Even at 67 years of age, Don Soldinger still has plenty of bite in his bark.
The former University of Miami assistant -- who helped mold some of the best running backs to ever wear a Hurricanes uniform and has two national championship rings -- was drawing up plays inside the Southridge High locker room Thursday afternoon when he was stopped and asked to give his thoughts on the Canes' latest Class of 2013 commitment: senior safety Jamal Carter.
"Who? The kid who [is built] like Tarzan and hasn't done anything yet?" Soldinger responded in a room filled with Carter's teammates. "What about Jamal Carter? What's he done? Third team All-Dade? That don't mean [expletive] to me."
Soldinger, as fiery and honest an assistant coach the Hurricanes have ever had (he was there from 1984-88, 1995-2005), has never been one to hand out compliments easy. He's been around the block too long. If you want to be praised, you have to earn it.
And as the new strength coach at Southridge High -- a program under the direction of his former USA Today National Defensive Player of the Year Lamont Green (1993) -- Soldinger has taken a special interest in Carter, the Spartans' best player.
"I'm not going to let him get away with thinking he's better than he is," Soldinger said. "Because he can be pretty special if me and Lamont can kick his [expletive] into shape."
Carter, rated the 16th best safety in the country by 247Sports, "isn't a bad kid" if you ask Soldinger or Green. He's got a 2.6 GPA and scored an 18 on his ACT -- good enough to get him into UM when he signs in February according to Green. But while Green says Carter (6-2 3/4 inches, 215 pounds, 4.4-speed in 40) "has a little bit of Sean Taylor type playmaking ability," he also says the 17-year old senior-to-be has room to grow when it comes to maturity.
"I think what happened before we got here was he had the freedom to show up a little late to meetings, practices and didn't have to pay the consequences," Green said. "You know Coach [Soldinger]. If the meeting is at 2:30, he wants you here at 2:20 ready to go. Jamal is getting better at it. He and the rest of the guys here are learning we run a tight ship."
Soldinger said he brought in former Canes running back Clinton Portis to speak to the team earlier this month. Carter, he said, was the only player to miss the meeting.
"Pissed me off," Soldinger said. "I really wanted Portis to talk to him, help get his butt in gear."
Soldinger has extra incentive to make sure Carter gets his butt in gear. Carter's father Terrence Carter was a star cornerback on Soldinger's 1991 state title team at Southridge.
"He signed with Maryland. Three days later he was back home," Soldinger said. "I hate to see talent wasted."
If Soldinger has a say about it, this Carter won't fall short.
Soldinger said he's already been on the phone a few times over the past year with offensive line coach and close friend Art Kehoe to give the Canes updates on Carter.
"You know me, I don't sugar coat anything," Soldinger said. "If he's screwing up, they'll know about it."
> Green said Carter recently power cleaned 270 pounds and squated 515 pounds.
"I think he's a natural safety. But he has the ability to play corner, safety, move into the box and play nickel linebacker too," Green said. "The sky is the limit for him. He can play offense, too. There's a lot of things his skill level allows him to do."
Last season, Carter returned seven punts for touchdowns. He said special teams is a big part of his game.
"I grew up admiring Devin Hester because he always took all the punt returns back," Carter said before unleashing a little Canes' swagger. "You saw my highlight reel right?"
One thing the Hurricanes have done since National Signing Day in February shut the door on some of the best defensive backs in the country who are in their backyard. If you close your eyes you can almost picture a South Florida dream team in the Canes' secondary: Northwestern's Artie Burns and Miramar's Tracy Howard at cornerback and Columbus High's Deon Bush and Carter at safety.
Carter said building chemistry with those guys won't be hard.
"I grew up playing with Deon on the Palmetto Raiders," Carter said. "I've known him since I was a little boy. He was a running back and I was a cornerback. I can't wait until we can be teammates again next year."