In this installment of the Recruit Notebook, we meet the literal and figurative biggest player in Miami’s 2017 recruiting class: OL Navaughn Donaldson.
A mountain of a man at 6’6” 340lbs, Donaldson has used his size, and surprising athleticism, to great success throughout his HS career. A 3-time State Champion at Miami (FL) Central, Donaldson routinely opened holes and cleared the way for several FBS players.
Donaldson is one of 10 early enrollees for Miami, graduating HS in December and hitting Coral Gables in January. Getting him on campus was huge for Miami; several teams tried to make late runs at flipping the talented OL, but he stuck with Miami, and gives the Canes the kind of OL needed to upgrade the position group and make strides on the field.
A 3-time State Champion and Under Armour All-American, Donaldson is a winner who knows what it takes to be successful. He’ll bring that knowledge, and some serious skills, to Coral Gables and a football field near you.
Donaldson is the highest rated player in Miami’s recruiting class. If that doesn’t tell you he’s valuable, I don’t know what will.
On the 247sports composite, Donaldson is a 4-star prospect, the #12 OT in this class, #13 in the State of Florida, and #71 recruit overall. Donaldson has great size at 6’6” 340lbs, although he could reshape his body a bit in college. But his skill is undeniable, as evidenced by his recruiting ranking (and, yanno, being an Under Armour All-American isn’t too shabby, either).
Donaldson picked Miami over 15 other offers, including Florida, Florida State, North Carolina, and Southern Cal.
Donaldson as a player
I don’t profess to be a guru on OL play, but I will share a quick story about Donaldson. At the 2016 South Florida Express 7v7 tryouts — a premier local recruiting even in SoFAL — Donaldson showed up. Unlike other OL who show up for the event, do a couple recruiting interviews, and generally hang out, Donaldson strapped on his cleats and took the field.
At Tight End.
And, while it may be hard to believe, Donaldson was a PROBLEM for LBs to cover, running the option route to perfection and making several tough catches on the day.
It’s not really indicative of his OL play, but when you have a man that big moving the way I saw him move and making the catches I saw him make, it’s something you remember.
For more on Donaldson as an OL, here is an eval from a HSFB coach:
Donaldson shows obvious natural athleticism to be 6'6 320 and run downfield the way he does, at times outrunning DB's and the ball carrier. He has the long arms and legs you want to an OT to have. He can keep the Defensive Ends off him and out of his face. You can see the amazing upside that a kid like him has. I saw his best play around 5:50 on the tape where he actually locks in, drives, and pancakes someone. Does a good job in space of finding someone to block which a lot of high school linemen struggle with.
The downside is, look on the first clip how he gets in his stance. That's horrible fundamentals and I would assume it comes from bad hips. He looks really tight in the hips, can't get down in a squat at all, and punches from 6'6 instead of playing low. He does a lot of leaning and pulling guys in, for his little twist and throw move that's holding in college and the NFL. He has limited leg drive once he makes contact, instead leaning and falling on a guy. The scheme Central runs is fairly basic and with limited pass pro experience he has a lot of catching up to do.
Donaldson is the exact kind of player Miami needs to take steps towards greatness. The OL was better at times last year, but still lacking talent, size, and production. Donaldson immediately addresses all those areas in a big way.
Chances for a redshirt: 0/10
I don’t see any way — short of injury — that Donaldson doesn’t play a major role in 2017. At a minimum, he should be in the 2 deep at either Guard or RT. At best, he starts at one of those spots.
Miami isn’t afraid to play freshmen if they prove themselves worthy, and I anticipate Donaldson doing just that.
That’s it for this installment of the Recruit Notebook.