Big Man with a Big Task
It's no secret that the Miami Hurricanes 2016 season could hinge on the play of the offensive line.
Defensive improvement across the board is expected in a new scheme, and Brad Kaaya has a plethora of weapons to work with on O.
But all of that will be for naught, if UM's road graders are sub par.
Enter Stacy Searels, the Hurricanes new Offensive Line Coach.
Searels comes to the 'Canes after spending last season with the Virginia Tech Hokies.
He's also had successful stops with Texas, Georgia (2007-10 under Head Coach Mark Richt), and LSU among others, and was an 1st Team All-American as a player at Auburn (where he once blocked for Bo Jackson).
So what does he bring to the table, besides outstanding experience?
It's apparent he stresses fundamentals, technique, a hands on approach, and honesty:
He'll take over for Art Kehoe, a man who was a living legend at Miami, but who's voice did not seem to be getting through last season (although many, many other factors such as strength and conditioning, poor play calling, etc could be blamed for the line play as well).
When discussing what he inherits in Coral Gables, Searels is straight forward, as expected.
OLine coach Stacy Searels said his unit "has days where they’re really, really good, and there’s some days we’ve been really, really bad.— Jason Mizrachi (@JasonMizrachi) April 1, 2016
He's also a man who Richt has complete and total faith and respect for to do the job.
New Miami coach Mark Richt says he has "all the faith and confidence" in offensive line coach Stacy Searels, the former #Hokies line coach.— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) July 21, 2016
And that is more important than you might think.
It allows Richt to focus his undivided attention to coaching Kaaya and the QB's as well as game planning, play calling, and strategy.
It's clear that when it comes to the Big Fellas, Searels is going to be the man counted on to get through to them.
Can he make a difference in 2016 and beyond?
Richt and Miami are counting on it.
What to watch for:
Searels two biggest projects right now are LT Trevor Darling, and G/T Kc McDermott.
Both came to the Hurricanes as highly touted recruits, and both are very talented, but have had more than their share of ups and downs.
UM's offense needs Darling to be a rock, plain and simple.
They have no better option right now to protect Kaaya's blind side.
McDermott has loads of ability, but hasn't been consistently healthy in his career with the 'Canes thus far.
He'll be competing with Sunny Odogwu (who has been utterly disastrous at times) and perhaps Bar Milo for the starting RT position. But he also has experience inside.
The times he's seen the field at T, his foot work has been choppy and he's been beat by more athletic players.
If Searels can get his technique to improve, McDermott can still be a solid T. Stay tuned.
Speaking of Odogwu, if he is the best option, Searels really needs to clean him up. He's a physically gifted player, but his concentration and technique are both questionable at best.
I really feel good about G Danny Isidora (whom Searels praised in the Spring) and C Nick Linder (if 100%).
Both have proven to be good players.
But it will also be up to Searels to take them to another level.
Another key question, will be how UM rotates this unit?
The previous staff liked to play a lot of players. And while that may help with fatigue, I believe it hurt the group in terms of cohesion.
I expect the current regime to play the 5 best more often that not. And I also believe that group will be improved enough conditioning wise to hold up in late game situations.
Off the field, Searels has taken a very active role in recruiting.
Miami OL coach Stacy Searels at American Heritage spring scrimmage. You already know Tedarrell Slaton and Kai-Leon Herbert are out here.— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) May 24, 2016
Miami coaches Ron Dugans & Stacy Searels were at Frederica Academy in St. Simons Island, Ga. this week. 2019 WR Jashawn Sheffield is target— Peter Ariz (@PeterAriz) May 20, 2016
Stacy Searels Takes the Next Step With Navarre OL Nick Brahms ($) https://t.co/RTCIwsWw9w— InsideTheU.com (@InsideTheU) May 11, 2016
This is something else that can only help the staff and the program.
In the interim though, his biggest contributions need to be with the current players, their development, and their on field performance.
The biggest splash names when Richt compiled his staff were arguably D Line Coach Craig Kuligowski and RB's Coach/Co Offensive Coordinator Thomas Brown.
No doubt, both were big time hires and will be key figures to the Hurricanes' success.
But Searels faces the unenviable task of coaching the unit with the most need for improvement on the team.
The good news is, he has the fill confidence of his boss, and enough experience to know he can get the job done.
He also inherits a group of guys, that while underachieving thus far, do not lack talent.
So how much can he improve Miami's offensive line in 2016?
I would not expect the dominance of the 01' Hurricanes just yet. There are no Bryant McKinnie's or Joaquin Gonzalez's on this team.
But there is also far too much to work with for Kaaya to get knocked from games on 2 man rushes.
And the running game should also be far more consistent this season as well.
Getting the big uglies back to National Championship caliber levels is going to take a year or two at least.
But significant improvement from this group. could be enough for the program's first ACC Coastal Division Championship.
And that would be a nice step forward for the team, and feather in the cap for Searels.
Stay tuned Miami fans.