Better And Better

As the skill players at Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas get their extra running in, there is one player that definitely looks out of place.

Big ole' Brandon Linder.

One of the best offensive linemen in the country in the recruiting class of 2010, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Fort Lauderdale product runs at practice, when practice is over, and again after lifting weights.

"I live in the weight room," Linder stated. He has already narrowed down his college choices to Notre Dame, Florida and Miami. "But I'm also very athletic. I'm always running with the skill guys and everything, and trying to push myself because you have to have fast feet. Now a days, football isn't about how big you are, it's how fast you are, especially with the linemen."

Linder's feet aren't the only thing he has going for him. He's also very versatile.

Last fall, Linder started at center, helping St. Thomas Aquinas win the class 5-A state championship for the first time since 1999. This season, he is making the transition to left tackle.

"I like them both, but I like tackle more," Linder said. "You're more on a island and you get to go against the best of the best, and you have to be fast."

The Raiders have had their fair share of talented offensive linemen walk the school's hall over the years, and Linder will soon join the likes of Andrew Datko (Florida State), Jermaine Johnson (Auburn), Nick Pieschel (Central Florida), Marcus Gilbert (Florida), Andy Wollschlager (Miami), and of course, Sam Young and Dan Wenger (Notre Dame) in signing a National Letter of Intent.

Linder is already trying to keep the hoopla to a minimum, zeroing in on Miami, Florida and Notre Dame.

"Miami, Florida and Notre Dame is all I really care about," Linder began. The first two programs have already given verbal offers, and the Irish are showing a lot of interest. "I visited all of them. I don't want to wait around and mess around until National Signing Day. I'd like to know by next summer.

"I'm going to do some Miami games and Florida games, and I'm hoping we're going to fly up to a Notre Dame game, that'd be fun."

Linder's bye week is the weekend of Sept. 13th, and he is trying to use his free time to fly up for the Notre Dame-Michigan game on that date.

This summer, Linder took in South Bend for the first time.

"I really enjoyed it," he said. "It was a beautiful campus. I liked the coaches and the players, and (offensive line) coach (John) Latina is really nice and stuff.

"The first day we flew into Chicago and me and my dad went to a Cubs game at Wrigley. We drove down the next day and they gave us a tour of the academics, we ate at the cafeteria, and they gave us a tour of the athletic facilities. The next day they gave us a tour of the stadium.

"I don't even know, the whole thing was crazy. The stadium was really cool. And I know Sam Young and Dan Wenger, so we went out to dinner with a couple of other offensive linemen."

Head coach Charlie Weis was out of town when Linder visited. Linder plans on getting in touch with both Latina and Irish assistant coach Bernie Parmalee in the near future. Latina told Linder they see him playing tackle on the next level, and that he likes his bend and athletic ability.

"The legacy and just the opportunity to play for Notre Dame definitely," Linder said of what he likes the most. Senior teammate Ben Turk has already verbally committed to punt for the Irish in college. "The campus, I couldn't believe it and the buildings and how pretty it was."

When Linder was out to dinner with the Irish o-line, Young went over how the recruiting process went for him. Linder himself, has people all over trying to push him towards a certain school.

"I have to discuss it with my Dad and the coaches," Linder began.

"It's going to come down to position coach, because that's going to be my second dad. Then campus life, where it's located and what's going to put me in the next level being the NFL. Where my chance is to play for a team and help them win a national championship."

Judging by what he's doing on the prep level, there is no doubt Linder will put the work in, in trying to achieve both of those aspirations.

Linder's extra running is starting to rub off on some of his current offensive line peers.

"They started to come on," Linder said of running with the skill players. "I'm trying to help them get better so our offensive line can be even better.

"I can keep up with the skill players and they push me harder. It just keeps getting better and better." Top Stories