game instead of the Miami game.