Beard, 34, was promoted Monday from assistant director of football operations to coaching the position he once played for the Hurricanes from 1999 to 2003. For the past year, Beard said he served as "the bridge between the players and coaches" at UM. When someone would have a bad day, Beard said, he would be the guy coach Al Golden would send down to talk and mediate the situation, get the player to understand the reason he was being coached hard "was to make them better."
Now, Golden is looking to Beard to do the same as an assistant -- and as someone who could help mend relationships on the recruiting trail in South Florida.
Beard, a Plantation High graduate and former All-Broward star, definitely knows what it's like being on the other side of the fence from UM having served as an assistant coach at University School in Fort Lauderdale for four years and as a coach for the South Florida Express 7-on-7 team for six-plus years. For nearly a decade, Beard has worked with some of the most elite skill players to come out of the South Florida area.
Brett Goetz, the coach and founder of the South Florida Express, said adding Beard is a huge addition to the UM staff especially since he has great relationships with most of the star recruits in the area for 2016 and 2017.
UM has been criticized hard for missing out on local star receivers like Alabama's Amari Cooper (Miami Northwestern) and Florida State's Ermon Lane (Homestead High). Goetz said having Beard on staff might swing things in the Canes' favor now.
"They all know KB," Goetz said of the top recruits, high school coaches and 7-on-7 coaches. "He has great relationships that are going to help them be in the mix for a lot of kids like [2017 receiver recruit] Emmanuel Green, [2016 St. Thomas Aquinas receiver] Sam Bruce. If KB was hired prior to last year’s signing class they probably would have had a good shot with Ermon Lane, Chris Lammons [South Carolina] and Travis Rudolph [now at Florida State] because Beard had great relationships with those kids.
"It’s also different recruiting down here than anywhere else in the country. There’s middle men. I think that makes it a lot more difficult to recruit here. Kevin knows what he wants to do here. He wants to go directly to the kid and the parents and avoid talking to people you don’t need to talk to. Kevin knows who to go to."
UM has landed several South Florida Express stars over the years. The list includes Duke Johnson, Deon Bush, Malcolm Lewis, Herb Waters, Tyree Brady, Tracy Howard and most recently Jaquan Johnson. They've had a harder time landing commitments from other 7-on-7 teams.
Beard said Monday night he feels like he can be "a glue guy" between the community and the Canes.
"I know what the community is missing, lacking, wants to see, wants to hear [from UM]," Beard said. "That’s what I want to bring to the table. I want the community, I want them to be heard. Once that happens things will definitely start changing a whole lot faster. The community will start getting back to being for us and not so much against us because of what the record is. They’ll see we’re making moves in the right direction and Coach Golden is the right guy for the job.”
Beard said recruiting in South Florida has become "the hardest place in America to recruit for the simple fact that everybody else in the country is trying to come in your backyard and take what’s yours."
"They’re throwing offers out to all kind of kids from the time they’re in the 10th grade, and then a lot of kids are saying, ‘Well, I got 15 offers from everybody in America but UM.’ If you offer a kid and then you back out on it, you’re going to get ridiculed, you’re going to get ripped for it," Beard said. "We try to do things the right way. Pretty much right now no matter what you do, you’re doing it wrong. I’m trying to bring [the right] mindset to the table.”
Goetz said he expects Beard to have a profound effect on Coley, who slumped during his sophomore year, and to get the most out of other top players at Miami like Herb Waters who have been up and down most of their careers.
“I really am going to dive into the technique of this position," Beard told Rose of what he will teach UM's receivers. "A lot of people don’t understand. They feel like if a receiver is fast, explosive and they can catch, they’re good. And the thing that makes the difference in good receivers and great receivers are the ones those that pay attention to detail, that are technicians. You can be a 4.5, 4.6 and beat a 4.3 defensive back based off technique. Technique makes the game easier. You play smarter and not harder. I think that’s the game changer for us right now. We’re really going to dive into the technique, the art of the position.”
