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Brandon Washington named starter at left tackle; Golden wants more all-around

CORAL GABLES -- The stormy weather in South Florida continued Wednesday and for the first time this week it kept Al Golden's football team indoors.

The team tried to go out for its usual Wednesday practice at 7 a.m., but decided to hold off until 9 a.m. When the Canes tried to go out again, lightning kept them in for good. In place of practice, Golden said the team did a walkthrough in the gym and held position meetings.

"You can get negative about it or just be positive," Golden said. "We choose to be positive. We met more and we walked through more things. Again, we'll come back tomorrow and go again. We had three good solid days on the option.

"We're dealing with two issues right now. First time we've seen odd defense and we're dealing with the option. Mental days are good for us right now."

> If there's been one common theme this week down here, it's that coach Al Golden wants more from his team all around. Golden started the week by saying the team isn't getting enough from Brandon Washington at left tackle and opening the competition up at punter.

Although Golden tempered his comments a bit Wednesday on Washington (he also told us Washington beat out Seantrel Henderson for the starting job for this week's game), it's clear Golden's goal is to get players to step up their game.

"I want to make sure I'm clear. When I'm talking about [the lack of] production at the left tackle spot, we've had Fig over there, we've had Bunche over there, we've had now Seantrel over there. Sometimes you need a second guy to push your first guy so you're playing with your best five," Golden said.

"I don't know what the best five are. Certainly Brandon is in the best five right now. He didn't lose his job yesterday. We're trying to create competition at every spot. I know he doesn't like it. But again, what I want to do is make sure is it doesn't become personal in the media. Okay, it's something I've talked to him about. We're both on the same page. It has nothing to do with the North Carolina game. It has to do with his body of work and our want to get Seantrel better, Bunche better going into the game.

"They're not playing enough right now. Bunche was one of the best offensive linemen coming out of the spring. He's not playing enough right now. Seantrel is healthy. He needs to get in the game. Again, if one of those guys emerges at tackle, maybe Brandon goes inside. Maybe he moves to right tackle. I don't know. But we need competition there badly right now."

Golden later added: "I think the competition at every spot is good for our team. We need to get it. There's no more saved spots. The spots belong to the University of Miami and the players who came before us."

> Golden said he isn't getting to excited about his team turning the ball over less lately or having a season-low three penalties for 19 yards at North Carolina.

"I don't get too excited about that. I've been burned a couple times," Golden said. "We kind of had a false recovery after Ohio State. Then we had a bad penalty game against Bethune-Cookman. I just kind of temper my thoughts on penalties. We're going to have to be really good against this group. I think they're 40 yards a game, which is excellent.

"Turnovers, we're moving a positive direction. But I think you would agree we need more on defense. We need interceptions. We're not getting enough interceptions right now."

The Hurricanes have just three defensive interceptions this season, which ranks 101st nationally. Golden thinks that will improve "because we have stability now" on defense.

"We have the same guys playing the same positions for multiple weeks," Golden said. "We're getting our hands on a couple balls better, breaking on the ball better. Again, it's like everything else. We had success last week as a defense. Again, I know it's not dominant yet. But we had success as a defense because everybody did their job. Everybody was in the right spot."

> Senior JoJo Nicolas has been playing both safety and cornerback since the return of Ray-Ray Armstrong two weeks ago. "It might be like that the rest of the way," Golden said. "If two other safeties emerge and end up being better than him at safety, then we'll try him at corner. But right now he's one of the best safeties.

"The corners aren't hurting us right now. We need more production out of the corners. They know that. But McGee is playing better. Mike Williams has been solid. This will be a great test for them this week in terms of supporting the run and defending the deep ball. But again, it's going to be a fluid situation until we can say these are the best four. And right now we feel a rotation is the best play there."

> Golden said sophomore tailback Eduardo Clements has evolved into a third down back because of his success on special teams and could see more touches.

"It's not like they're saying 'Coach can we put Eduardo in?' I'm good with it now. I trust the kid. He's working hard. He's doing a good job," Golden said.

> Golden reiterated Wednesday it may take defensive end Olivier Vernon time to get back into the mix after returning from suspension -- as it was for Ray-Ray Armstrong and others, but he praised the 6-4, 265-pound junior for showing a great attitude in practice and returning in excellent physical condition.

"We just got to make sure we don't ask him to do anything he can't do right now," Golden said. "[At his best] he should be a multi-faceted end. He should be a good run stopper. He plays with a good motor. He should be a good pass rusher. He should be able to do all three for us."

> Freshman defensive back Dallas Crawford has played the role of scout team quarterback this week to help simulate the speed of Georgia Tech's triple option. Golden said coaches still haven't decided if Crawford will be a cornerback or safety down the road.

"He came in a little bit overweight to be honest with you," Golden said. "But he did a good job getting his body fat down, really getting a regiment. He's in good condition right now. I'm excited about him. Sometimes on Thursdays we'll take the young guys, guys that aren't playing for us right now and work them out a little bit after practice. Last Thursday he did a real good job. He's getting better."

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