Three former Miami Hurricanes were selected in the 2014 NFL draft, and Al Golden's team must replace these players next season.
Though the 'Canes lost nine starters in all, only a trio—Brandon Linder, Pat O'Donnell and Seantrel Henderson—heard their names called at Radio City Music Hall.
To the surprise of many, the Jacksonville Jaguars took offensive lineman Linder late in the third round.
On the final day, the Chicago Bears were in desperate need of a punter and decided O'Donnell was the best available specialist in the sixth round. Soon after, in the seventh, the Buffalo Bills snagged Henderson.
It may have been a disappointing draft for Miami, but that also means the Hurricanes kept any elite talent. Nevertheless, the current roster must take over for Linder, O'Donnell and Henderson.
Over the last two seasons, Linder started 22 of the Hurricanes' last 25 games at right guard, and he received playing time there all four years.
Stepping in for Linder is Danny Isidora, a redshirt sophomore who was a member of the 2012 recruiting class along with starter left tackle Ereck Flowers.
Last season, Isidora impressed coaches during spring practice but suffered a broken foot in early August. The injury caused him to miss the first 10 games, and the Cypress Bay High School product made his collegiate debut during Miami's win over Virginia and played limited snaps against Pittsburgh.
But after Linder's graduation, Isidora will take the majority of snaps at right guard and feels physically prepared. He told Christopher Stock of 247Sports (subscription required), "My foot feels great, I don’t have any pain."
On the post-spring depth chart, sophomore Alex Gall and freshman Trevor Darling were listed as Isidora's backups.
The roller-coaster ride that was Henderson has moved on to the NFL, and Taylor Gadbois is the heavy favorite to hold down the right side.
A redshirt sophomore like Isidora, Gadbois appeared in four games last season, seeing action against Florida Atlantic, Savannah State, South Florida and Virginia.
However, even after the minimal playing time, one member of the Miami coaching staff noticed he already looks like a solid starter.
Per David Lake of 247Sports (subscription required), offensive coordinator James Coley had this to say:
He is standing out [this spring]. He has solidified himself. We are saying that this is a real dude. He can be the guy. We are still in competition for that position, but he is doing the little things and putting in the extra work you need when you are trying to play fast.
And the lineman is looking forward to his chance. "I am just ready to take advantage of my opportunity this year," Gadbois said, per Lake. "When Seantrel left, I had an idea that it would be my time. I have been waiting for this opportunity and I am ready."
Kc McDermott was expected to challenge Gadbois, but the depth chart lists the true freshman as a reserve at left tackle. Redshirt freshman Sunny Odogwu is the second-stringer behind Gadbois.
Being a specialist is not a glamorous job. The punter stands 15 yards behind the long snapper, takes a couple steps and simply swings his leg through a ball. Of course, a proper leg swing is much more difficult than many appreciate.
O'Donnell averaged 47.1 yards per attempt, shattering a program record previously held by current Atlanta Falcons punter and ex-'Cane Matt Bosher.
Consequently, O'Donnell's successor is chasing a near-unreachable bar. According to InsideTheU (subscription required), Miami head coach Al Golden wants his punters to forget about that mark.
"You can forget about trying to replace [Pat]," Golden said. "Just get someone that can do a great job and put the ball where you want it, but don't worry about trying to be Pat. He was faster than half the d— running backs at the combine."
During spring practice, returning kicker Matt Goudis and senior Ricky Carroll battled to succeed O'Donnell, but another player will join the competition. Justin Vogel is transferring from Florida and will be arriving sometime this summer. As noted by Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, Vogel is immediately eligible because he is a walk-on.
Right now, Goudis and Carroll are listed as co-starters, but Goudis is the early popular choice to assume the punting responsibilities.
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