Highlights from Al Golden’s news conference from Monday afternoon:
### He said there won’t be any changes to the coaching staff. As we reported, UM never asked him to dump Mark D’Onofrio, and Golden had no intention of doing it. He said “the answer is not change, the answer is continuity.”
He clearly trusts this staff and wants to see what the staff does with a team that is adding a high-end recruiting class.
“First year without the NCAA cloud,” he said. “There’s a big part of me that wants that, that hasn’t experienced that…. We have an experienced group, mature group coming back. I look at my depth in the spring [with] the first team. We’re a lot deeper. I like the symmetry we have.”
### He dodged questions about Penn State, declining to say if he interviewed or considered the job. “There are universities that have expressed interest the past couple of years. I have not addressed them and I’m not going to start now. It’s flattering… other people express interest in us. I’m excited about where we’re going.”
Did the speculation hurt, considering one player de-committed during the period of uncertainty (Hialeah Champagnat defensive tackle Travonte Valentine)? “No,” Golden said. “Our staff did a great job of communication.” Valentine named LSU as his favorite but hasn't ruled out UM.
### Golden said nobody has left the team and “we don’t foresee anybody leaving.”
### He said eight recruits will enroll this week: running back Joseph Yearby, running back Brandon Powell, offensive tackles Trevor Darling and Shane McDermott, defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou, defensive end Trent Harris, linebacker Juwon Young and receiver Braxton Berrios. The first four of those, and Berrios, are four-star recruits. And all eight are very well-regarded.
Defensive tackle Michael Wyche, from East Los Angeles JC, has signed with UM but isn't an early enrollee at this point.
### Asked if the defensive philosophy needs to change, Golden suggested he likes the core philosophy “but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to tweak our use of personnel. The team is reborn every year… In terms of schemes and direction we want to go, we’re not where we want to be.”
So UM might use some players differently. But it doesn’t sound like they will dramatically change their approach. Golden said he hopes to generate more pass rush from a four-man rush.
Then, as he did on Jose Rose’s show today, he spoke about “the progress on defense, and how the defense was more explosive this year. The progress we made, whether it’s the sacks, the fumbles caused, the interceptions, this is the most explosive" defense UM has had in his three years. (But it's clearly not good enough yet, and Golden doesn't dispute that.)
### Asked to assess his linebackers (a unit that needs to play better), he said he feels good with a group including Denzel Perryman (who might turn pro), Tyriq McCord, Al-Quadin Muhammed (can play outside linebacker when UM is in a 3-4), Jermaine Grace, Raphael Kirby, Thurston Armbrister, Alex Figueroa and two incoming players: Juwon Young and Trent Harris (who can also play defensive end).
“We’re getting longer at linebacker. Young and Harris are 6-2, 6-3, have range and length. We’re getting stronger and better at that position and I don’t think we’re giving up the speed. Denzel got a lot bigger last year and didn’t give up speed or anything from a conditioning standpoint.”
### Asked about the fact that among 123 teams, Miami was third-worst in both rushing yards allowed and third-down conversion percentage allowed in the final five weeks of the season, Golden said:
“The reality is we weren’t good enough. It’s my responsibility for us to be better at that time of the year. We have to continue to build our depth. That’s going to be critical. Injuries, the guys we lost, were difficult. That’s no excuse.”
### He stopped short of saying the quarterback job is Ryan Williams’ to lose, but he’s clearly the front-runner.
“Ryan has done a really good job, but you’re not anointed the starting quarterback. Ryan did a good job distinguishing himself as the No. 2 in training camp. Kevin Olsen and Gray Crow [and incoming quarterbacks] will have an opportunity to compete. In terms of his growth, maturity, football intelligence, [Williams] is someone we’re excited about.”
### He said offensively, “we want to be more balanced. We have explosive playmakers but we need to control the ball a little better. We need to do a better job on third down, and that includes first-down efficiency. How can we get in more third and manageable? For how we conduct the offense, our completion percentage needs to be close to 68, 67 percent. We could have helped out the defense a lot more by converting” third downs.
“We were a lot better running the ball, explosive runs, runs over 10 yards. We were a lot better with explosive pass plays. Very excited to say that element is coming back” – with Duke Johnson, Stacy Coley and others.
### Golden said he isn't sure if Duke Johnson will be available for spring football, as he recovers from injury. He hasn't announced the spring schedule.
### Golden confirmed that Kevin Olsen, Rashawn Scott and Ray Lewis were all suspended for the bowl game for “conduct detrimental to the team.” He indicated he expects Scott –as a senior to be – has to speak up more for his actions.
He seemed more forgiving of Olsen and Lewis. All three remain on the team.
### Quick Dolphins note: One potential candidate to replace dismissed offensive coordinator Mike Sherman: Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, who worked with Philbin in Green Bay and is considered a bright young assistant. His contract is up. Joe Philbin wanted to interview him when he was putting together his initial Dolphins staff, but the Packers wouldn't allow it.
Gary Kubiak and Rob Chudzinski, who lost their NFL head coaching jobs, are among veteran former offensive coordinators available.