With the 2007 football season officially behind us, I wanted to take a look at what some of the current young Canes are doing to prepare for 2008. So, I caught up with an old friend of mine, freshman cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke earlier this week.
Q: So, what have you been doing since the end of the season?
A: Been lifting weights, doing routes, going down to school and watching a little bit of film.
Q: Have you put on any weight since the end of the season?
A: I haven’t jumped on the scale since the end of the season, but I’m hoping to gain about 10 pounds. I’ve been packing up on mom’s Christmas dinner. I was weighing about 174. I put on about 12-15 pounds from high school to the end of my freshman year. I want to get to about 185 by the spring.
Q: Who have you been hanging out with?
A: Mostly my old high school teammates, friends. I've been having a good time.
Q: I heard your friend from Monsignor Pace, UM safety Lovon Ponder had thought about possibly going to the pros, leaving school early. Have you spoken with him lately?
A: I haven’t spoken to him in a long time. I heard he was thinking about going pro, but he backed out and said he was coming back for one more year. I was happy about that.
Q: You still rooming with Allen Bailey? How is he doing with his weight? I know people thought he was pretty big when he came in and if he put on any more weight he might not be able to play linebacker.
A: He’s doing good. I talked to him yesterday. He’s been working out, doing a lot of running to stay in shape, stuff like that.
Q: What was your reaction to Coach Time Walton being let go of as defensive coordinator? I know you guys still don’t know who your next defensive coordinator is going to be. Are you hoping its somebody on the current staff? Are you excited there are going to be some changes?
A: At first I was kind of shocked when I heard about it. But I understand it was a business decision for coach and the team. Whatever he does is good with me. Hopefully he brings in a great coach like coach Walton was.
Q: Have you been able to catchup with any of the incoming freshman? I know they should be coming in soon and I know you are close to some of those Northwestern guys?
A: Not really. They’ve been playing in those All-Star games. But I talked to Marcus Forston today and he asked me what to bring in for the dorm. I just told him to bring some sheets and stuff like that.
Q: What advice do you have for those new guys coming in? I guess there is 11 in all? And who are you closest with?
A: First of all, it’s a huge advantage for those guys coming in the spring. You can get a jump on the playbook, the game plan, the spring time and the academic part of it as well. It’s going to be an exciting time for all of those guys. I guess if I know any of those guys the best its Jacory Harris and [Marcus] Forston. I haven’t talked to Jacory in awhile because he’s been rehabbing his knee. But I hope he gets better soon because it’s going to be a great competition between he and [Robert] Marve at quarterback and Cannon Smith and the kid from Texas, Taylor Cook.
Q: Have the guys talked much about what happened at the end of last season? I know it wasn’t the way you guys wanted to finish out. But are there positive emotions? Are guys excited about next season?
A: A lot of guys coming back are really excited about next year’s team. We know we have a lot of great players coming in, great athletes. Coach Shannon is going to play the best guys this year – it doesn’t matter if they are freshmen or not. So, we should win at least 10 games this year.
Q: I know you were among the freshman to get a lot of playing time, but any of the other guys that were redshirted that came in with your class that are doing real well now?
A: Adewale Ojomo and Jermaine McKenzie, those guys are beasts man. Had those guys played this year it would have been a huge impact. They took their redshirts this year, but next year they are going to be Freshmen All-Americans. Ojomo is just one of those guys that goes hard every play. You watch him when he works out, he goes hard. Jermaine is one of those guys that runs routes by himself on the outside. He’s getting himself back together like he was in high school.
Q: Have you gone up against Jermaine lately, maybe during some 7-on-7?
A: Oh yeah. Jermaine in every 7-on-7 last summer he was on fire. Then we he came back from his injury he was doing the same things. He beats you off the line, runs good routes. He picked up where he left off.
Q: Are you helping to recruit any of these local guys? I know there are a couple local guys who could end up at UM but are on the fence – Brandon Harris, Corey Liuget.
A: I’ve been talking to Brandon Harris a lot. I call him and tell him together we can bring The U back to the way it used to be. He’s a great kid and a great athlete. I saw him play on Saturday in the Under Armour All-American game. He was shutting guys down all game. They couldn’t do anything against him. I told him he’d be a great asset if he came here next year.
