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Gunn aiming to jump start Canes offensive line, running game

As the son of a part-time DJ, Hurricanes offensive lineman Harland Gunn said he grew up listening to all kinds of music in his home in Omaha, Nebraska.

Harland GunnOldies. Rap. R&B. Lately, though, the 6-2, 310-pound left guard at the University of Miami said he's been expanding his tastes even more.

"I've been listening to Led Zepplin and stuff like that to get me ready for the games." said Gunn, a fifth-year senior who has started 26 games in his career for the Hurricanes including 21 in a row.

"If I had to pick one song as my theme song it would be Power by Kanye West."

Why? "Because it's all about power," Gunn said. "You got to have power in this world."

Truth is there may not be a more fitting theme song for Gunn, hands down the strongest and most powerful player on UM's football team. Strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey said Gunn owns the highest marks on both squat (600 pounds-plus) and bench press (500-plus). "I think [defensive end] Olivier Vernon might be the only one who has [Gunn] on the power clean," Swasey said Wednesday.

Those strength numbers hardly surprise Gunn's father, Harland Gunn Sr. In the eighth grade, Gunn Sr. said his son was bench pressing 250 pounds, wearing a size 13 shoe and challenging his dad to lift offs in their garage.

"Harland's hands are bigger than mine. My fingers might be a little longer. But his fingers are thick. He's got big paws, man," said Gunn Sr., who at 6-6, 320-plus pounds was a standout high school football player himself who didn't make it further because he "tore his right knee up" and "started making children early."

"Harland's always been a competitor. When you're a young man, you see your father as a big guy and you want to be as strong as him. We'd go at it on the bench. I'd try to push him and keep him going. It didn't take him very long to pass me by."

Of course, there is more to Gunn than power and strength.

After hardly speaking a word to his teammates the first three months he was at UM according to center Tyler Horn, Gunn has grown into a chatter box, comedian and team leader. Gunn has even learned how to perfect his Spanish in his time time in Miami, taking two Spanish classes at UM after taking four years of classes in high school.

"I try to speak to the natives, people around town," Gunn said. "I know the basics. Como estas? [How are you?] Estoy bien, y usted? [I'm good and you?] I'm a pretty big guy, I like to tell people 'Tengo hambre, necesita comer ahora.' [I'm hungry and I need to eat now]. Basic stuff."

"I think you'd be surprised how funny he is because he looks like a quiet guy," Horn said. "[Those glasses he wears] that's the studious Gunn -- that's his costume for Halloween... He's a big personality. He's one of those guys that takes a while to open up and now that he has he's a lot of fun."

Said right tackle Jonathan Feliciano: "Sometimes we can't get him to shut up.

But on the field, Feliciano said, "he's like a bowling ball. He kills people like they're pins."

UM coach Al Golden said Gunn's only bad game this year was against Georgia Tech. But despite that game, Golden feels Gunn is having "an all-conference type year" and said the senior has "the most second level cuts of anyone on the offensive line."

"I don't know if he's the foundation of [the offensive line], but he might be," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "He's a solid, strong, high character, high work ethic, lunch pail guy. He's a true blue collar approach to offensive line play. He'll fit in great for the rest of his life playing offensive line. They love those type guys in the NFL."

Offensive line coach Art Kehoe said Gunn's style of play reminds him of former Hurricanes K.C. Jones and Claude Jones.

"He's explosive man," Kehoe said. "I'm trying to get him a little more functional, a little more loose on his hips so he can use better footwork. But man, I like the way he plays. I like the way he pulls. He's a terrific person. He's almost a better person than he is a player. And he's a hell of a player."

Still, Gunn himself, wants to see improvement on the Canes offensive line as a whole. UM, which has given up 12 sacks (40th-fewest among 120 FBS schools), has struggled in short yardage situations this season.

The running game, which on Oct. 9 was averaging 182.6 yards per game (39th best in the nation), has struggled to get going over the last three games (UM now ranks 75th best in rushing offense at 145.5 yards per game). And the way the team was manhandled against Virginia left a bad taste in the mouths of everyone in charge of blocking.

"Last Thursday was probably our least physical game as an offense," fullback Maurice Hagens said. "When we watched the film, offensive linemen were in the backfield. Tight ends were getting blown up, fullback was getting blown up. That was something we weren't seeing. The last four games we have to go and blow everybody off the line."

Gunn agrees. "For some reason, we were just off rhythm, out of sync," Gunn said. "Offense is all about rhythm, timing, executing. This was our worst game in terms of execution by far.

"To me, it's just been about finishing. Guys are getting on their blocks. Nothing is wrong with the schemes or the blocks. It's the finish factor and it hasn't been here the last few games. It's the attitude. You have to reinvest in the attitude of running the ball."

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