OL Navaughn Donaldson | Freshman | 6’6 350 Lbs.
Donaldson was a massive offensive lineman in the Class of 2017 and he paved the way for some talented backs out of Miami Central High. With offers from just about every school in the country, Donaldson was a consensus 4-star ranked #72 overall, the #11 OT, and #13 in the state of Florida.
Growing up a Miami fan in South Florida, Donaldson actually committed to the Canes extremely early and with little fanfare, announcing in July of 2015, more than a year and a half before his signing day. However, the firing of head coach Al Golden threw a wrench into Donaldson’s plans and he decided to look around, but remained a soft commit.
Going into the homestretch of the 2017 cycle, it was still unclear how strong Donaldson was to Miami, and many pundits projected a flip to FSU or UF. Donaldson took official visits to Florida State, Florida, North Carolina, and Mississippi State, but in the end, stuck with his Miami commitment and enrolled early at UM for spring ball.
2017 and Beyond
When he arrived on campus for his first spring practice as a Hurricane, Donaldson jumped right into the fire and immediately worked his way to the top of the offensive line depth chart. Donaldson first worked at right tackle before settling in and sticking as the starting right guard and adds a huge talent upgrade to a Miami offensive line that has struggled in recent years.
“He has really picked up things quickly. He’s a very intelligent young man,” Searels said of Donaldson. “The thing we’ve got to do is get him in better shape, and boy, he’s worked his tail off in this offseason program and done a good job.”
Donaldson’s biggest question might not be if he can handle college defenders effectively, but whether or not he can keep his weight in check. After struggling with his weight in high school, Donaldson showed up to spring ball at near 380 pounds. Despite being overweight, Donaldson still worked with the first team O-Line for all of spring ball. Since then, according to Mark Richt, he has cut about 40 pounds and has seemed lighter and more agile in fall camp.
As a player, Donaldson is a ginormous road-grader that pummels defenders into submission. With light feet, a strong punch, and long arms Donaldson has the versatility to play guard or tackle at Miami. Right now, Donaldson is a monster in the run game, but still has strides to make in pass protection. However, he is also quite prodigious at the mental side of the game and picks up coaching well, so it seems to be only a matter of time until he develops into a complete lineman. The sky is the limit potential-wise for Donaldson.
Even though he is only a true freshman, some within the program already see Donaldson as Miami’s best offensive lineman, which may be more of an indictment of the state of the returning O-Line than an endorsement for Donaldson himself. Still, there’s no doubt he’s been extremely impressive early in his young Miami career, and Donaldson will have to live up to that vast billing in 2017 if UM hopes to take that next step as a program.
Donaldson will start his freshman season at guard to ease his transition to the college game, but we think his best fit down the road will be right tackle. LT KC McDermott graduates after the 2017 season, and it’s likely either Donaldson or current starting RT Tyree St. Louis will move over to left tackle. From then on, you can etch Donaldson’s name in stone on the starting O-Line and leaving Miami early for the NFL after 3 seasons is not out of the question.