Technically they’re still considered freshmen, but Trevor Darling and Kc McDermott are hardly that anymore in the eyes of veteran offensive line coach Art Kehoe.
A pair of high school All-American tackles from Miami Central and Palm Beach Central respectively, Darling (6-5, 320) and McDermott (6-6, 305) have been here since January. They’ve used the last eight months to sculpt their massive bodies into shape, played through 15 spring practices and gathered enough insight from teammates over the summer to get ready to play at Louisville on Labor Day night.
“They didn’t come here to ride the bench. They came here to play right away,” Kehoe said Friday during UM’s Media Day. “By the time the first game comes around I expect both of those guys to be playing.”
That’s what coach Al Golden was hoping for when training camp started. He said his No. 1 concern coming in was offensive line depth with the eight, ninth and 10th spots in the rotation needing to be filled.
Darling, penciled in as the starter at right tackle in the first depth chart released in camp (he’s one of three freshmen listed as a starter), and McDermott, listed as the backup left tackle to Ereck Flowers, have helped fill that need.
“Even though we’re competing for the same job we’re having fun while we’re doing it,” said McDermott, who has also taken snaps at right tackle. “We’re not going to curse each other out or argue because one is starting over the other.”
Darling said he’s shed about 15 pounds and six percent body fat since arriving at UM. He said he did 17 reps on the bench (225 pounds) and is considerably stronger, too.
• Freshman David Njoku (6-4, 230) was switched from receiver to linebacker on Friday to help provide depth. He’s the third player Golden has switched from another position to linebacker since JaWand Blue and Alex Figueroa were kicked off the team last month following their arrests on sexual battery charges.
“We wanted to take a look at him at [strong side] … because he has length and size,” Golden said.
• Golden said freshman defensive lineman Chad Thomas (6-5, 255) is in the mix for first and second down reps and has taken a lot of starter reps on third down pass rushing packages (at defensive tackle). Golden said UM’s most highly regarded prospect in the 2014 class hasn’t lost any of “twitch” despite adding 10 pounds of muscle.
Thomas said he’s very comfortable playing tackle because he did it his entire senior year for national champion Miami Booker T. Washington. “I know how to rush [the passer] against a guard or a center,” Thomas said. “It’s easy.”
• Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said freshman defensive end Trent Harris began to hit a wall this week in practice, but redeemed himself in Wednesday’s scrimmage to hold off junior Tyriq McCord who had begun closing the gap for the starting rush end job.
D’Onofrio said Harris (6-2, 240) started camp with a defensive starter’s black jersey because of what he did during off-season workouts and conditioning, but he’s kept it because he understands run fits and wraps up. That’s a problem for UM’s ends in the past.
• Freshman running back Trayone Gray started camp a day late because he was awaiting for academic clearance. Gray said he attended night school, virtual school and summer school since January to pass geometry, algebra and physical science. He said he raised his grade point average from a 2.1 to a 2.5 and finally got a good ACT score to get into Miami. “I had to make up a big gap,” he said.
Gray said he has yet to take any snaps in the Wildcat formation, but coaches have hinted he will. He said he expects to get on the field this season in “screen packages or outside packages.”
• Freshman running back Joe Yearby is coming off right ankle surgery in December and said he feels like he’s about 90 percent. “I can cut on it and most of the things I used to do,” said Yearby, who had a couple of impressive, long runs in Friday’s practice. “But I still got to do a little bit more work to get it how it used to be.”
Although he’s listed at 5-9, 192 pounds, Yearby said he weighs 180. “I’m trying to get myself to 185 going into the season,” he said. “So I can take the impact and the pounding.”