CORAL GABLES -- If Al Golden's goal was to get under Brandon Washington's skin with his comments Monday -- mission accomplished.
The 6-4, 320-pound junior, who has started 20 consecutive games for the Hurricanes (second-most on the offensive line behind senior Harland Gunn), said he is irked his starting job at left tackle has become an open competition with Seantrel Henderson. Washington also seemed puzzled as to why.
"I have no idea," Washington said Tuesday when asked why Golden thought his performance Saturday at North Carolina wasn't good enough. "I was obviously frustrated with my play. I was going against a good player [Quinton Coples]. They were talking about him being a possible first round draft pick. I didn't give up a sack on him. I think he had one solo tackle. So, I don't know what the deal is. I just need to get better."
For the record, Coples finished with three solo tackles, three assisted tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. There's no telling exactly how many of those came against Washington (maybe offensive line coach Art Kehoe can clear it up since he broke down the film), but Golden was pretty clear Monday when he said "we're not getting enough out of the left tackle."
Washington was also pretty clear he was bothered by that. "Of course it bothers me," he said when asked if having his job up for grabs gets under his skin. "Like I said I was an All-Conference guard and they asked me to move out there because of the injury to Seantrel. Now, they're telling me the three inside guys are solid. And that possibly won't change.
"It's a tough adjustment," Washington said of moving from guard to tackle. "I was a dominant guard. I was an all-conference guard. I was a preseason all-conference guard, preseason All-American guard. Something changed with me going to tackle. I didn't just all of a sudden start to dominate guys as a freshman. I was a starter my sophomore year in what they called my come out year. I knew I could play. I got confidence in it. [Then] they moved me to tackle. I could use another year at tackle, and come out and execute the way I did at guard."
Lighting a fire under a player's butt is always a good thing if you can get more out of him. But in this case, it's clear Washington's feelings are bruised. Now, is he going to take a good attitude and approach to the competition? Or, is he going to sulk and become a problem?
Despite some of his comments, it doesn't appear Washington will do the latter. "I'm going to come out with the same composure, same humble guy I've been, play my physical brand of football," Washington said.
"[This] changes my mindset in a positive way, like just me wanting to get better, me wanting to execute my role even more. Now, I've got competition."
> So what was it that Washington didn't do right at North Carolina? The second time we asked him, we got a better explanation.
"Now that I watch film, we got this solid count with this head bob. [Coples] was beating me off the snap count," Washington said. "It was an away game. We had to go to a silent count. I was asking Tyler Horn could he do a two-head bob. He kept telling me 'Yeah,' but he wasn't getting there. I was doing the best I can. He was getting off the ball faster. I couldn't get my hands up faster. I couldn't get my hands on [Coples]. He was already on the edge."
Washington said making the switch from guard to tackle isn't easy and gave his explanation as to why. "You're in more space. The hand adjustment from the snap of the ball is quicker than at guard," Washington said. "You can handle it somewhat [at guard] -- opposed to a guy who runs 4.7, 4.6 speed, a guy who is big, fast and physical. You try and tie him with your hands. That's why I said I can use another year at it."