Walk-on (RS) sophomore WR Shawn O'Dare was a pleasant surprise this spring for the Miami Hurricanes. He caught four passes for 56 yards during the second spring scrimmage on April 9, which raised more than a few eyebrows from both the coaches and fan base.
O'Dare, who transferred from the University of Jacksonville after just one semester, is a 5'10", 192-pound, self-made success story who continues to climb the depth chart for the Hurricanes. At one time, he was a 148-pound high school quarterback who ran a 5.0 40. Four years and 44 pounds later, O'Dare runs a consistent 4.5 and can occasionally run in the high 4.4 range.
Hard work with Vero Beach, FL personal trainer Tom Siano got O'Dare to Miami, and his development has continued under University of Miami strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey.
"I’m studying the playbook as much as I can this summer," O'Dare said. "I sat down with (Coach Swasey) before the summer and he gave me a workout plan to follow until I get back. I’m sticking to that as much as I can, and working out hard every day with Tom (Siano)."
O'Dare isn't a feel-good "Rudy" story, he's a late bloomer who is competing for playing time in a wide receiving corps which dropped 67 passes in 2010.
"I went from a guy last year who was just happy to have a spot on the roster, to now maybe getting onto the field sooner than I thought," O'Dare said. "Last year I knew I wasn’t going to get to play because I had to sit out a year after transferring. I was just trying to help out on the scout team, or however I could. This year I see myself fighting to get onto the field and getting some playing time."
The first time O'Dare ever played receiver was his first day of camp at Miami. It was a rough transition at first, but after a year, he's much more comfortable with the position headed into summer.
"I’m just trying to get a spot on special teams right now on kickoff, punt return, punt block, or something like that—if receiver comes, it comes," O'Dare said. "Receiver-wise, we have a couple of good seniors in Travis Benjamin, LeRon Byrd and Tommy Streeter. I think we have one of the best receiving corps in the nation, but we were a little underachieving last year."
"But we’ve got a new receiving coach this year, Coach George McDonald," O'Dare added. "He’s getting us right, and I think if we reach our potential we can be the best receiving corps in the nation."
Practices are a lot different under new head coach Al Golden, and he sees a lot of positivity coming out of the new-found discipline within the Miami program.
"All of our practices are scripted, There's not a minute where you don’t know what you will be doing," O'Dare said. "We our script before practice, so everyone knows where they are going. He’s serious, and I think he’s going to right the ship."
"We have breakfast every morning now, we didn’t have that last year," O'Dare added. "We have a 7 a.m. breakfast every morning with the whole team in the cafeteria. I think that really helps out with the team bonding—we didn’t have stuff like that last season."
The prime-time Monday night game against Maryland is one of the many he points to as games which will have a great atmosphere. Of course there is always the Florida State game, and the rematch against University of South Florida this year—both of the contests will be revenge games for "The U" in 2011. There's one more game, however, which really stands out to this lifelong Hurricane fan.
"Our second game is at home against Ohio State, and we lost to them last year," O'Dare said. "I still have personal feelings from the 2003 National Championship, I don’t know how everyone else feels. That’s definitely going to be a big game."
Follow O'Dare during the summer and during the season on Twitter @SODCanes28.