Tight end Beau Sandland grew up in Simi Valley, Calif., about 2,800 miles away from the Greentree Practice Fields in Coral Gables.
Though Sandland didn’t follow college football, he couldn’t help but notice the University of Miami’s impact at his position — from Jeremy Shockey to Kellen Winslow Jr. — every Sunday when he watched NFL games.
“You say ‘The U’ and everybody knows what you’re talking about,” Sandland said. “The list goes on and on. I could sit here and go on for an hour all the guys in the league and Pro Bowl and everything like that. That’s another thing — the tradition of tight ends here is second to none. Obviously nobody else has produced as many tight ends in the league.”
Sandland, the top-rated junior college transfer at his position, caught 24 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns in eight games with Los Angeles Pierce College in 2012, earning All-Pacific Conference honors.
Despite having one official visit left, Sandland committed to UM following his trip in December.
He spent time getting to know quarterbacks Stephen Morris and Ryan Williams, as well as offensive linemen Brandon Linder and Shane McDermott.
The 6-6, 255-pounder, named a four-star recruit by Rivals.com, felt the type of offense suited him perfectly. It’s tight end-friendly, especially in goal-line, short-yardage situations.
“He’s doing good, he’s just got to get a little bit more comfortable with his in-line blocking on the line of scrimmage,” said coach Al Golden, who played tight end at Penn State. “But he’s willing, he’s just not skilled there yet with his toolbox. He’s a big man with very soft hands, he’s very smart and can get down the field.”
Since the start of spring practice, returners Clive Walford and Asante Cleveland have pulled Sandland and the newcomers to the side and shown them what to do.
In 2012, Walford recorded a career-best 135 yards in a win over South Florida, which marked the second-most for a UM tight end in program history behind Greg Olsen’s 137 against Florida State in 2005.
He finished with a touchdown in each of the final three games of the season and at least one catch in all 12.
That contrasts with the 2011 statistics, when there were just 27 catches, 260 yards and two touchdowns between Walford and Chase Ford.
Sandland, whose high school football team won just seven games over his four years, didn’t see many recruiters come through.
Not only that, but he was also a non-qualifier because of a pair of classes he didn’t know he needed to take until it was too late.
“It’s night and day better than high school and junior college,” Sandland said of Miami. “It was really a blessing in disguise. It’s definitely a huge change. Everybody out there’s good.”
Senior offensive lineman Brandon Linder was seen leaving practice on crutches with a brace on his knee. He started all 12 games at right guard last season.
“He’s got a little knee,” Golden said. “We’ll hold him out for a little while. It’s not going to require surgery or anything, but we’ll see what his status is. He’ll be out for a little bit here.”
Johnson a no-show
Linebacker Eddie Johnson, who was suspended indefinitely and is not listed on the official roster, was not at practice.
During his redshirt freshman season, Johnson recorded 59 tackles — 7 1/2 for a loss — with one sack, three forced fumbles and an interception in 10 games (eight starts).
“He’s not enrolled right now, so we’ll see what transpires in the future for him,” Golden said. “I really have no idea. We’re really not discussing it at this moment.”
Redshirt freshman Jacoby Briscoe, a 6-5 302-pounder, moved from the defensive line to offensive guard.
“I just think there’s a need there and he’s got the perfect body type for it, and very pleased in his attitude and approach to going over there,” Golden said. “Hopefully he’ll really help us out and pay dividends.”
• Former UM offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch, who was hired by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars for the same position in January, attended practice.