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Could Linder be the key to an Aquinas pipeline?

Next to Miami Northwestern, no high school program churns out major Division I talent year in and year out quite as often Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. The Raiders, five-time state champions under coach George Smith, have sent players to the University of Miami in the past. Receiver Leonard Hankerson, former Canes safety Anthony Reddick and current freshman offensive lineman Jermaine Johnson all wore the golden helmets at Aquinas.

Brandon Linder (right) is the first major recruit UM has been able to land at Aquinas since Leonard Hankerson in 2006.  But the Raiders' gems, the best of the best, have usually headed to other schools. Florida got safety Major Wright and has star cornerback Cody Riggs set to join next year. Notre Dame landed stud left tackle Sam Young four years ago and now has Gio Bernanrd lined up for 2010. Florida State got tackle Andrew Datko and is supposed to reel in this year's star Lamarcus Joyner. 

Linder, a three-year starter at Aquinas and stud left tackle, is hoping his commitment to UM over the weekend will help the Canes' nab more of the stars that go to Aquinas. "I'd love for UM to build a pipeline to St. Thomas," Linder said. "The fact four of us [tackle Jermaine Barton, cornerback Keion Payne and punter Ben Hopfinger] are going there from this class is great. I think it could just be the start of more us going there."

Three weeks ago before Aquinas beat Ely in the regional finals, I caught up with longtime offensive line coach Jay Connolly, who has been an assistant with Smith since 1990. He's coached a lot of the best linemen in South Florida over the years and said the Hurricanes are definitely making more of an effort lately to build a better relationship. Canes offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is the primary person responsible.

Connolly gave me his thoughts on the three Aquinas offensive linemen who will be wearing orange and green the next few years. He says Linder, a kid that kicks 55-yard field goals barefoot for fun after practice, might be the most athletic lineman he's ever coached.

"When he came up as a freshman he played on JV and we saw something special right away," Connolly said. "He came up played sophomore on varsity as center. We had a pretty good left tackle (Andrew Datko) at the time. But we saw he had the versatility to play left tackle. His size and athleticsm. Brandon is a great basketball player. I remember when he was a freshman the basketball coach told me the best hands in the freshman class were Brandon Linder's.He's just a big kid who is able to move. He's smart. He's a natural football player. Put him at tackle, put at him center, wherever. But left tackle, that's where I think he'll be for the next four years. He's good enough to make an impact right away."

Jay Connolly Connolly said Barton (6-7, 290) will likely need some more time to grow. But he said the kid has enough physical gifts to be a special player. Last year, Barton was the sixth man on St. Thomas' offensive line. This year, he took every snap at right tackle. "His biggest thing is toughness," Connolly said. "In basketball Jermaine was always told not to touch people. But now, we have to get him to touch people. He's really converted a lot of those basketball skills. I think his work ethic has helped me a lot. He's bigger, stronger and he's growing."

Current Cane Jermaine Johnson only played one season for Connolly, but he showed him he had the ability to be special. "He didn't get into a game until the third game of the year. But when he got in he was good enough to start at right tackle. We actually moved Datko to guard so Johnson could start at right tackle," Connolly said. "He has the best punch of any kid I've ever coached. He can just drill you and stun you. He's real athletic. He's built like [Barton], maybe a little bit taller. He's going to be a great player."

The Hurricanes are definitely going to want to keep their eyes on Aquinas. The Raiders have a pair of 2011 recruits in Andrew Reyes (6-3, 240) and Austin Barron (6-3, 250) who started in the interior all season. Sophomore Brad Mills (6-2, 220) is another player Connolly said could have a bright college future.

A few more recruiting nuggets...

> Northwestern coach Billy Rolle told our high school editor Andre Fernandez Saturday that after reports surfaced last week that defensive tackle Todd Chandler had switched his commitment to USF, UM defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff visited Northwestern the next day to tell let him and Chandler know UM still wanted him. "My advice to Todd was be patient, your going to talk to a lot of coaches over the next month," Rolle said. "Todd told me he was going to think about it."

Rolle said receiver Michaelee Harris, another UM target, is also being heavily recruited by Florida State. Recently hired Florida State assistant Eddie Gran is supposedly pushing hard for Harris. Running back Corvin Lamb, meanwhile, is strongly considering committing to North Carolina. 

> Miramar receiver Ivan McCartney told me Saturday after the Class 6A state championship game while he likes the University of Miami a lot, he also feels strongly about Oregon, Florida and West Virginia. McCartney said he is supposed to visit UM during Super Bowl weekend. My money is on West Virginia. Several Miramar assistants told me McCartney wants to badly reunite with former quarterback and close friend Eugene Smith.


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From your lips to God's ears Manny!

Let McCartney go up to the cold mountains in "backwards country" West Virginia - he acts like a UM kid on the field with his swagger, but if he does not want to come in compete then he is really not a UM kind of player... Chandler also should reconsider USF, why would he want to go there and be lost in the shuffle, when he can go to the U and be a part of something special - the U is coming back strong next year.

Thanks for the update Manny. While the Canes can't sign everybody, it wouldn't hurt for us to grab a bunch of Aquinas kids. When I was in high school 25 years ago, St. Thomas was the place to go in Broward if you had athletic aspirations. I would dearly LOVE to have these guys feel like UM is a second home...


First Miami Northwest, and now St. Thomas Aquinas, Shannon is starting to lock down the "State of Miami" again.