Of Coley, Beard said: “I just feel like he needs a better understanding of who he is and who he wants to be. I think he came in – you know how high school guys are, he’s the No. 3 receiver in the country coming out of high school, Under Armour All-American. You feel like you’re that guy. He had all the success he had his freshman year, he kind of felt like I can be this same guy and still have the same success and it never turned to the next level. I think he stagnant, where he was. And I think it kind of caught him by surprise. So I think he’s disappointed in the way the season went. So, he’s excited to get out there and have a great junior season.”
SPRING BALL SET TO BEGIN FEB. 21
> UM will begin its spring practice schedule two weeks earlier than last year when drills get underway on Feb. 21. All of the practices will be closed to the public except for the spring game, which is scheduled for March 28th (the site has yet to be locked down). The team will also scrimmage March 5th and March 21st.
The Hurricanes lost three-star receiver and commitment Terrell Chatman, but they picked up a trio of talented recruits on National Signing Day and a very intriguing former five-star prospect too.
Coach Al Golden, speaking during his annual Signing Day Press Conference, said Miami agreed to a financial agreement with former Florida Gators defensive lineman Gerald Willis III, who was dismissed on Jan. 6. Willis got himself into a fight with UF's third-string quarterback over cleats back in October and had other issues on the team.
Listed at 6-2, 255 pounds, Willis was a teammate of Hurricanes tight end Standish Dobard at Edna Karr High School in New Orleans. Golden said part of the reason UM was willing to take Willis III was because of their relationship.
"He's technically not part of this class, but he's part of our plans for this class," Golden said of Willis III who won't be eligible to play until 2016. "He will have to sit out a year, but that's part of the equation as we start to lose [Ufomba] Kamalu and some of those guys. We have other guys in place to pick them up. He's a great football player, a great motor and a guy we coveted a year ago. We did not get him. We're glad to get this time around."
Asked why UM was willing to take a player with a bit of a troubled past, Golden said Miami did it's research.
"It was things we didn't think were to the point it would discourage us," Golden said. "I think that's one of the things we tried to do, a good background check really on everybody -- all the players. We're not perfect. But in his case it was stuff that was a lot of immaturity, things of that nature. But nothing that without the right group, right mentor [can't be addressed] and Stan has offered to do that for us.
"I don't know that we would be sitting here without the connection with Stan and obviously the testimony of Stan in terms of the environment, the enjoyment he's having in this program and what that represents. I know Gerald was excited about becoming a Miami Hurricane. When he's finished up with classes, he'll enroll this summer."
WHAT ELSE DID GOLDEN DISCUSS?
> Golden said former walk-on punter Justin Vogel paid his own way on to the team last, but will count as one of the scholarship player this season.
> Golden told ESPN The Ticket Wednesday Miami will be between 78 and 79 scholarships next season with the hope they will be done with the nine scholarships they need forfeit before 2016.
> Golden said he likes the defensive tackles UM now has in the program.
"All three nose guards we had last year were inexperienced a year ago -- Courtel Jenkins, Michael Wyche and Calvin Heurtelou. They all played. Plus we redshirted Earl Moore. So I'm pleased with that position," he said. "Obviously defensive tackle we got Ufomba Kamalu, AJ Moten, Jelani Hamilton. You mention Kendrick Norton. He's a young man we're really excited about. He brings us strength, brings us power. He's a big man. He's got to be 315, 320 pounds in that range. So we're excited about that and obviously we added Gerald Willis to that mix."
> Golden said he's fine with the numbers Miami has at running back (five with incoming four-star freshman Mark Walton), receiver (nine with incoming four-star freshman Lawrence Cager) and tight end (five with incoming No. 1-ranked JUCO tight end Jerome Washington). Quarterback (UM didn't see any, but picked up Texas Tech transfer Vincent Testaverde) is an area Golden said the team will continue to monitor.
"The one position we had to overcompensate for was offensive line," he said. "I prefer not to do that in any single year. I think if you can take four offensive lineman a year you would be really happy. That would give you 14 or 15 over a four-year period. When you have to take six in a year it shows you how we're not really where we needed to be a year ago on the offensive line. It takes away from you getting a skill guy or somebody that can do something with the ball in your hands.
"We're good [at running back]. We got Joe [Yearby], Gus [Edwards], Trayone Gray, Mark Walton and then Tucker will do what he has continued to do for us. He'll be a fullback when we need him. But Tuck is a really good one back and he's doing a great job with track. He's lean. So he'll do a dual role. Because if he doesn't he sits around a lot. If we use the fullback 12 times a game that's probably on the high side."
