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UM Cane LT Brandon Washington and DE Olivier Vernon forgoing sr seasons to enter NFL Draft

Here we go again.

Two more University of Miami underclassmen are leaving the Hurricanes early to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.

This time it's 6-4, 320-pound offensive tackle Brandon Washington, who played his junior season at left tackle after being named an All-ACC left guard as a sophomore in 2010.

And add to that defensive end Olivier Vernon, who  is leaving as well. I'll get more on Olivier a bit later. Read on for Brandon news:

Former Hurricanes receiver Aldarius Johnson, who graduated from Miami Northwestern High with Washington and two other sources familiar with the situation, confirmed the news for me, as well as the university itself. Washington did not return voice and text messages yesterday.

"I am so overwhelmed and proud of Brandon’s accomplishments,'' said his mother, Cheryl, who said Thursday that she wasn't aware of his decision, but that he was a man and has been making his own decisions for quite a while. "I just want the whole world to know how proud I am of all my boys. Brandon is a sweetheart, and he is very humble.''

Cheryl Washington, who is currently unemployed, raised four sons and a daughter by herself in Overtown. She said she was adamant that somehow Washington earns his degree in criminology. "He knows that I don't play with education,'' she said.

Brandon Washington posted this message on his Twitter acount Dec. 10: "Ever been scared to check ya bank account..."

Washington, 23, played in the same Bulls' class as Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, Tommy Streeter, Marcus Forston and the rest of the Hurricanes-Bulls' contingent who pledged to help their hometown Canes get back to the glory days. But Washington had to go to Milford (N.Y.) Academy prep school to bolster his academics, and his first season was in 2009.

Washington becomes the third Hurricane from that Miami Northwestern class -- and now (after news of Olivier Vernon) fifth underclassman -- to depart early for the NFL.  Three of the five played on offense. Receiver Streeter, defensive tackle Forston and running back Lamar Miller are the other three who recently decided to forgo the rest of their UM careers to turn pro.

Johnson, who said he spoke with Washington by phone Wednesday, graduated Thursday with a group of Hurricanes that included Harris, Spence and Forston. Johnson was suspended indefinitely this past season after being involved in the NCAA case surrounding former UM booster Nevin Shapiro.

    “He told me yesterday,’’ Johnson said of Washington. “I just told him, ‘Congratulations.’’’

    Washington told reporters near the end of the season that he was definitely returning for his senior year, saying that he expected the Canes to have a great 2012.

  Washington's absence will hurt the Canes at a position that was projected to be their strongest in 2011, but struggled at times with penalties and short-yardage situations. He started all 12 games this season after being switched from guard to tackle. His UM-written bio says he "made only five mental errors over the course of the season, and registered only three penalties.''

In 2011, UM ranked 72nd in total offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision and was 61st in passing offense and 74th in rushing.

The Canes still have 6-8, 345-pound soon-to-be junior Seantrel Henderson, 6-5, 320-pound soon-to-be sophomore Jon Feliciano and 6-7, 320-pound soon-to-be redshirt sophomore Malcolm Bunche as experienced tackles.

In 2010, Washington started all 13 games and was second on the team with 56 pancake blocks. He earned ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors after Virginia Tech (loss) and Duke (win).

 In 2009, Washington played in all 13 games as a freshman, mostly on the place-kicking unit. But he made his first career start at left guard that season against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Defensively, Vernon’s absence is a blow to a defensive line that already is without Forston and could have used Vernon’s talent as a pass-rusher – though neither played much this season. Vernon, a Miamian who graduated from American High, was suspended by the NCAA for six games this season for accepting impermissible benefits from former UM booster Nevin Shapiro. He played in six games and had 18 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. In 2010 he had 39 tackles, six sacks and 10.5 tackles-for-loss.     

 -SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

 

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