Vernon Carey – First Round Material

With the 2004 NFL Draft taking place April 24th & 25th, the Miami Hurricanes look to make history with potentially six upperclassmen expected taken in the first round. Combine that with the last four drafts and Miami will have amassed 20 first round picks this decade. Between now and Draft Day, will profile the six projected first rounders.

One of a few crown jewels to come from Miami's 1999 recruiting class, "Mount" Vernon Carey is weeks away from a first round NFL payday. The former local product out of Northwestern High was a top recruit his senior season and didn't allow a sack as an upperclassman. He was rated the #1 offensive lineman by several publications in 1999 due to his tremendous size and speed, his stellar skills as a run blocker, lower body strength, explosiveness and flexibility for an athlete of his stature.

The result, a recruiting battle that ended when Carey signed with hometown favorite Miami over Ohio State, Florida and Kentucky.

The 6'5" and 330 pound Carey redshirted in 1999 and backed up future Hurricane superstar Joaquin Gonzalez at right tackle. He was a productive member of the scout team and added 10 pounds to his frame going into 2000. Carey ended up seeing action in eight games behind right tackle Martin Bibla and was a key role player that was amongst the nation's elite by season's end.

As a sophomore in 2001, Carey became an integral part of a rotation that included such future NFLers as Bibla (Atlanta), Gonzalez (Cleveland) and future first round pick Bryant McKinnie (Minnesota) – who Carey subbed for when injured in the season finale against rival Virginia Tech. He saw extensive action in every game of Miami's 12-0 National Championship campaign.

Mount Vernon took over the starting job at right tackle as a junior in 2002. He led the Canes in pancake blocks with 42 and earned offensive MVP honors for standout performances against #6 Florida, #9 Florida State, West Virginia, #17 Pittsburgh and #14 Virginia Tech. Safe to say that Carey is a big game player and elevates his effort the bigger the occasion.

Statistically, Carey's best games of 2002 were the following: 7 pancake blocks against Temple, 6 metroralis blocks against both Tennessee and Virginia Tech and a single game grade of 91% at Florida – where Miami's running backs amassed 306 yards on the ground and the Canes' offense finished the day with 34 points and over 500 total yards.

Other highlights of the 2002 season came against Virginia Tech (6 pancakes, 6 metroralis and 556 yards gained by Miami's offense), Tennessee (6 metroralis, 1 pancake, 177 yards by Miami running backs and 422 total offensive yards), West Virginia (5 pancakes, 2 metroralis paving the way for 524 total yards on offense) and the thrilling 28-27 comeback against Florida State (4 pancakes, 3 metroralis with 477 yards total offense.) Carey ended 2002 with 42 pancakes and 37 metroralis blocks.

Entering 2003, Carey the senior was on several post season watch lists. An Outland Trophy Candidate, Lombardi Award Candidate, All-America Candidate and All-BIG EAST Conference Candidate were feathers in this lineman's cap.

Defense was the name of Miami's game last season as several key offensive changes disrupted the chemistry created by the 2001 and 2002 squads. With quarterback Ken Dorsey being replaced by Brock Berlin, receiver Andre Johnson replaced by Ryan Moore and running back Willis McGahee replaced by Frank Gore (who was subsequently replaced by Jarrett Payton 5 games into the season due to injury) – Miami's offense was a game of musical chairs – further complicating things for a young offensive line. Still, a bright spot of the 2003 line was the senior leadership of Vernon Carey.

It was the offensive line which helped the #3 Hurricanes in a 48-9 season opening romp over Louisiana Tech. A week later when Florida clung to a 33-10 lead over Miami – it was the offensive line that bought time for Berlin and his 2 minute drill while creating holes for an elusive Frank Gore. In the end, it was the Canes who put up 28 unanswered in the 38-33 comeback victory.

Midseason brought the annual showdown with #5 Florida State – in Tallahassee. A torrential downpour ensued and Miami was without Gore, its' star tailback. In Payton's first start, it was Carey and the rest of the line who helped create a grind it out ground attack that resulted in 131 rushing yards, a touchdown and a 22-14 upset road victory.

With the NFL Draft two weeks away, Carey has found his way on to many teams' wish lists. Miami (#20), Dallas (#22) and Carolina (#31) all like him in the first round and love his size, speed and instinct. Baltimore (#51) prays Carey slips to the middle of the second round, but knows that chance is slim to none.

At Miami's on campus Pro Day on February 28th, Carey did 30 reps in the strength lift, ran the 40-yard dash at an average time of 5.33, had a long jump of 7-foot-5, had a 28 inch vertical, benched 225 lbs. 30 times, recorded a 5.0 in the short shuttle and 8.20 in the three-cone drill.

Carey's former offensive line coach – the legendary Art Kehoe – said the following about him in the 2003 Miami media guide:

"Vernon has phenomenal athletic ability for a man his size and he continues to develop as a finisher. He's an outstanding in-and-up gap blocker and is almost a finished product as a lineman."

Question remains how close to being a finished product is Carey? It is obvious he has all the physical tools and abilities to succeed at the next level and be a top pick. Minor criticism has been mentioned by draft "gurus" who state better hand/eye coordination and better footwork would help. Another "expert" mentioned fluctuating weight issues, only being an average downfield blocker and lack of a solidified position between guard or tackle.

Of course the upside outweighs the few semi negative comments. The consensus believes that size and strength will make up for any other inconsistencies – as does the fact that he has dodged the injury bug for almost all of his career. Mount Vernon absolutely has the prototypical build offensive line coaches drool over and most expect this man-child to succeed on the next level after earning a first round ticket to the NFL.

If Carey had his wish – keep him home in Miami – near his former university, friends and family.

"I'd be happy to play for the Miami Dolphins (at # 20) if I am still there. I'd like to spend my whole life in Miami if I could," said Carey.

Born and raised in Miami, FL and a columnist since 1996, Chris Bello now resides in San Diego, CA and handles online sales for Feel free to send your comments or to contact him at

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