Miami took a big hit to its offensive line.
Mark Richt told reporters Monday that senior center Nick Linder has decided to leave the program. Per CaneSport.com, Linder is going to sit out the 2017 season and pursue a graduate transfer for his final year of eligibility in 2018. Richt said he’s “disappointed” to lose Linder, one of the team’s most-experienced players.
“Nick is going to sit out this season, he’s going to go home I think and train for one semester, then he’s going to transfer somewhere else,” Richt said. “(He will be) a graduate transfer. He graduates in a couple of days, he’s going to graduate, will work out from what he told me and then go somewhere else to finish his career.”
What explanation did Richt get on the decision?
“You have to ask him,” Richt said, adding that “When guys leave it just puts pressure on the rest of the team. He’s a really good player, really knows what he’s doing. Certainly I’m disappointed because I’d rather he be here than not be here.”
Linder, the brother of former Canes standout Brandon Linder, has 25 career starts under his belt, including 21 games at center. He started all 13 games in 2015 and the first eight games of the 2016 campaign before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury that caused him to miss spring practice.
The absence of Linder leaves Tyler Gauthier as the top option at center. In fact, Gauthier was reportedly getting reps with the top unit ahead of Linder for part of fall practice. The junior started the final four games of the 2016 season at left guard, so he has game experience. So while the center position may not see too much of a drop off, if any, the overall depth of the offensive line takes a hit with Linder moving on.
With questionable line depth as it is, his loss is a hit to the team, and UM likely will now have three true freshmen on the two deep – Navaughn Donaldson (expected to start at guard), Kai-Leon Herbert (backup tackle) and Gaynor.
“Tyler has done very well,” Richt said, adding that “Corey will be our No. 2 center, get all those reps, between him and Hayden Mahoney. We’ll keep at least three centers. So Mahoney and Corey Gaynor and Tyler Gauthier will do the center duties. That’s it getting reps right now.”
Miami, the No. 21 team in Dr. Saturday’s Top 25, opens its season at home against Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 2.
For more Miami news, visit CaneSport.com.
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