The willingness of former Hurricanes greats to mentor current Canes is one of the wonderful dynamics of the UM football program, and at no position is that now happening more than at linebacker.
Shaquille Quarterman said Jon Beason texted him with tips, thoughts and video clips after games last season.
And D.J. Williams and Jonathan Vilma also have offered mentoring and on-field advice to junior-to-be linebackers Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud.
Williams said McCloud suggested the three linebackers get together as a group with Williams, Beason and Vilma.
“But I said, ‘Vilma, Beason and I all played totally different,’” Williams said recently at UM’s Sports Hall of Fame bowling event at Splittsville in South Miami.
Williams said he told McCloud: “We’ve all got totally different philosophies, so if you would sit in a room with us all at one time it would be mixed messages. I would attack a play different than Vilma or Beason would attack a play. I said it’s better to sit with each of us one on one and whatever that knowledge gives you, if you like the way my technique was, go out and try it. If it works for your game, you use it. If not, you use Beason’s or use Vilma’s.”
Williams said he has spoken to each of the linebackers “individually. But I’ve talked to them collectively in a group before. I’ve got a group chat with them on social media. We joke back and forth. Sometimes we don’t even talk about football.”
Here’s the advice/message Williams has given each of the three:
▪ Williams’ message to Quarterman: “He reminds me of myself, meaning his size; he’s a big kid. I told him, ‘You came in, you’re 18, 19, you’re already 250. You’re only going to get bigger or stronger.’
“I said you’ve got to start learning how to eat correctly now and take care of your body. I said, honestly, ‘you’ve got to get down [in weight].’ You saw from his freshman year to this past year, he lost about 10 pounds and he looked a lot quicker and more athletic.
“I told him, ‘You’ve got to keep going [down].’ I let him know 235, 240 is max. In the NFL, you don’t have to be huge. You look at all the great linebackers right now. [Pittsburgh’s injured Ryan] Shazier weighs 225 pounds. [You need] speed, durability. Shaq, I told him to start learning now. Because when you get to the NFL, what are you going to have? More free time, more money, more steak and lobsters.”
▪ Williams’ message to Pinckney: “With him, I say, ‘Just trust your instincts’ because he’s so fast and so athletic. I told him at the next level it’s good to use that but at some point in time, you’ve got to use that before plays as well because guys are afraid of your speed.
“Attack them like you’re going to run away from them. Use their momentum and then you can run through them. When you’re a smaller guy, you can’t just run through a guy. You’ve got to finesse a little bit, get them off balance and then use your strength.”
▪ His message to McCloud: “I love Zach. He’s the hard hat and lunch pail guy. I told him just be consistent. When you play SAM linebacker, out of the three it’s not the most exciting. You don’t get a lot of recognition or notoriety and don’t get to make a lot of plays in the stat book and numbers wise. But that position is one of the more important linebacker positions because that’s the book end of the defense. I told him just be consistent and don’t worry about the accolades. I told him coaches will be able to see you can play.”
What will Williams advise them to do if any of the three wants to turn pro after their junior seasons?
“They’re all different individuals,” Williams said. “It will depend on their situations. I will [remind them] that once you go, you can’t come back. I told them last year, ‘You guys have a chance to be the best linebacker corps in the history of the University of Miami if you guys all stay here together for four years. That’s the only way it’s going to happen.’
“But it’s a different day and age. I let everyone do what they want to do. I stayed because I was having fun, but it was a different mind-set back then.”
Williams — who has seen several second- and third-day UM prospects turn pro the past two years — said he doesn’t believe the prime motivator is money.
“It is not so much making money; it’s the monotony of class and all that staff,” he said. “They are student-athletes, but at the same time a lot of these guys are coming here to ball, if we’re being honest. That’s what wears guys down. That’s why guys retire from the NFL. That’s why I retired. It’s the meetings, the offseason.”
Incidentally, Williams, Brett Romberg, Vilma and Antrel Rolle have combined on a website — outthehuddle.com — that offers their in-depth analysis of Canes personnel.