> Of UM's 20 signees, only seven are from South Florida. Golden said those numbers are skewed by the high number of offensive linemen UM had to take.
"I don't think we would drive past any kid in South Florida to go somewhere else," Golden said. "You guys may no better than me how many power-five offensive linemen were offered in the three counties. But for us, we had to go to Venice, Bradenton and we were lucky with Milo from Kaaya's school. Obviously, Loftus was a young man from Tallahassee Godby we liked who came down from camp. Those six and then the tight end wasn't from down here either. That's seven guys from one-third of the class that were not from South Florida for sure."
> How would Golden evaluate the way UM recruited skill talent in South Florida?
"Well, again, it wasn’t a big skill year," he said. "We needed two corners and two safeties, we probably would’ve taken one more wide receiver, but we only lost one wide receiver, so it’s just the way it shaped out," he said. "We played 34 first and second-year players a year ago and redshirted 17 guys, so those 51 are all guys that are coming back on our roster. You can’t lose one, Phillip Dorsett, and replace him with three. It doesn’t work that way in terms of the roster. That’s not where we are right now. Hopefully we’ll get to 78, 79 this year and get to 85 by ’16, so we’re still at a cap deal. Again, Justin Vogel did a great job. We’re appreciative of him and his family paying for this year. He ended up being an all-conference candidate or he might have made one of the all-conference teams, which is great for him moving forward. So it counts, it counts as part of this class. The offensive line obviously was one of the positions that we were hoping to stay healthy, ‘cause we were? There, so we had to compensate there as well."
> In general, how would Golden say he's done recruiting South Florida these four, five years?
"Obviously last year, again, I don’t know overall, but last year was clearly our best year and not just, it’s really not about numbers, but it’s about performance and production," he said. "Chad Thomas and Joe Yearby, KC McDermott, Nick Linder, Trevor Darling, all of those guys were either starters or big contributors and there’s so many other guys like Demetrius Jackson who we think is going to be a really good player. TJ McCray, we had so many kids from South Florida a year ago.
"Again, this number’s a little bit skewed because of the number of offensive linemen and none of them were local, but we just gotta keep doing it. I think we have 13 commitments in next year’s class and all of them are from Florida. Again, sometimes that’s just the way it breaks down. There’s obviously a great number of skill players here, so if you’re not taking three or four wideouts, next year we’re going to probably take five wideouts. We should have a good year in South Florida, I think five wideouts. That’s just the way it shakes out. I think every one of our players in next year’s class is already from Florida, so I think when you couple that with the overall body of work in the last three years, I think that’s when you’ll find our commitment to South Florida."
> Golden said freshman defensive end Scott Patchan "is doing great" in his recovery from a torn ACL which cost him his senior year. "He's already 245 pounds," Golden said. "The biggest thing is [trainer Vinny Scavo] is trying to slow him down. He's already wanting to go full speed. So we're going to be careful with him early in spring ball. He will participate in spring ball, but from a preventive measure standpoint we're going to hold him out probably until spring break. That's something I have to check. All the reports are he's doing good. He's got work ethic and he's long. So he's going to be really big."
> As for the high-number of decommitments for UM this year, Golden said reasons are "all the above." "Maybe it's that just the direction we're going," he meant in terms of the way college football is trending. "We don't want to get into that business. At the end of the day we're happy with our class and the needs we met in our class. It's a variety reasons and really they are individually based. It's tough to just sit up here and paint a brush as to why it happened. But obviously moving forward, we’re excited about this group and anxious to get started on the 2016 group tomorrow."
“Again, just keep moving the program forward. Infrastructure is improving. Do a great job on the field, move the program forward there. And just continue to show them the impact that they can have and obviously we’re excited because it’s going to be a skill-laden group. I don’t think we’re going to take many offensive linemen. So there’s going to be a lot of wide recievers in the group, probably two tight ends, I’m still going through it. Two running backs. Multiple corners. Multiple safeties. From that standpoint, we’re ecited about it. Keep moving forward.”
