Considering the defensive line hasn’t exactly been a strength for the University of Miami football team in recent years, it’s understandable that ballyhooed four-star recruits Demetrius Jackson and Jelani Hamilton weren’t pleased when they were told they would be redshirted last season.
Both spoke Saturday about how the developmental year helped them, and UM is hoping they will blossom this fall.
Jackson, an elite pass rusher at Booker T. Washington, and Hamilton — a Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas alum —stand at different stages of their UM careers.
Jackson still has four years of eligibility remaining, and UM coaches expect a formidable rotation at defensive end with Al-Quadin Muhammad, Chad Thomas (Jackson’s high school teammate), Ufomba Kalamu, Trent Harris and Hamilton.
Conversely, Hamilton has only two seasons of eligibility remaining, and his redshirt season was unexpected because he played a limited role the previous two years, producing just six tackles as a freshman and four as a sophomore.
“I looked at it as any young, naïve player would,” Hamilton said of redshirting. “I didn’t like it at first. But I saw advantages. I saw it as a chance to develop my lower body. I’m finally healthy. It’s the best I’ve ever felt. My leg is not stinging when I make a tackle.”
Hamilton had an ACL injury as a senior in high school and has undergone knee surgery twice more at UM, including a cleanup procedure a month ago.
Now working at both defensive end and tackle, Hamilton said he’s more responsive to coaching than when he arrived at UM rated by Rivals.com as the ninth-best defensive end in the 2012 class and No.106 recruit overall.
He said when coaches criticized him previously, “I remember I used to shut down a lot in my freshman year. But not any more.
“When I started off here, I wasn’t very good taking coaching. Some of the things we did here, my freshman year, I was like, ‘Dang, we did that in high school.’ When coaches asked me to do something, I was like, ‘I did this before.’ That was the wrong thing to do. I’m just trying to learn from that experience … trying to get the coaches’ confidence and trust.”
Jackson, rated by Rivals.com as the 17th best defensive end in the 2014 class, had 12 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries as a senior at Booker T. and “was really impressive on [UM’s] scout team” last fall, defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said.
Jackson, who picked UM over Arkansas and Texas, said redshirting “was frustrating at first” but NFL-bound left tackle Ereck Flowers assured him last year that “my day will come.”
In retrospect, Jackson said be benefited from redshirting. He has increased his weight from 215 to 247, said he’s “way better” stopping the run now and his instincts are better.
He said UM’s talented young defensive ends spoke last week about the impact they can make over the next few years: “We can all bring something to the game. … Me with my strength and knocking down balls.”
▪ UM offensive line coach Art Kehoe, the only coach who spoke to reporters Saturday, said four possibilities have emerged at left tackle: Kc McDermott (still limited by knee surgery but plans to return to full workouts later this spring), Sonny Odogwu, Trevor Darling and Taylor Gadbois, who’s out for the spring after knee surgery.
Kehoe mentioned Darling and early enrollee Jahair Jones as options at right tackle.
▪ Safety Deon Bush said cornerback Antonio Crawford’s decision to transfer “really hurts. Antonio is a great player.”
▪ UM hosted about 50 prospects at Junior Day, and Miami Central Class of 2017 linebacker Waynmon Steed orally committed, according to canesport.com.