Recently departed University of Miami guard Brandon Linder recalls sibling scuffles and tattletelling episodes with “little bro” Nick when they were younger.
“We fought all the time when we were kids,” said Brandon, 22.
“I broke my hand one time punching him,” said Nick, 18. “It was probably over something stupid.”
Now, as brothers often go, the two are as thick as their abundant girths.
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“He’s my best friend,” said the 6-5, 316-pound Brandon of the 6-3, 275-pound Nick, 18, a St. Thomas Aquinas High senior who will sign his letter of intent on Feb. 5 to attend UM and become a Hurricane lineman. “We’re two different people, but we think alike and know what each other is going to say next. We really are kind of the same person.”
Sounds similar to UM starting center Shane McDermott, 22, and younger brother Kc, 17, though it’s doubtful Kc was ever considered “little.”
Kc was already 6-4 and 250 pounds as a 13-year-old, and has sprouted to 6-6 and 301 pounds as an early Palm Beach Central High graduate from Hypoluxo.
He enrolled at UM this month to begin his college career, and is considered the third best tackle prospect in the nation by 247Sports.com and sixth best by Rivals.com.
Both Linder and McDermott help solidify the Hurricanes’ strongest incoming position group — offensive linemen — among the 2014 recruiting class. And both are grateful to have older brothers who played or still play on the UM line, quite an advantage if you ask them.
“I’m very excited,” said Kc, two days before enrolling. “I’ll have Shane there to guide me. A family member can be very reassuring.”
Said Nick, a three-star prospect at center who, like McDermott, is intelligent and has a huge upside: “It’s awesome. Obviously I’m not going to be able to play on the same field as Brandon, but I’ve been down there for years with stuff related to Brandon, and it has gotten me really familiar. It feels like I’m already there.”
Joining Kc as an early enrollee is four-star prospect Trevor Darling, a 6-5, 330-pound Miami Central graduate and two-time state champion. Darling is listed as the eighth best tackle prospect by 247Sports and 15th best by Rivals, though he said in an interview just before enrolling that he’ll “probably end up at guard.
“But it wouldn’t really matter to me,” Darling said. “UM has always been my dream school.”
The fourth highly rated lineman in this year’s signing class is 6-6, 278-pound tackle Reilly Gibbons from St. Petersburg Catholic. Gibbons, a four-star prospect, is rated the 21st best tackle prospect in the nation by Rivals and 27th by 247Sports.
Recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services called UM’s offensive line class “strong, one of the better ones in the nation.” He said McDermott “is a potential first-round pick in a few years.
“He can literally squat down to where his knees are almost on the ground and keep his ankles on the ground and not fall over, which guys that are 5-7 can’t even do. He’s very flexible, nimble. He’s coachable. He has not even come close to how strong and big he can get with the weight-training program at Miami.
“He’s smart. He comes from a football family. His potential is off the charts.’’
Fishbein, who also touted Darling as one of the nation’s elite prospects, said the brother factor with McDermott and Linder “is huge.
“The Linders have seen how they’ve taken care of Brandon. He played early and they did a good job of developing him. The two older brothers and two younger ones are best friends. The older ones can educate the younger ones on what to expect, and I think the younger ones will be able to make an impact early because of that.’’
Brandon Linder, who is from Southwest Ranches and spent the past week in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, will enter the NFL Draft in April after receiving his degree Dec. 18 in business management. He described Nick as “relentless” and has spent countless hours showing him pass-blocking and run-blocking techniques in the yard, as well as teaching him terminology and basics from the Miami playbook.
“He’s always picking my brain,” said Linder, who was training at IMG in Bradenton before the Senior Bowl. “Nick is like a sponge. All these kids will have a great bond.”
Linder was asked whether he sometimes wishes he was redshirted, like McDermott, so that he could have played his final year when Nick was a freshman.
“That would have been pretty cool,” he said. “Part of me wants to be there, but then again, it’s his college career and I don’t want to be in the conversation when he’s there. He’s making his own path.”
Nick Linder, much more talkative and outgoing than Brandon, is a fisherman and hunter like his brother, and said he is equally enthusiastic about his future studies in business and finance. He recently played every snap in the Under Armour All-American Game for the victors — Team Highlight.
“Nick is a team leader and has tremendous heart,” said St. Thomas offensive line coach Jay Connolly. “He’s ever bit as dedicated and focused as Brandon and I think he’s actually had to work a little harder because he has always had to live up to big brother’s footsteps. He’s a super kid.”
And just because he has hung around Coral Gables the past four years getting to know the players and coaches, doesn’t mean Nick isn’t nervous about starting college this summer. St. Thomas does not allow its students to graduate early.
“I mean, of course I’m nervous,” Nick said. “Obviously it’s a big change. But I’m equally anxious to get things rolling.”
Kc said he was just as “anxious” and “pretty nervous” as he prepared to enroll.
“Shane told me it’s mentally tough and not something to take lightly,” said Kc, who will study architectural engineering. “It’s a very hard process, not only playing football but the college part as well.
“They really haven’t told me what to get ready for or what position they’d love to see me at. They haven’t told me if I have to gain or lose weight. They just keep saying I look really good and they can’t wait till I’m there.”