In the aftermath of the University of Miami's second consecutive loss, I've been trying to put my finger on what coach Randy Shannon has tried to get his team to understand about what he wants and expects from them.
In a sense, I feel Shannon has been undergoing his own journey of understanding. As Miami's defensive coordinator for six seasons, Randy never really got to understand what was happening on the other side of the locker room. (For those of you who never played the game, offenses and defenses rarely to speak to one another. When one is on the field, the other is in a huddle on the sidelines, game planning the next step. The same applies with practice during the week).
When Shannon took over this job in January, the only part he recognized was his own -- the defense. So, he brought the team together in the spring -- joining the lockers, establishing his unified rules -- and began pushing the offense as hard as he's always managed to push the defense. The problem? Randy's realized not everybody was pushing back and many simply don't know how. I think he finally came to that understanding last week when he went on his now infamous tirade in front of reporters at the end of last Tuesday's practice. A quick recap: Shannon cussed the team out and pointed to guard Derrick Morse and shouted "He's a real Hurricane!"
I think for awhile Shannon believed all he had to do this season was point -- like he did last Tuesday -- and like magic, eventually things would fall into place. The guys who weren't real Hurricanes could somehow become one through following the footsteps of "The Real Hurricanes." The problem is there are not enough "Real Hurricanes" around to this team escape its current state of mediocrity -- not yet anyway (but the troops are on their way). And, the imposters don't have enough ingredients to be "Real Hurricanes."
As UM fans, I can understand your frustration with this program. You have high expectations. You expect perfection. Here's the good news: Shannon and his staff do too. They remember the Old U. The problem is expectations can cause problems. And you've been terribly misled. I hear the gripe all the time -- but I thought our recruiting classes were among the best in the country. What we fail to realize is that the guys making the evaluations -- on those recruiting websites and at The U the last couple of seasons -- weren't very good. As one former Hurricane told me Tuesday, there aren't just enough real Hurricanes in this group.
So what does being a Real Hurricane mean? I define it as a mixture of mental toughness, the undying desire to win at all costs and the athletic ability to carry all of that out. The bonus feature? Real disappointment with losses and feeling unsatisfied with losses (just look at the way Kenny Phillips reacted after the Georgia Tech loss). Miami's coaches have realized there aren't just enough Real Hurricanes around. Now, you have to see it too. This team may not be playing at its best, but there's not much more ceiling to go right now. Go through the roster yourself and you'll see it littered with sophomores and juniors and seniors who have never smelled the field. Why? They aren't good enough.
Miami's new staff is weeding those people out right now and my guess is don't expect to see many of those guys back. Butch Davis made a similar ultimatum when Miami was going through its previous struggles in the late 90s. Guys left and things changed. From all the conversations I had Tuesday, expect to see the same in the coming months from Shannon and his staff.
* BLOG TOPIC: So, how do you participate in our Blog Topic of the Week? I want you to tell me how you as a fan define a Real Hurricane. Who are The Real Hurricanes on this team? Which former Canes do you look to as fan as Real Hurricanes? What makes you a Real Hurricane fan? As usual, our winner will have an opportunity to be a guest blogger Friday. I'll need all responses limited to 500 words or less by 10 p.m. Wednesday. I'll pick a winner and announce here on Thursday morning.