Q: A couple of the defensive backs you got in on late, [Sheldrick] Redwine and [Robert] Knowles in particular: Big year for DBs in South Florida, a lot of them went to different places. How did these two compare in your evaluations to some of the other kids that maybe were more highly regarded by the outside world?
“Yeah. I think, so, to answer your question, for all the kids – and again, it was what we needed this year, in terms of – Michael Jackson came to camp, had South Florida ties, he was 6-1, had length, at corner. I think there were two guys, three including Sheldrick, maybe I’m wrong, in South Florida in terms of length. We got one of the three. It’s really not a function of when you get them, it’s can they do the things you need them to do--
Q: But when you guys evaluated them, did you see them as a comparable-level player to some of the other [higher-ranked players]?
“I think you’re splitting hairs. It’s like that scene in Moneyball, when he sits across from him and says, ‘You think you know. You don’t know.’ We think we know. Everybody thinks they know. All around the country, everybody thinks they know. And then when the kid comes and all of a sudden he’s great, everybody says, man, we’re awesome evaluators. We’re awesome. But the reality is, you’re splitting hairs. There’s a lot of corners down here, a lot of corners down here this year. The guys that were not 6-1, we just needed length at that spot. In terms of Robert Knowles, when his film came in, and we had a chance to meet him in person and see his size, see his stature, you’re talking about 6-1 and a half, and gonna be big. Gonna be a 215-pound safety. When you turn on his film, his physicalness … again, why do guys like Khalil Mack go to Buffalo and end up being first-rounders? It’s because a lot of guys are filled up in the recruiting cycle and not really looking. We got fortunate there with Robert Knowles and I feel the same way about Sheldrick. But you’re splitting hairs in terms of who’s really – it’s going to come down to character, it’s going to come down to makeup, it’s going to come down to who’s consistent off the field. If they’re consistent, they’re going to keep learning, keep growing, keep improving, all of those things. Those guys wanted to be Miami Hurricanes, and I think that’s important here too. I don’t want to lose that. Those guys wanted to come. Robert Knowles wanted to be here and he’ll go to work and fight his ass off for us.
Q: You talk a lot about size, and not recruiting some kids because you’re looking for a 6-1 corner for example. Is part of the reason because some South Florida kids are fast and don’t have the size?
I hate painting with a broad brush. There’s so many different players and so many different varieties. I don’t know; do you guys have a count of how many guys are going Division I? There’s so many. There’s so many. You can’t get them all. Just make sure the ones you get can do what you need them to do and fit your system. But because our skill numbers will be high, I expect our South Florida numbers to be really high next year, as is already evident by every single one of them – 100 percent of the 13 committed for next year – are from Florida. We are gaining a little bit of traction in Jacksonville, we’ve done well in Tampa obviously and now we’re kind of moving down the west coast a little bit which is great. It’s great for us to do that. We’re getting a little bit more Bradenton, a little bit more Venice, got somebody committed from Naples the other day. We should be in that whole area and if we don’t have to leave there, we’re not going to.
CANES NAB REDWINE, KING A PAIR OF THREE-STAR LOCAL RECRUITS LATE
It hasn’t been a five-star recruiting season for the Miami Hurricanes, but so far at least they’ve managed to pick up a couple of noteworthy additions on Wednesday morning.
Despite being late to the party with scholarship offers, UM was able to flip a pair of three-star local recruits and All-Dade First Team selections in Miami Killian cornerback Sheldrick Redwine (6-2, 190) and Booker T. Washington linebacker James King (6-2, 210).
Redwine had been committed to Louisville and King to Florida Atlantic University. Now, they’re staying home.
“There’s nothing like staying home and putting on for your home city,” Redwine said. “It’s a dream school growing up. The opportunity came. I just couldn’t pass it down.”
Both players had high profile high school teammates who were previously committed to UM’s signing class and signed: Booker T. Washington four-star running back Mark Walton and Killian four-star safety Jaquan Johnson.
Johnson, one of five early enrollees at UM, went back to Killian Wednesday, morning to support Redwine.
“Jaquan had a huge impact on me,” Redwine said. “He texted me ‘Come to the U’, we’re going to grind together. We’re going to shine together.’”
Redwine had three interceptions and was one of the best cover corners in the state as a senior. King racked up 65 tackles as a senior for the three-time defending state champion Tornadoes.
“UM came in last week and offered me,” King said. “I was expecting the U to come in, but things happen and now I’m going to Miami. I just have to work hard and try to become the next Denzel Perryman or Ray Lewis.”
UM’s two additions are being celebrated, but Miami did swing and miss at a handful of other recruiting targets.
Four-star cornerback Marcus Lewis out of Washington, D.C. signed with Florida State; three-star receiver Antonio Callaway of Booker T. Washington picked the Florida Gators, Orlando four-star running back Dexter Williams chose Notre Dame and Plantation American Heritage quarterback Torrance Gibson, who stuck with his commitment to Ohio State.
STILL WAITING ON
In all, Miami has officially announced the signings of 14 players not including five early enrollees.
The two commitments they had entering the day who had yet to have their names added to the signee list by 11:30 a.m. included four-star offensive lineman Tyree St. Louis (6-5, 300) of Bradenton IMG Academy and three-star receiver Terrell Chatman (6-3, 180) of Baton Rouge, La.
St. Louis, who visited the Florida Gators late, will stick with his commitment to Miami according to his school’s Twitter account. Chatman, meanwhile, has yet to announce if he will choose UM or TCU or Arizona State. He's expected to announce at 3:30 p.m.
Richard McIntosh, a burly 6-5, 278-pound defensive end from Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons, was the first Hurricanes commitment to get his signed National Letter of Intent through the fax machine in Coral Gables.
"I'm just excited to become a Hurricane and I'm ready to get this process done," said McIntosh, a three-star prospect who had 71 tackles and 11 sacks as a senior and passed on offers from Clemson, Florida, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Missouri to sign with the Canes.
"I didn't know I was going to be the first one, but I wanted to hurry up and get it in. It's special, something I'll remember the rest of my life."
McIntosh, committed to Miami since the summer, never visited any other schools. He said he didn't need to. Now, he's looking forward to enrolling in the first semester this summer and helping strengthen the UM defensive line.
"I'm just looking forward to bonding with all the players, getting to know the school," McIntosh said. "I'm a quick learner so I'm looking forward to learning the plays."
McIntosh was one of four Hurricanes commitments (they had 13 entering the day) to turn their signed National Letter of Intent in before 8 a.m. Wednesday. The others: three-star Venice offensive lineman Tyler Gauthier (6-5, 305), Miami Edison three-stary safety Robet Knowles (6-1, 185) and three-star defensive end Jamie Gordinier (6-4, 235) from Red Bank Catholic, N.J.
Aside from Johnson, a U.S. Army All-American, UM will have the nation's No. 1-rankd JUCO tight end Jerome Washington (6-5, 260), three-star JUCO offensive lineman Jahair Jones (6-5, 310), Royal Palm Beach three-star linebacker Charles Perry (6-1, 205) and three-star defensive end Scott Patchan (6-5, 237) of Bradenton's IMG Academy around for spring football.
On Monday afternoon I caught up with 247Sports National Recruiting Insider Ryan Bartow to talk about the Canes, Seminoles, Gators and a lot more including Dade and Broward Counties.
Bartow is one of the best in the business at covering recruiting. He said he’s gone to 350 high schools from last signing day to December, visiting six and seven schools a day not only in Dade, Broward, Tampa and Orlando, but the Carolinas, Virginia Beach, all the way up to New York. He’s also in charge of recruiting information for Dallas and Los Angeles.
So, I felt it was best to cover a lot of bases. Here’s our conversation. Note: You’ll want to stick around to get his take on UM.
Q: It feels like the national story line this year are the high number of decommitments and kids being dropped. Am I wrong? “In terms of verbal commits, sometimes these kids don’t have a strong home life or strong high school coach that really values the word commitment. Sometimes it's lacking unfortunately. It’s not all on the prospects. Some of it is on the colleges as well. They’ve cooled on kids. So it’s kind of a two-way street. Jordan Scarlett is on his third commitment. Jamile Johnson, a three-star safety out of Dallas, on Wednesday he’ll sign and that will be the fourth school he’s committed to. It’s more of a trend now in the last couple years than when I started this nine, 10 years ago. That was really rare. Now it’s more common.”
