Friday, October 18, 2002

Miami's Brandt finds his place

Former QB, WR adapts to tight end

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

        By the time Miami's football coaches suggested to Matt Brandt that switching to tight end might be in his and the team's best interests, he already had become comfortable in a state of flux.

        Brandt came to Oxford only with experience in the Canadian 12-player, three-down, large-field system. After being redshirted in 1999, Brandt was switched to wide receiver in 2000, but he didn't see any action.

        In 2001 came the move to tight end, where the 6-foot-5, 244-pound Brandt found his home. He played in 11 of the RedHawks' 12 games last season and had a touchdown catch against Buffalo.Robert Frazier graduated, creating an opening for this season's starting job, which Brandt won. He has 14 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown, and has started six of Miami's seven games.

        On Saturday, Brandt will play his closest game to his hometown when Miami (4-3, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) travels to Buffalo (1-6, 0-3) for a 1 p.m. MAC game, and it couldn't come at a better time. Brandt set career highs with six catches for 54 yards in the RedHawks' 48-41 loss to Northern Illinois last week.

        Brandt said the position changes have been challenging.

        "When I first came here, I had my mind set on playing quarterback, but after I saw the level of competition once Ben (Roethlisberger) and Ryan Hawk came in, I knew I didn't have their level of skills." he said. "When I got to wide receiver, I knew I had good hands, but I was a little slow. My thinking was if I gained more weight, I could play tight end. I'd rather be a fast tight end than a slow wide receiver. The blocking was the biggest change, but once I got into things, it became more natural."

        Miami coach Terry Hoeppner is pleased with Brandt's ability to adapt.

        "We're really happy with his progress," Hoeppner said. "I was talking with another coach who had seen him on tape, and he said, 'Where did you get that guy?'."

        Brandt was born in Urbana, Ill., and moved around the United States with his father, Loren, an economics professor, and mother, Carol, a bank executive, before the family settled in Toronto, Canada, when Matt was 8 years old.

        Brandt played several sports while growing up but wasn't allowed to play football until he reached high school at Northern Secondary. After a year as a receiver, he moved to quarterback and was named the school's 1998-99 athlete of the year after passing for 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. Canadian high school teams play by Canadian Football League rules, which promote a wide-open version of the sport but leave some college recruiters skeptical about spectacular statistics. Even though a summer program in which Brandt played produced eight Division I-A players, Brandt wasn't heavily recruited.

        Brandt's father had a colleague in Miami's business department, which got him interested in playing for the RedHawks.

        "I just kind of brought it up," said Brandt, who could have walked on the team at Boston College. "It seemed like a really good fit. It's not too big, but it plays in a competitive conference. It's the right size. Everything just fit."


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