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Al Golden mum on out clause in contract should NCAA come down hard on UM

CORAL GABLES -- UM coach Al Golden said earlier this week he had no idea the allegations made by Nevin Shapiro would be coming his team's way -- even though school administrators knew the convicted Ponzi schemer had threatened to expose ugly secrets in a tell-all book.

Al Golden Saturday, Golden was asked if he had an out in his contract that would allow him to leave the program without penalty should UM be hit with severe sanctions once an NCAA investigation into Shapiro's claims is finalized.

"I'm not going to get into all that," Golden said. "Listen, my family and I are excited about being here. This is a great place, and we're going to get this fixed."

UM, which has been under investigation for at least five months, will likely be waiting awhile to find out what sanctions will be handed down by the NCAA should Shapiro's claims prove true (Shapiro, currently serving a 20-year sentence for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, told Yahoo! Sports he funneled impermissible gifts that included cash, cars, prostitutes and entertainment to at least 72 players, seven former coaches and members of the equipent staff from the football and basketball teams).

But as for the 12 current players in question -- which include quarterback Jacory Harris, linebacker Sean Spence and safety Ray-Ray Armstrong -- that could end with a resolution before the team's regular season opener Sept. 5 at Maryland if school officials make a decision on their own. Golden said Saturday he's confident the implicated players "did a great job in terms of being open and honest. That's going to allow everyone to move forward." But he has no idea what their fate will be.

"We'll deal with whatever comes down, whatever the issues are as they come. Right now we're moving forward and we're going to select our (starters and travel) team accordingly," Golden said. "Once the President and the AD on the other front talk to us about however we're going to move forward with that [regarding the 12 student-athletes under investigation], we'll release that to you as well."

The Hurricanes practiced Saturday morning for the 18th time this fall and have a second scrimmage set for Monday. After that, Golden said, he hopes to have his 60 man travel roster set and a depth chart out to the public by as early as Tuesday.

"I know you guys are here because there is a sensational story out there, but this is a critical time for our football team," Golden said. "We have a special teams scrimmage [Saturday], and our last scrimmage on Monday afternoon. Then our team is set. There are as many as 30 guys that don't know whether they're on the bus or fighting for a job right now."

Golden said the fight for the starting quarterback job -- once the biggest story in camp before Shapiro's allegations dropped Tuesday night -- is still neck-and-neck.

"Right now they've been alternating with the ones, repping," Golden said of Harris and sophomore Stephen Morris. "We don't know where Ryan [Williams] stands either, so we've been alternating him and Whip [Spencer Whipple]. All those guys are getting reps, are going to get reps on Monday [in the scrimmage] and then we'll go from there."

As for the format and focus of Monday's scrimmage, Golden said he already had "a draft Monday night" to split the team in half. He said unlike the first scrimmage where coaches were up in lifts and the focus was on situational drills (red zone work, etc.) "it'll be the team understanding the importance of field position and actually playing the game and subbing in and out and going to a special teams unit and not having to sit there and call out guys and all those things that cost you timeouts and penalties."

"We're trying to pick up the tempo and teach them the game pace," Golden said. "So it'll be orange vs. white. The only thing that might change is the quarterbacks - the quarterbacks may play on both sides."


> Don't be surprised if you see more starters playing on special teams this year. Golden said as much when he was asked about the progress of his special teams units.

"We didn't excel in that part of the game [last season]," Golden said. "Bosh [Matt Bosher] accounted for a lot of the special teams units that we were good in. Bosh was a great punter, so we had pretty good net punt. But we weren't very good in kickoff return, weren't good in punt return. And I don't think we blocked a kick. Those are things that are important to us, so we spend a lot of time on it, to be quite honest. Also, I think you'll see more starters playing on special teams this year for us."

> It doesn't look like the competition at middle linebacker is going very well for senior Jordan Futch, who has been passed up on the second team by freshman Gionni Paul. Although Golden said the competition for the starting job "is very good," sophomore Jimmy Gaines continues to be one of the few players on defense still wearing a black jersey along with senior Sean Spence.

"There's a lot of different combinations we have in there," said Golden, who said its likely Spence will play middle linebacker in nickel situations. "They're all trying to steal each other's reps. There's a lot of competition there. But I've been really pleased with Jimmy. Jimmy had a really good scrimmage last Saturday, has a great attitude. Jimmy is the same guy every day, which is critical for us because we're looking for consistent players. He brings it every day."

> Golden said he likes that Paul is physical and fast, "plays low, is powerful, explosive, really studies the game." But Paul isn't the only freshman he's excited about. According to Golden, defensive end Anthony Chickillo, receivers Phillip Dorsett, Rashawn Scott, linebackers Eddie Johnson and Denzel Perryman, defensive backs Thurston Armbrister and Thomas Finnie and defensive tackle Olsen Pierre are all "in the mix" for playing time.

"We're worried about the freshmen right now, because we've asked them to do a lot," Golden said. "There really isn't a break when you're a freshman. You go from four weeks of class to training camp. We're worried about some of them hitting a wall. This transition to school will help them get their legs back underneath them, clear their mind. But clearly we're ecstatic with our selections from January... it's a good group of guys that are ready to contribute."

> Saturday's player/coaches were running backs Mike James and Lamar Miller, defensive end Olivier Vernon, linebacker Ramon Buchanan, cornerback Mike Williams and receiver Allen Hurns.

> Injured tight end Chase Ford was back out at practice for the first time in at least a week. He was wearing a yellow, non-contact jersey, but participating in drills.

> The Associated Press poll, released moments ago, did not have the Hurricanes ranked in the Top 25.