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Will Incoming Talent Translate to Success on the Offensive line?

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With the addition of three four star freshmen on the offensive line, Miami’s newcomers will play a large role on the team next season.

Navaughn Donaldson listens to coach Stacy Searels at Miami Spring practice.
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After Miami’s loss to North Carolina at home last season things began to turn in a downward spiral.

While the defense became a steady hand for the ‘Canes last season, Miami failed to score consistently while contending for the ACC Coastal division. The running game was immobile at times, and on many plays so was Brad Kaaya.

Down 7 with under two minutes left against UNC, Miami had a chance to tie the game with a touchdown. But on a first and ten at the start of the potential game-winning drive, one play embodied the team’s struggle.

Fans immediately jumped to the criticism of Kaaya’s immobility and Richt’s play calling as reason for the loss at home; but the reality of the situation was a factor Miami fans feared from the opening kickoff of 2016 -- the offensive line seemed in over their heads.

Stacy Searels spoke to the struggles by simply saying “did you watch the game?” after the poor performance and final play, and Richt was forced to adjust his play calling towards a quicker passing game.

The line played better as the season went along, and reached their peak on a bullying drive late in the Russell Athletic Bowl; but it was clear reinforcements were necessary.

Miami reeled in three four star offensive lineman in the 2017 recruiting class, and brought in sleepers on the line such as Corey Gaynor.

The talent provided much needed competition to the position, but with newcomers currently experiencing their first year on campus, questions on the line still loom.

Richt said earlier this Spring that only a couple of linemen are where they need to be at this point, one of which is rising junior Tyree St. Louis. St. Louis still has room to grow; however, and says he has been working hard with Coach Searels this Spring.

“The main thing is my hands,” St. Louis said after practice Thursday. “Coach Searels has been the biggest hitter with me in terms of using my hands correctly to get my hands in the right spot. I feel like I’ve made an improvement this Spring.”

The focus on technique is something Searels has stressed this Spring, and the coach has a physical specimen to teach in freshman Navaughn Donaldson. Donaldson has been a large headline for the team this Spring, and has been practicing on different spots of the line. The 6’6” lineman is expected to receive large amounts of playing time next season, and will be relied upon in big spots as a freshman.

Transfer George Brown Jr. is also competing for a spot this year, and with freshman such as Kai-Leon Herbert, Corey Gaynor, and Zalontae Hillery arriving for fall camp, there will be a lot of fresh talent in the film room.

St. Louis isn’t the only returning lineman expected to get a large amount of snaps, as coaches are praising rising junior Tyler Gauthier.

Miami also has veterans such as Nick Linder and Sonny Odogwu returning, but the new athletes will force more competition for them this fall.

Regardless of the lineup this season, the future on the offensive line looks bright with an influx of talent. But while the talent may have grown, only time will tell whether Miami fans’ fear of inexperience will come to fruition.