Posted by: Clean Blog = Happy Blog | December 20, 2009 at 04:42 PM

Great minds think alike!

BTW, when you add the redshirts we didn't use to his year's recruiting class, we will be almost totally Coker-free by then. Time for OSU* to be given a little payback, as long as Terry Porter is not around we have a good chance to win.

Manny, good stuff. The Canes definately seem to be headed in the right direction. If Harris improves his decision making and keeps the Int's to a minimum, this will be a very tough team to beat.

Joyner is small for a CB. I would like Harris and McCartney at WR. I really like Ivan but if he doesnt want to compete its his loss. If you want to play early and thats all you care about you are basically only worried about the NFL. We need guys worried about winning NC's.
A serious kid like Henderson might click well with coach shannon. Let's not go crazy about Cali kids because we have enough talent here in florida.

Anybody hear anything about this anderson kid from Ohio? I am hearing he might be a silent.

Good stuff Manny. I like what coaches Shannon and Haith are doing. They are both bringing in good talented student-athletes. Have you heard anything about extensions? If U are in the Miami area go out and support the B-Ball team. This is a good team that can go deep in the tournament. Manny is there a chance that we can get LaMarcus Joyner?

Good ESPN article describing reasons USC didn't have a good season and how they can turn things around.


Every single point on there applies to the Canes. The staff turnover is an interesting point; I think we could actually benefit from some upgrades to our position coaches.

We need to get some of these kids who fly under the radar and are "gems". The playmakers, like Damien Berry. Those who want to play for the U. Those kids who have the green and orange running in their veins. I know that for 16-18 yr olds that is difficult to envision unless they grow up in a Cane household like my kids. I mean, my kids saw the U beat Nebraska, lose to Ohio St., and slowly deteriorate thereafter for the last 5 years. But a cane kid is a cane kid.

I dont want a kid who gre up idolizing,say ohio State or Texas and reluctantly comes to the 305. Call me naive.

On anothernote. Miami basketball is 12-1 with a Gator-like schedule. The gators are 10-2 with a Miami-like schedule. LOL.

Tebow playing full back? LMFAO. I've said it all along. he's a fb in qbs clothing! He gets any bigger and he'll be a TE, although rumors are, Nurban Meyer thinks he's a Tight End all the way (wink wink).

UM needs to come out and make a stetment like BYU did last night. Orgeon State as is the entire Pac 10 is waaaay overrated! ESPN even had an article comapring the PAc 10 and the SEC, while ignoring the ACC altogether. Um needs to whoop UW and then we'll see a top 5 rank to begin 2010. That will be the stepping stone for our next NC. PLayers: It all starts 12/29. Not next spring. return to glory. I can smell it!!!!!!

Jacorry's thumb injury is bothersome. Hemay say he can still play, and his receivers may say that his throws have been the same, but think kabout it- the thumb participates in gripping the ball till the very last second its released, so if you are favoring it, grip strength and confidence in the throwing action may be impaired. Surgery? Geez, thats why Um needs more than 1 QB, even more than 2. I am not sure what to think of AJ Highsmith yet. I wish we could get a pure pocket passer and not one of these so-called "athletes" who play QB. A 6-4, 6-5 guy with a rocket arm.

OK. The "U" is looking good for next year. I think you gotta look at JH as legitimate Heisman candidate next year. Linder is special player.

I say we finish in the top 10 at end of season, with at least 5 All-American's. Whipple and Lovett have to step things up some, though.

The pipeline would be great for the Canes.

I'm not too sure however about this Todd Chandler guy. The fact that this kid seems intimidated by Miami recruiting other DT's tells me he lacks the competitive nature needed from a player on a Randy Shannon coached team. You don't hear Lamar Miller, Eduardo Clements, or Storm Johnson whining that there may be too much competition for attention. Son, if you want to go to the NFL you will have to compete with the best. No amount of hugs you receive from USF coaches will help. Nor will the second rate you'll find at USF practices.

Sounds like everything is shaping up nicely for UM on the recruiting front. Thanks for the updates Manny...keep it up. We've had a few recruits change their minds but no more than in any given year. We're getting most of the recruits we targeted from the get go, and now it seems like we're cherry picking big-time names from around the country to fill in the gaps that we couldn't get locally. Seems like a page from the older, very successful playbooks to me.

Can't wait til next season already. I hope we beat UW fairly big and launch ourselves into next year with a top ten start.

Go Canes!

The canes are for real. UF will have to fuction without coach Mayers, the U nation wish him and his family well.

There is a stome brewing down at the "U". RS and his team of coaching is building the program. Don't forget less than 10 years ago UM won 43 stright games, more than UF and FSU. Watch out for our team in 2011, Randy, Mark and Lev will turn them loose. It is time for the nation to see the swagger but only this time with a lot of class.

About the recuites, we not only need to look at the WR from Merimar but the best unknown QB in the state of Florida is their 6'5" QB Ryan. Coach Whip, this kid is your furture QB at the "U", grab him before somone else does.

Great Job Manny.

Wisconsin is like GT. Heavy Back with run emphasis. We handled GT easily. BTW GT also had a receiver and some standout defensive players.

Point is, when we are healthy as we are almost now, we can handle anybody -- as long as it is not raining (LOL)

This will be an interesting game.


I can't wait for a return to glory for the U.
Payback for the Bama 93' loss, Penn St. 87' loss, and O. State 02' loss.

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