Q: There are more and more offers going out it seems but in the end it’s about who the schools continue to call. Bartow: “The thing that changed that about three years ago was that they took away the written offer. They were able to give a binding, written offer on Sept. 1 of their junior year. But once they took that away college coaches in some places like Temple and Syracuse would fly into South Florida and offer more than 50 kids each in a week. It’s really hard for the recruit and high school coach because it’s all basically verbal offers. The colleges get to get away with that because they’re isn’t anything binding. Imagine me trying to cover it. That’s why you have to use the terminology claimed verbal offer. Some of these coaches give them out left and right and some of them aren’t allowed to. It really varies.”
Q: Are there any schools having really strong classes that were unexpected? Bartow: “I’ll give you two. North Carolina State. This year they’re going to get four of the top seven kids in North Carolina for the first time ever. That’s something that program has never done. They’ve already got four-star DE Darian Roseboro and the No. 2 all-purpose back in Nyheim Hines already enrolled. They got four-star running back Johnny Frasier to flip from Florida State, which is unheard of in their program. And they got Emmanuel McGirt one of the best left tackle prospects in the country away from Georgia and UNC. All those kids normally leave the state and go to Tennessee, Florida State or Clemson. So that’s definitely one of the bigger surprises nationally. Also, Arizona State. I love their class. Knowing all the kids in Los Angeles, all the guys USC isn’t getting in Los Angeles most of the second-tier ones are going to Arizona State. They’re doing a great job. A lot of those kids used to go to UCLA and Oregon. Now Arizona State is getting them. I think Arizona State and N.C. State are two programs trending upward.”
Q: Which program has really disappointed this year? Bartow: “Florida. No doubt. They should never sign a class that isn’t Top 10 in the country. They don’t have to go outside their state to get a Top 10 class. They have this year. So, I think we have them 42nd. They’ll probably get a few more here to move them up. They’re definitely struggling. It will be a challenge for the new coach.”
Q: Are the coaching changes to blame for the struggles at UF? Bartow: “Coaching change plays in. At the same time, this new staff hasn’t developed any real momentum yet. The guys they are taking probably aren’t on the previous staffs board. As one of the top five jobs in the country you never see them ranked that low in terms of recruiting.”
Q: Who closes the strongest nationally on Wednesday? Bartow: “I think Auburn could close really strong late. They are in great shape with guys like Byron Cowart, potentially CeCe Jefferson. [Miami Norland cornerback] Carlton Davis they will get. Potentially [five-star offensive tackle] Martez Ivey. So I think Auburn is going to have a really good Signing Day. And overall I don’t think anybody is going to close better than the USC Trojans. They’ll get the top corner in the country in Biggie Marshall. They’ll get a five-star defensive tackle in Rasheem Green, four-star linebacker John Houston. The got four-star linebacker Porter Gustin out of Utah [Tuesday]. We’ve known for a long time it was going to be a great class for them and close strong because a lot of kids were going to announce on Signing Day. I think they’re going to close as good as anybody.”
Q: Your thoughts on FSU’s Class? Bartow: “Their class is awesome. Last year’s class was just as tremendous. This year is just as good. They have probably the top big back in the country in Jacques Patrick out of Orlando. They got a couple really good receivers in Da’Vante Phillips and George Campbell, big, tall, explosive guys. They also got the quarterback of the future in Deondre Francois, an Orlando native. Then, defensively they could potentially land five-star defensive tackle Terry Beckner. They have five-star cornerback Tarvarus McFadden. Obviously they got the No. 1 recruit in the country in Josh Sweat, a freaky defensive end out of Chesapeake, Virginia. This class is pretty loaded for the Seminoles. They have a very bright future.”
Q: How much is FSU cashing in on UM and UF struggles or is this a credit to Jimbo Fisher and his staff being good recruiters? Bartow: “It’s a combination of both. I think Tim Brewster does a good job in Dade County. Plus, their program is winning. Kids want to go where winning is at. They can get kids in. At the same time, they’re going and picking whoever they want in South Florida. They want a guy – they’re getting him. Whether it’s McFadden or Dalvin Cook or Ermon Lane, the list goes on. They’re even turning kids down that are four-star guys. So they go it rolling.”
