Here's a quick preview of what could be in store next Wednesday, National Signing Day.
> NOTE: I wore the old Cubs jersey in honor of the late great Ernie Banks.
No matter how loud Hurricanes fans might scream for change (or tweet for that matter), Al Golden doesn't appear to be a head coach ready to cut loose longtime friend and defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio.
The answer to Miami's defensive woes, Golden said during his press conference Monday, isn't blowing things up. It's keeping it status quo and letting Miami's young defensive players grow up and mature.
"Although we're not where we want to be there are so many little things I look at as the head coach that say the answer right now is not change. The answer is continuity," Golden said.
"The answer is continued progress with our young people, continued development. I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't excited about the talent we have coming back on defense. I am. I'm excited. We have a lot of play makers coming back. No. 2, we're adding 14 to 16 more recruits to that. I'm excited about that."
All the excitement Golden might have about his defense isn't going to change the fact that in D'Onofrio's three seasons here, Miami's defense has hardly resembled the Hurricanes of old.
With rival Florida State set to play in the national championship game tonight against Auburn, Miami fans are wondering how long they'll have to wait to see the Hurricanes have a national championship caliber defense to call their own.
Although the Hurricanes produced 12 more turnovers (27 total, 23rd most nationally) and six more sacks than they did in 2012 (29 total, 59th nationally), and they also cut down on the amount of points they allowed (30.5 per game in 2012; 26.8 in 2013), offenses continued to have their way with UM as 500-yard games became the norm down the stretch.
Golden, both on WQAM's morning show and again this afternoon, kept pointing to incremental growth and how the team "made more explosive plays" as signs of progress.
"We scored five touchdowns on defense. We blocked four kicks for the first time. Those to me are all positive trends," Golden said. "The other thing was we went from 31 penalties a year ago on defense to I think 10 playing all those young guys a year ago.
"Again, it's my decision, and my decision was that starting over for these young people is not the answer," he continued. "Continuity, continued progress, continue with the same position coaches and techniques and scheme was the better answer for me. I made that decision after careful evaluation.
"That doesn't mean we're not going to tweak our personnel or our uses of personnel and how we devise things, the quality control you go through in deciding what's best. A team is reborn every year. What was good for this past team may not be what's best for this team coming back. Whether its a different quarterback, a different running game. On defense we may have more -- especially with the kids coming in -- we may have more defensive backs than we've had in awhile. We can play more nickel for instance. Those are all things that go into consideration when you're making that decision."
Golden, who himself is a big part of the defensive game-planning, is banking on the turnaround he had at Temple once the Owls began to recruit better. When Golden and D'Onofrio arrived in 2006, the Owls ranked last in defense among FBS schools. By the time they left in 2010, Temple ranked 47th against the run, 14th in passing efficiency defense, 16th in total defense and 16th in scoring defense.
Will the same happen here?
Golden appears to be banking on it.
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES
> Golden said eight will arrive early and compete in spring ball: running backs Joseph Yearby and Brandon Powell, offensive linemen Trevor Darling and Kc McDermott, JUCO defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou, linebackers Trent Harris and Juwon Young and receiver Braxton Berrios.
Missing from Golden's list of others who said they would sign with Miami early: JUCO defensive tackle Michael Wyche, linebacker Darrion Owens and defensive back Ryan Mayes.
Associate AD Chris Freet said Wyche signed a national letter of intent, but is not yet on the early enrollee list.
Canesport.com's Matt Shodell reported Monday Wyche is currently appealing an ACC rule that requires entering student-athletes to attend the same junior college for three semesters before transferring to a member school. Wyche has reportedly only spent two semester at his current junior college in Los Angeles.
> Golden said the reason receiver Rashawn Scott, quarterback Kevin Olsen and cornerback Ray Lewis III were suspended for the bowl game weren't at the bowl game was because they were suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. All three players remain on the roster, Golden said.
"Rashawn, that's a different situation," Golden said referring to previous suspensions by Scott. "Going into his senior year, it gets to a point where they have to be accountable to their teammates, family, themselves. In terms of Ray and Kevin, we really like both those young men. It was a violation of team rules. Both of them have moved forward, are excited to come back and we're excited to work with them."
Asked if any other players might be leaving the team, Golden said: "I don't foresee anybody leaving."
Joe Rose: Coach, how are you?
Al Golden: “Good Joe, how you doing today.’’ (Joe Rose laughs a lot here)
Joe Rose: What was your weekend like?
Al Golden: “Well, one of the reasons I released a statement yesterday was because speculation had grown so much that I thought I would be able to get to my press conference or even this conversation with you on Monday but I opted to release a statement so that we could move forward here.’’
Joe Rose: Penn State comes down here. The search committee comes down to interview you. Obviously you went to school there. You were captain of the football team. You coached there. You did recruiting from there. Did you ever feel like when they were coming down, did you feel like you were ever close to taking the job? Could you just kind of help Canes fans out what your whole thinking process was?
Al Golden: “The thing is, over the last couple years I haven’t responded to any of this speculation of any school. Last year I was in a recruit’s home and they had me going to another school. The biggest thing is I’m not a candidate for another position and I stand behind the statement I made yesterday. I was in the office Thursday and Friday evaluating every aspect of the program and I’m excited to move forward.’’
Joe Rose: We’ll close it up. Obviously you’ve got a great reputation up there, Coach. I think everybody knows that. I understood if you did meet with them for those reasons. Hell, you met your wife there. I think you met your wife in the sports department up there. So, obviously it’s a special place for you. Was it ever, like, you had to be curious about the job, Coach, a little bit, yes?
Al Golden: “Joe, I just can’t get, again, from a professional standout I’ve never discussed any other positions. As I said yesterday, I’m not a candidate. I’m excited to be here. I’m eager to welcome our guys back. We have incoming guys coming in Wednesday. The whole staff returns today. We’ve got a staff meeting here in a little while and we’re moving forward.’’
Rose: “Were you aware this weekend of all the stuff that was out there both up in HappyValley and that area and down here and all the different reports on you?
Golden: “I became aware of it with [athletic director] Blake [James]. There’s no way we’ll be able to get to this conversation. Obviously that’s why we released the statement. So, we’re moving forward and back at work today.’’
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
University of Miami coach Al Golden was just on WQAM with Joe Rose.
Basically, he didn't answer any questions about the Penn State job and he spent nearly 30 minutes talking about statistical trends and the improvements Miami made on offense and defense.
He said the worst part of UM's game has been third-down conversions offensively and defensively, the pass rush, time of possession (which relates to conversion problem).
The big thing we got out of this: Golden seems like he's not going to make many, if any, changes on the coaching staff.
He was asked about Mark D'Onofrio and the first thing he said is "The trend right now is positive.''
Then he compared numbers from 2012 to 2013, and covered the improvements Miami made. He also talked about what needs to be improved.
He never talked specifically about any of his coaches.
So, Canes fans, I do not know this for a fact, as Al will be meeting with his coaching staff today and I can't predict the future, but it's pretty clear, again, that most coaches at the very least -- and almost definitely D'Onofrio is my guess -- will be returning.
Stay tuned, please.
I will start transcribing some quotes for you now and posting them on blog.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN