University of Miami

Miami’s academics are appealing to this blue-chip in-state tackle. So is Butch Barry

The Miami Hurricanes are still trying to build up the future of their offensive line and Connor McLaughlin, a four-star tackle from Tampa Jesuit, would help.
The Miami Hurricanes are still trying to build up the future of their offensive line and Connor McLaughlin, a four-star tackle from Tampa Jesuit, would help. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Connor McLaughlin never gave much thought to the Miami Hurricanes when he was younger. Even though he’s from Florida, McLaughlin had some preconceived notions about the in-state school when he was first thinking about where he would go to college.

When Miami finally made an offer to the four-star tackle in April, McLaughlin decided to do his research. Now the Hurricanes are in his top group with a summer commitment likely on the horizon.

“I knew it’s a pretty good school, but it’s a lot better school than I expected and that’s going to be a priority on my list just because I want to go to a really good educational school that can win some football games, too, and if it’s Miami, then I’ll go to Miami,” McLaughlin said Wednesday. “I know it gets kind of a bad rap from what people know about it from the ‘80s and stuff. I did some research. If it’s not the No. 1 school in Florida, it’s the No. 2. It is a private college and it’s not in Miami, too, so that Coral Gables location’s really cool and it’s not in the actual city, which is nice because you get kind of a break from all that craziness. It’s a really cool school.

“I’ve always known about it, but I didn’t know that much about it.”

When McLaughlin runs through some of his top choices at this time in his recruitment, a common thread runs through. At this point, the Hurricanes are part of a loose top five, which also includes the Duke Blue Devils, Southern California Trojans, Stanford Cardinal and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, although McLaughlin is still waiting on communication from Notre Dame and Stanford to manifest into scholarship offers. McLaughlin is prioritizing academics just as much as he is football.

This makes McLaughlin’s recruitment a little bit different than most. He hasn’t just taken a tour through all the high-profile programs in the Southeast — the rising senior at Tampa Jesuit needs to do his due diligence with summer visits in his national recruitment. McLaughlin still hasn’t visited any of those five, nor has he visited the Iowa Hawkeyes, whom McLaughlin said sit right outside his top five.

“I’m going to take a lot of officials this summer,” McLaughlin said.

None of those dates have been officially lined up yet, but McLaughlin said a trip to South Florida is likely on the horizon.

“I definitely want to get down there at some point this summer. It’s a really good school and it’s something I definitely need to go see,” McLaughlin said. “Hopefully I can get down there soon and it’s just a great place, so I’m excited to check it out and see what it’s really like because you always hear these things, but, I don’t know, I want to make sure I have the right impression in my head.”

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In the meantime, McLaughlin has been in frequent contact with offensive line coach Butch Barry, whose time in the NFL leaves a strong impression on the offensive lineman. Before he joined Miami’s coaching staff in January, Barry was the assistant offensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Tampa Bay connection is a nice wrinkle — Barry still has a home in the Tampa Bay area, so McLaughlin and the assistant coach have bonded over the region — but they mostly just talk about football and how Barry thinks he could use McLaughlin. The No. 305 overall prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings for the Class of 2020, McLaughlin is about 6-7 and 260 pounds — exactly the mold Barry is looking for in a potential future left tackle. Considering some of the work Barry has already done with freshman offensive lineman Zion Nelson, who arrived as a three-star prospect at 6-5 and 240 pounds, the position coach has given off a strong first impression as a developer of athletic, lanky linemen.

“He’s an NFL coach and what the NFL’s kind of changing to, I feel like a lot now, is lengthier tackles, more athletic guys. I know he likes that, so that was a big selling point for me because I’m not there yet. I’m a good player right now. But I know I can be a great player, an NFL-type caliber player, so I think he’s one of those coaches that could get me there and like utilize my length a lot, too, because a lot of schools, they run stretch and they run zone and all that, that use those lengthy guys, but not a lot of guys know how to coach it as well as Butch Barry or some other NFL-type coaches coming back to college ball.”

A potential commitment timeline for McLaughlin will mostly depend on how quickly he can visit his top schools in the coming two months. The in-state prospect would ideally like to make an oral commitment next month before the extended dead period. He admits an August decision is probably more likely, though, to give him a chance to take a look at everyone he needs to see.

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