Q: What about Miami’s class and losing Jordan Scarlett. Does Al Golden still get a pass because of the NCAA cloud and scholarship reductions? Next year’s class is rated No. 1. Bartow: “I think sometimes they just make the job harder than it needs to be. It’s easy to hit up six, seven schools here a day – not two or three. Because they’re all close to one another. You shouldn’t be flying to the Mid-Atlantic or Louisiana or wherever, Washington, D.C. to get your skill talent or back seven on defense. That’s all here. You don’t even have to go north of West Palm Beach to get that. So, that’s one of the biggest reasons you take the job at Miami. You don’t take that job for the facilities. You take it for geography. It happens to be located where there are the most Division I kids in the country. So, you can go elsewhere maybe to get some linemen, but everything else is within an hour or two of campus. Until you make that a priority and get your share – if not more – you’re just going to be average. So, I think that’s something they need to really amp up. I would use the guys who have the connections in terms of James Coley, Ice Harris that need to be down here and signing guys more. Recruiting is similar to football you need to use good personnel use. And you need to put the guys – if you’re a recruiter – in the hot places where they have connections. You don’t need to put other guys in those places just so then maybe your guys get credit for getting these kids. It’s a long topic. But at the same time, the personnel you get down here is not big linebackers. It’s not 6-4, plus defensive linemen. It’s not tall wide receivers. It’s fast and small with a lot of speed. So when you see 3-4, read-and-react defense and you see power run offense those personnel schemes really don’t fit what you can get personnel wise in your own backyard.”
Q: So is it more of a philosophy problem, too much Big Ten style for South Florida? Bartow: “I don’t think he plays Big Ten football. I think that’s what he knows. He came up under Al Groh, 3-4 read-and-react defense. So that’s all he knows. That’s what he’s going to implement. That’s fine in some places in the country. But in Florida, that’s not the consistent kind of personnel you can get.”
Q: Obviously there are still guys UM wants – Tavares McFadden, Dalvin Cook, Da’Vante Phillips – and they can’t get them. Do these kids look at the program and just say they’re 6-7, I don’t want to go there. Or is it scheme? Bartow: “I think it’s a combination of both. They’re in a place where there’s a lot going on here. It’s not some Southern town, college town where nothing is going on. Some of it is personnel use. Some of it is home game atmosphere. Some of it is a disconnect in terms of the defensive staff and local high school coaches. You’re in a place with a lot to do. You have to appease to these kids senses. Some of that is playing in wide open offenses and wide open defenses like Miami traditionally used to do. Kids want to play in that. They want to have fun. I think they don’t see that fun level right now.”
Q: Locally, who are kids they should have been on that would have signed with UM if they recruited them the right way? Bartow: “Where do I start? Sheldrick Redwine, the 6-1 corner they just offered a couple days ago. He’s got a ton of upside. He’s may end up going to Louisville, maybe Miami. DeAndre Baker, a four-star corner, U.S. Army All-American at Northwestern who ran a 4.4 at their camp and Miami never offered. He’s at a traditional Miami school and he’s on Georgia’s commit list and could flip to Texas. Shaquery Wilson who is going to West Virginia out of Coral Gables that was a Georgia commit. He’s 6-3 and could play either side of the ball. Juwan Taylor, a linebacker out of Hallandale, Miami didn’t offer and is going to Georgia. There’s a lot of other guys throughout Broward and Dade that they missed on. I mean everybody knew Da’Vante Phillips was going to Florida State for a year. You have guys like Chris Hart, the defensive end at St. Thomas that is going to Utah, that [assistant head coach] Dennis Erickson got and that I think will be a steal. To not really recruit Tarvarus McFadden, one of the top corners in the country, and the high school coach is Mike Rumph who played at Miami, that’s a head scratcher. I’m just trying to go school by school because there are two or three examples at every high school.”
