Kehoe's return is huge for UM

Art Kehoe is the final coaching hire made by new head coach Al Golden and it's one of the most impressive ones yet. Kehoe's return to Miami is huge for the Hurricanes in many ways.

When it comes to UM football, few people know it like new (and former) offensive line coach Art Kehoe.

Kehoe, an offensive lineman at Miami himself, was hired as a graduate assistant by former UM coach Howard Schnellenberger 30 years ago. He spent a few seasons doing that before landing an assistant coaching job on Jimmy Johnson's staff in 1984. He talked about that experience.

"Coach Johnson came up to me and put his arm around me. We had about a 300-yard walk to the dressing facility at the JC we were practicing at. As we're walking, he said, ‘listen, I want to make you the assistant offensive line coach. You do a helluva job but I can't announce it until after the New Year'. He told me that I had a (full-time) job if I wanted it. I looked at him and laughed and said I definitely want it. There were pine trees around us and I went deep into the woods and starting jumping up and down. I didn't want anyone to see me. He gave me my first full-time job."

That began a stretch run at Miami that would be tough to match by any assistant coach, at any position, and at any school in America. Learning under former OL coach Tony Wise, Kehoe mastered the craft. After a few years of coaching tight ends under Dennis Erickson, Kehoe became the full-time offensive line coach under Butch Davis in 1995.

It didn't take long for Kehoe to establish himself as one of the best in the business -- on the field and in the recruiting battles.

Center K.C. Jones was Kehoe's first major product, after having also worked a lot with Leon Searcy as the assistant O-Line coach. Jones and Searcy remain two of the best offensive linemen to ever play at Miami.

Despite being handicapped by scholarship limitations the first few years of his tenure under Davis, Kehoe recruited extremely well along the offensive line. He recruited and coached players like Richard Mercier, Joaquin Gonzalez (who actually came as an academic walkon), Bryant McKinnie, Martin Bibla, Brett Romberg, Chris Myers, and many others.

By the time the probation days were over and Miami was full on scholarships again, Kehoe had the best offensive line unit in the college game. Many of his players went on to have successful careers in the NFL.

The Hurricanes won 83 of its final 100 games during the Kehoe days and only once, against LSU and Virginia Tech, was the team physically handled up front. Kehoe was a major reason for that type of success and, to this day, it's never made sense why he was fired following the 2005 season.

On a staff full of good recruiters under Butch Davis, Kehoe was one of the best. He was the primary recruiter for guys like Phil Buchanan, Sam Shields, Frank Gore, Spencer Adkins, Brett Romberg, Chris Myers, Rich Mercier, Jason Fox, and more. His five championship rings, history of producing quality linemen, intense personality, and passion for the game should make him a dynamite recruiter under Golden.

Former line coach Jeff Stoutland has recruited pretty well in recent years. Players like Brandon Linder and Seantrel Henderson are good building blocks for the future. While Kehoe recruited several large linemen who later became NFL players (like 6-5/325 Vernon Carey, 6-7/310 Bryant McKinnie, etc), he also likes to recruit quality athletes and lots of them.

"I like 6-4, 6-5 guys that are 230, 240, 250, 260, 270 – tight ends and defensive ends. You should always look at guys like Vernon Carey (6-5/320 coming out of HS) who are damn good offensive linemen. They're exceptions. I think the best offensive linemen are probably guys that played other positions as well."

There's a lot of young talent on this offensive line. It has a chance to be very special over the next few years. It needed a new coach to come in here and make it become an elite group. Kehoe, widely considered one of the best offensive line coaches in the game by his peers, should come in and make that happen.

He once told me how special of a place Miami was to him.

"That was more than a career, that was my life. Those were some of the greatest memories of my life. I don't know how many people who have been at one place and enjoyed so much success. I'm glad I was part of it. I was around so many great players and coaches and I took advantage of it. I'm very blessed to have worked with UM for so many years."

Fortunately, for both himself and the UM program, Kehoe is back in Miami -- where he belongs.

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