Media day has come and gone at The U and in just a few hours Camp Shannon will officially begin. But before we get started and I get to sharing some of the highlights from Friday, I wanted to provide my own thoughts on what I felt like after leaving the Hecht Athletic Center.
Since taking over as coach, Randy Shannon has made it his mission to chip away at all the 'distractions' surrounding his program. Internally, he's installed new rules for his players in the lockeroom and new rules off the field. Externally, he's kept the quarterbacks off limits to the media (he knew we'd drive them crazy) and developed a new company line -- TEAM FIRST -- for all his players.
In essence, he's built an impenetrable wall around his team much like the one UM has built in recruiting from the Palm Beach line south this summer. But that's another story.
Friday, as Miami picked up talented Miami Northwestern linebacker Sean Spence as its 17th early commitment, the current Canes met with the media for the first time since the spring. And needless to say, all of them sounded like they had been in Shannon school for several months.
Quarterback Kyle Wright, who once reminded us last fall when he was injured how he would return and become the starter once again, had nothing but love and admiration for his buddy Kirby Freeman. Starting? Not as important as if the team wins. Ditto with Freeman.
"Kyle and I are doing great. Our relationship is fantastic and it really is. It's not just something I'm telling you guys. It always has been, through our ups and downs on the field and off, we've always had a great relationship. We've always maintained it. I'm just trying to do whatever it takes to win games. That is our No. 1 thing. It doesn't matter who is behind center, we're trying to win games."
"It's all about team. Ever since coach Shannon and his staff have came in, It's all about The U. And It really is this time. It's not about me. It's not about a quarterback controversy. It's about team. And for the first time I actually really feel good about that. We're trying to go win football games. And that's the only thing were out to do. We're not out to talk to you guys about anything other than winning good football games. Coach Shannon has definitely implemented good leadership. And it shouldn't just rub off on us."
Listen to all of the interviews from Friday (to hear some of the interviews from Friday just follow this link to our audio page) and you hear the word team uttered at least a dozen times by every single player. There wasn't a hint or ounce of selfishness uttered by anyone. Not a dose of me, me, me before team, team, team. That should make Shannon happy. Canes fans too. It means his players have been listening and taking his message to heart. But don't believe for a second all of UM's problems are resolved and that TEAM FIRST concept won't find itself being challenged at some point. It would be naive to believe that.
Yes, you can expect improvement. Shannon said Friday all starting positions are open. He's taken a page out of the Jimmy Johnson school he once attended knowing that when practice starts at 7:50 a.m. every morning for the next 17 days his Miami's players are going to be performing at their best. But at somepoint, inevitably, someone will feel sour. Not because they aren't part of the winning, but because they aren't the reason its happening. Then, and only then, will we find out just how much this Canes team has changed.
OK, now that I'm done opining, I wanted to share with you some of my other thoughts from Friday including perhaps the funniest slip-up Coach Shannon has had yet on the mic. For those of you listening to the audio, tune into his press conference between the 18 and 19 minute mark when he's talking about Graig Cooper and Javarris James.
When asked about Cooper in the spring, Shannon said: "I think Coop did a great job. He brought some some excitement to the team. And he's a calm guy. He's not an arrogant or flamboyant guy." It was going well, then coach goofed. "Belive it or not, he and Javarris James are kind of like butt buddies."
Butt Buddies? I never got around to asking Cooper or James what exactly that meant. But it probably would have brought a chuckle. I know I laughed and knew coach meant no harm (For those of you (18 or older) wanting to find out what it means, check out Urban Dictionary.com).
There were plenty of other highlights from Friday, including the news of Spence, which I got when I ran into him in UM's parking lot. And Shannon's reaction to former USC linebacker Josh Tatum and how he will not be on the team this season.
But if I shared it all on this site, this blog would end up being longer than my last term paper in college. I'd prefer for you guys to get your own impressions from our audio interviews, Susan Miller Degnan's story in the paper tomorrow and share your thoughts and questions over the next couple of days. After all, the season is just beginning.