If there is one area the Miami Hurricanes absolutely needed to address in the 2010 recruiting class it was offensive line. With three starters (Jason Fox, Matt Pipho, A.J. Trump) headed out the door and only four players (Orlando Franklin, Harland Gunn, Brandon Washington and Joel Figueroa) returning with real in-game college experience, the Hurricanes absolutely need to not only find big bodies but guys who could play if called upon.
Shane McDermott is ready to be one of those guys. I caught up with the 6-3, 275-pound All-American center from Palm Beach Central High before he began taking classes at UM this past Tuesday to see where his mind was at heading into spring football next month. Needless to say, this guy sounds like he's ready.
"I want to make an impact," McDermott answered when I asked him about his expectations for his freshman season. "Coach [Jeff] Stoutland told us if you come in and you perform, we'll play you. We aren't scared to put a freshman in that position. I've let him know I'm not scared to be in that position."
As it stands, the Hurricanes are bringing in seven offensive linemen in this class. There could be more. But of the seven, a source at UM told me its not hard to imagine McDermott, Milford Prep offensive tackle Malcolm Bunche or St. Thomas Aquinas offensive tackle Brandon Linder seeing real playing as true freshmen. The truth is none of them have much in the way of competition -- especially McDermott.
Redshirt sophomore Tyler Horn, penciled in as the starting center, played in all of six games this season -- garbage time minutes mostly against Florida A&M, UCF, Virginia and USF. Brandon Washington has taken snaps at center in practice, but the Hurricanes want him to take over the left guard spot while Franklin moves out to left tackle. The other returning scout team offensive linemen -- Ben Jones (6-5, 300), Jermaine Johnson (6-6, 310), Jared Wheeler (6-5, 330), Cory White (6-5, 260) and Stephen Plein (6-6, 260) -- are expected to compete mostly at tackle and guard.
"I think I could make a big difference early," McDermott said. "I'm pretty much second string. Coach told me they're looking at converting a couple of other guys to center, the guy who used to play tight end [Plein]. But I'm graduating early for a reason, that's to play early."
McDermott is definitely gifted. Despite playing on a 3-7 team, he graded out a 98 percent according to his coach and is already as strong as some of UM's biggest linemen. He benches 365 pounds and squats 490 pounds. He also received great reviews at last month's Under-Armour All-Star Game in Tampa, where he lined up opposite former Canes recruits Louis Nix (now of Notre Dame) and Todd Chandler (USF) and dominated.
"It was a great experience and awesome to compete against some of the best in the nation," McDermott said. "I thought I did really good, especially against Nix and Chandler. It was a little weird facing them after they decommitted. There were some serious battles and we were going at it a little bit. But I felt like I came out on top."
McDermott is definitely one of the brightest minds in the class. He graduated with a 3.4 GPA and scored a 1010 on his SAT. His plan is to double major at UM, Marine Affairs and Marine Biology. It's not surprising since he won the Palm Beach Science fair with a project on the on the effects of acidification on the asexual reproduction of corals. It's no surprise either that in addition to his love for the study of the sea, McDermott loves spear fishing, something he said he plans to do a lot with Linder.
"Being in the ocean, hunting, is a lot of fun," said McDermott, who is rooming with quarterback Stephen Morris. "Brandon and I have been keeping up on Facebook a lot. He told me how cleaned up during mini season, 60 lobsters. The biggest thing I've ever caught is a six pound hog fish."
Truth is, the biggest catch McDermott could end up with this fall is a starting job. He's going to give it his best shot.
"I've been lifting everyday at 6 a.m. since the season ended," McDermott said. "I've been doing speed and agility drills with Athlete's Advantage. I feel like I'm ready for college. It's all I've been focused on. I can't wait to get in there."
A FEW MORE TIDBITS...
> I wasn't able to hook up with Malcolm Bunche before he began taking classes Tuesday, but word is he'll be given every opportunity to win the starting right tackle job this fall. Hurricanes coaches felt Bunche could have made an impact last year if he hadn't had to go to prep school.
> I wasn't able to attend Tuesday night's basketball game because I spent a few days taking care of my wife who is sick with a vicious stomach virus. But I spoke to a few well respected coaches last night to get a feel for what they believe might be wrong with the Hurricanes.
In their opinions, while UM coach Frank Haith has done an excellent job recruiting talent to Miami, he needs to find more help in terms of X's and O's. "Everyone knows Frank can recruit, but just like Leonard Hamilton needed to go out and get him a Stan Jones, Frank needs to do the same," one coach said. "Once Leonard got Stan, UM really started winning. What I see now is a lot of confusion."
The other criticism: Substitutions. "It kills me to see him yank guys like clockwork," another coach said. "At the four minute mark every game, he gives his starters a blow. Why? Post guys like [Dwayne] Collins need to feel the ball, need to get into a flow. He needs to go with his best guys more often."