The hot topic in Coral Gables -- aside from the NCAA investigation and whether or not UM will be skipping a bowl game -- have been player sideshows, and the discipline coach Al Golden has had to hand out over the last couple weeks.
Tuesday, while two suspended players -- freshman linebacker Gabe Terry and receiver Rashawn Scott -- remained out, second-leading tackler and starting outside linebacker Eddie Johnson was reinstated and back out at practice. All three players were disciplined before last Saturday's game at Virginia.
Golden said Johnson will be allowed to play this Saturday in the Canes' home finale against South Florida (3-6), but he won't start. Asked what he told Johnson upon his return to the team, Golden said: "That there's a responsibility and a level of accountability that we can't move on without."
"It's not do this for me, it's do it because the rest of the team is doing it and because you want to be accountable and responsible and want to be a good teammate," Golden said. "I've been in this situation before and hopefully he'll be stronger, come out of it stronger and respond... As a coach, you can't look the other way when those type of things are going on. Hopefully he learned from it. The rest of it is in-house."
While Scott remains suspended indefinitely, Golden remains hopeful the situation with Terry, who blocked a punt in the win over Virginia Tech, will be resolved.
"I'd love for him to play," Golden said. "But it's in his court - he's got to mature. He's got to see the big picture and how he impacts the team. Right now he has not been reinstated. I don't know if that's going to change."
Cornerback Brandon McGee, one of roughly 15 players on the Hurricanes' leadership/unity council, said Tuesday he had words with Johnson recently and is confident the redshirt freshman will "respond positively."
"I spoke with Eddie and had a heart-to-heart with him, just a real pow-wow session," McGee said. "There's a mutual respect between us both. He's a great athlete. He understands. I think he'll keep moving forward and Coach Golden will continue to support him. Coach Golden supports all of us. There's been many times when guys have been in his office and he's never once turned his back on them. He'll keep developing these guys."
How did Johnson respond to a teammate pulling him to the side for an important talk?
"[Johnson] was receptive to what I was saying," McGee said. "He was very understanding of where I was coming from because I took him to a real place."
As for Scott, McGee said he's doesn't know the true extent of why the sophomore receiver has been suspended indefinitely, but said "it's unfortunate."
Another teammate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: "For Rashawn to get suspended indefinitely, he had to have done some real messed up [bleep]. The rules aren't that hard to follow."
MCGEE TALKS UNITY/LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
> McGee said UM's leadership/unity council meets usually once a month in the Edgerrin James room at the Hecht Center to discuss important issues with Golden. "It's pretty much a connection between the players and coaches," McGee said. "Coach Goldenm he stresses to us what we have to get done and sometimes the players may have requests and it's our responsibility to take it to Coach Golden."
"When you see a guy who may be going down a [troublesome] path, everybody will talk to him and things like that. We'll pull him to the side ourselves and address it then. If coach sees an issue and he feels it needs to be adjusted we'll handle it."
Who is on the council? Every class -- seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen are represented. "[Running back] Mike James, me, [quarterback] Stephen Morris, [receiver] Allen Hurns, [offensive lineman] Brandon Linder, [cornerback] Tracy Howard, [receiver] Malcolm Lewis, [safety] Deon Bush those are some of the guys," McGee said. "It's a big group. We're not necessarily policemen, it's more like a bridge between the coaches and players."
Are there times when players have been proactive to stop a teammate from getting in trouble?
"There definitely has been times," McGee said. "We've also been able to do some other things, too. We talked to coach about bringing music to practice and he was receptive. We impose our own discipline as well. Guys don't sit out games -- that's not our decision. But other discipline measures. It varies."
Golden praised McGee's leadership Tuesday.
"Brandon McGee doesn't get enough credit for being the leader he's become," Golden said. "He's blessed with raw talent to play the corner position. What we're seeing now is he's a guy committed to working on his tools. He's so much tougher now than when he first got here. And he's a leader for us. If you asked when we first got here would he emerge as a team leader, captain, I'd say No. 2, No. 3, that's the chance he'd have. I'm really proud of him."
MORE NEWS AND NOTES FROM TUESDAY
> Golden said he expects receiver Allen Hurns, who cracked his left thumb blocking on Duke Johnson's 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown Saturday at Virginia, to play on Saturday versus USF. Hurns, who returned to the field and caught two TD passes after being injured, was at practice with a cast on his left hand Tuesday.
Golden lauded Hurns' toughness. "We're protecting it certainly in practice. We'll see how it evolves on Thursday - we want to protect it through Thursday and see if there can be some kind of soft splint or tape job he can [play] with," Golden said. "He's got a crack if you will, in his thumb, and he's working through it. It's not in the joint or anything thats going to be career threating. But he's been cleared to proceed."
> Golden said "it's a little bit cloudy" whether or not the annual series with USF will continue beyond next season because the ACC could go to a nine-game conference schedule with Notre Dame added to the mix. What does Golden want with his out of conference schedule moving forward?
"We have to construct to have the ability win the Coastal," Golden said. "That's the biggest thing. And we have to make sure when everyone walks through the building the way out is through our division, which we haven't won, and then go to Charlotte.
"I'd like to see us play Kansas State, Notre Dame … let's play them in Charlotte and a BCS game, not week 2 on the road because we're taking ourselves out of the tournament pretty quickly by doing that. Our first priority has to be to get to Charlotte, and let's all travel, go to Charlotte and have a great time. Let's enjoy that and then you go from there in terms of taking the next step. We have a long way to go as a program. I see what you see. We have a long way to go. But I'm dug in, here to fix it. We have a staff that's committed to it. We had 32 young Miami Hurricanes that joined us last year that are really making a difference, part of the solution."
> What is Golden's message to his senior class going into the final two games?
"That they have an opportunity this week and the next two weeks to right the ship," Golden said. "Their legacy will be that, that they fought through it, that they didn't quit, didn't leave, they dug in and fought through the tumult, adversity when it would have been easier to say `I'm out of here.' They deserve to finish on a great note, a positive note. They have been through a lot, and as a staff we're grateful to them. Hopefully they go off on a positive note here."
> Golden said the reason fifth-year senior defensive tackle Darius Smith hasn't played the past two games is because "other guys are playing better than him right now."
"The emergence of Curtis Porter has kind of taken some of his reps away," Golden said. "[Freshmen] Earl Moore and Dequan Ivery have taken some of his reps away. That's unfortunate, but that happens in college football. The only thing he can control is having a positive attitude and going to work tomorrow and hope he has another opportunity."
Golden said Porter's conditioning is improving, but he probably played "too many plays last week, to be honest with you."
"His attitude has been great," Golden said. "We're really trying to push him to get eight weeks worth of conditioning in two weeks. I think he'll be better this week. He was better last week. We played him too much. He's effective when he's in there. If he can just buy into a process and consistency he can be very, very good, as good as he wants to be."
AUDIO INTERVIEWS FROM TUESDAY