Q: How has Robert Marve looked? Have you seen him throw the ball lately?
A: His arm is strong man. Before we left he’d throw a pass 65, 70 yards downfield on the money. He hit McKenzie in stride a few times on those deep ones. He’s special.
PODCAST UPLOADED: I know some of you have been clamoring for a new podcast. I finally recorded one Wednesday, more than 60 minutes worth of recruiting talk with two of the best in the business Larry Blustein and Charles Fishbein. Blustein and I covered a lot of topics: the high school all-star games, the top players in the country including quarterback Terrell Pryor, I got his reaction to Matt Patchan and Patrick Johnson going elsewhere and I got his thoughts on the impeding QB battle at UM. Fishbein, who was at the NCAA coaches meetings in Anaheim this week, talked to me about what he was hearing out there on the defensive coordinator front (don't worry it's nothing earth shattering), plus his thoughts on highly-touted defensive tackle Corey Liuget and what he saw from him at the Offense-Defense game last week at the Orange Bowl. Enjoy.
-- I'm sure most of you read Barry Jackson's Buzz Column this week which touched on how the Canes have done up until now in recruiting and what they plan to focus on in the next four weeks leading up to National Signing Day. He did a great job. But I've got some more for you based on my conversations with Blustein and some other experts on the outside as well as a few guys on the inside at The U.
-- Cornerback is without question the one area I think Miami needs the most help at. While the Canes have landed three/four defensive backs in this class (it depends on how you view Ramon Buchanon), none of them are natural cornerbacks. C.J. Holton, who is the most talented of the group, is the one player who I've been told could be converted to corner if need be. But Joe Wylie, C.J. Odom and Buchanon (who could be an outside linebacker) are all safety prospects. As it stands now, Bruce Johnson (Sr.), Carlos Armour (Sr.), Chavez Grant (Jr.) and Van Dyke (So.) are the only DBs on the roster now who are natural corners. Harris, whom Blustein and UM coaches absolutely love, could potentially come in and be the best on the team right away. If he opts to go elsewhere, the Canes could turn to Aaron Hester, T.J. Bryant, Victor Johnson and Vaughn Telemaque. Hester, Johnson and Telemaque are all scheduled to visit UM the weekend of Jan. 18-20 (a big weekend for out of town recruits). Another possibility, which Blustein hopes happens for Miami, is that the Canes give local Archbishop Carroll standout George Baker a chance. Blustein believes Baker could be a star at UM. Baker it appears is waiting to hear more, though, from the Canes.
-- Hialeah High defensive tackle Corey Liuget has moved up the recruiting charts all season much the way his weight has. When I first saw Liuget play last season as a junior, he was a slim dude about 6-3, 220. He played quarterback, tight end, defensive end. Now, he's lining up with the big boys in the trenches and tipping the scales at 270. Fishbein tells me seeing him play in the Offense-Defense bowl last week was impressive. He believes Liuget could potentially be as good if not better than Cane commitment Marcus Forston, who is considered the best defensive tackle in the country. Consider Liuget and Harris the prime two targets for UM down the stretch. Get them, and the Hurricanes likely have the best defensive class in the country.
-- Rumors keep swirling about who else could potentially end up transferring from the current roster. Running back Charlie Jones, who was supposedly entering the NFL Draft, has now opted to transfer to another college program according to my source. Tight end Dajleon Farr is also expected to end up at Memphis (where Tim Walton is now defensive coordinator) and Doug Wiggins is likely headed to Western Michigan (although I'm still trying to confirm it with his high school coach).
-- I know there have been reports to the contrary, but I spoke with incoming linebacker Jordan Futch Tuesday night who told me there's a chance the family of fellow incoming linebacker Arthur Brown will be moving to South Florida from Kansas. Brown, one of two current five-star UM recruits, has a younger brother, Bryce Brown, who is expected to be one of the most saught-after running backs in the country in 2009. Futch said his mother, who dabbles in real estate, is helping the Browns look for a house in Weston. He said Bryce would likely end up playing for coach Mark Guandolo at Cypress Bay.