Huge, veteran O-line biggest advantage on Miami Hurricanes’ roster as opener nears

Compared to his teammates, he was a shrimp. They like to remind him of this.

“I always get crap for it,” said McDermott, a junior center from Palm Beach Central High. “But I’ve definitely improved, gained weight and gotten stronger. It’s not a big deal now, but they always talk about how small I was.”

Even 40 pounds heavier, McDermott is still the little guy on the Miami Hurricanes’ offensive front. UM averages 6-6 and 320 pounds across for one of college football’s largest groups. Combined with their athleticism, the Hurricanes’ front five should have a matchup advantage in most games this season.

According to research done by SportsNOLA.com, Miami had the country’s fourth-heaviest line last year. At 319 pounds, UM was nearly 17 pounds bulkier than the national average and 14 over the ACC average. It will be a jarring difference Friday night against Florida Atlantic, which goes 6-3, 248 across the defensive line.

“It’s definitely an advantage to have big bodies, but not only that, big bodies that can move,” McDermott said.

That’s why Seantrel Henderson — listed at 6-8, 345 — is likely to be chosen in next year’s NFL draft, along with fellow senior Brandon Linder (6-6, 319), the right guard. McDermott, left guard Jon Feliciano (6-5, 318) and versatile Malcolm Bunche (6-7, 327) — all redshirt juniors — as well as sophomore left tackle Ereck Flowers (6-6, 315) also have pro potential.

It’s a group that has started 97 games combined — second most in the conference — which makes “all the difference in the world,” offensive line coach Art Kehoe said. “They understand the work ethic involved.”

There is similar continuity in the rest of Miami’s offense. Quarterback Stephen Morris and tailback Duke Johnson will produce no matter how much spread new offensive coordinator James Coley adds to his no-huddle, pro-set attack.

Receivers Allen Hurns, Phillip Dorsett and Herb Waters will see many passes thrown their way, with freshman Stacy Coley among those competing for looks. Glades Central grad Clive Walford, a redshirt junior, won the tight end job.

The running game is all about Johnson, who will also play some slot receiver and return kicks. UM will also use senior Eduardo Clements, recovered from a neck injury, and sophomore Dallas Crawford. Senior Maurice Hagens is the starting fullback.

Miami has a lot of prove defensively; it ranked near the bottom of the ACC in many statistical categories in 2012. Starting jobs are still up for grabs at outside linebacker — with junior Thurston Armbrister, freshman Alex Figueroa and sophomore Tyriq McCord competing — and cornerback, where sophomores Antonio Crawford and Tracy Howard are battling.

The defensive line, which outweighs FAU’s by 45 pounds, has bulked up significantly. Senior Curtis Porter (6-1, 325) is healthy and should be productive next to junior tackle Olsen Pierre (6-4, 305). Anthony Chickillo and Shayon Green are the ends.

Jimmy Gaines (middle) and Denzel Perryman (outside) have locked up starting spots at linebacker.

The secondary is in flux. Junior Kacy Rodgers is a starting safety, with sophomore Deon Bush working his way back from sports hernia surgery. The other safety is senior A.J. Highsmith. Junior Ladarius Gunter has a corner spot locked down.

The Hurricanes should be strong on special teams with Palm Beach Central grad Pat O’Donnell (punting, kickoffs) and sophomore Matt Goudis (placekicker). Dorsett will handle most of the return duties, with Coley and Johnson also seeing time.

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