Q: How many of these schools told you ‘Well, if Miami recruited me early it might have been different?’ Bartow: “Most of them when you talk to them and a lot of kids I’ve dealt with since they were sophomores – a lot of them grew up Miami fans. Until you put in the effort and stay on them everyday [it’s hard]. Now, South Florida is an interesting dynamic. A lot of them you don’t want to get their first verbal commit. You want to get their third. So, a lot of these kids can’t take unofficial visits. So they’re going to take official visits. A lot of them are good enough where they’re going to have spots open at these colleges. So, you have to kind of set some time back at the end of the class for some of these guys because they’re going to be late decisions. But then it’s worth it because they’re confident, they have speed and a lot of upside because all of their best football is down the road. That’s why everybody recruits South Florida.”
Q: How about the guys they did get? Your thoughts on Miami’s class overall (currently ranked 28th by 247Sports). Bartow: “I think traditionally you want a Miami class that is 75 to 85 percent from West Palm Beach down if you’re doing it right. I only see a couple guys in there. I’m not saying it’s a bad class. But if you’re doing it right, you don't need to be going north of West Palm to get most of what you need. They have some good players. I think Charles Perry can be a good linebacker for them out of West Palm. Jaquan Johnson, even though at 5-10 and maybe not great speed, he does have good instincts. I think Mark Walton is the best player in the class. He has the most upside and will help them right away. Wide receiver, they went for size at receiver. So they went out of region for that. [Terrell] Chatman has a lot of upside. [Lawrence] Cager has a lot of upside. He’s long, has speed. I think [Hayden] Mahoney would be a good offensive line take. A lot of those offensive linemen they didn’t really beat anybody else out for. Then, defensive line is the biggest need in the program. [Richard] McIntosh has some upside scheme wise. But I didn’t really see them filling that need in terms of defensive tackle. That’s two years in a row they’re going on. That’s definitely a question mark for the future.”
Q: Which recruits does UM add here late? Bartow: “I said this to a different publication too. For Miami’s class, it’s really about holding onto the guys they have. I don’t see them adding too much. I mean [cornerback] Marcus Lewis is going to choose between Miami and Kentucky. But he has some academic concerns. He could be a Prep School guy. But again, you’re going to Washington, D.C. to get a guy that is mass produced in South Florida. At the same time, they’re going to try to hold onto Chatman. At QB they hosted Torrence Gibson over the weekend. He’s not a fit for what they do at Miami or LSU. He’s more of a fit for what they do at Ohio State and Auburn as a dual-threat guy who wants to stay at that position. That’s going to be a hard one as well. And then some of these defensive linemen and linebackers they’re in on we’ll see if they can get any of them. I don’t see much of a splash. Antonio Callaway, even with all those connections at Booker T., I wouldn’t be surprised if he went elsewhere. Jordan Scarlett kind of added to [the downtrend]. I think they lead the country in decommitments. I don’t see much of a big close. If anything it might be the opposite.”
Q: Do you have a list of decommitments by school somewhere? You sure Miami leads? Bartow: “I don’t think it’s even close.”
Q: So is Miami’s class still decent in your eyes? Bartow: “In terms of what they want to do in terms of building it into a Virginia, Al Groh type of program you have guys that can fit into their read and react scheme and power game, a lot of developmental guys. But it is disappointing in terms of geography. I mean, why are you going to take the Miami job if you’re not going to over recruit these awesome counties of Broward and Dade? It’s kind of defeating the purpose of the job and the location.”
Q: Is there a coach out there you feel is a good fit for Miami? Bartow: “No doubt. If they went for a Miami guy like a Mario Cristobal that understands, respects the talent here, that wouldn’t go chasing his tail out of region for guys, knows the second and third tier recruits in Broward and Dade are better than the first almost anywhere else in the country, and has a great rapport with the high school coaches, 7-on-7 coaches, the people on the street and would bring in a tempo, spread offense like Booker T., like Auburn and Oregon, that would put butts in the seats and points on the board that would make local studs want to again play there. And everyone in America knows what happens when the local studs stay home and play for the Canes. They are then the best of the best.”
Hurricanes 2015 Recruiting Class (All rankings are 247Sports Composite)
Early Enrollment (5)
Mercer County CC
Royal Palm Beach, Fla.
Bradenton IMG Academy
Brooklyn ASA College
Miami Booker T. Washington
West Hills Chaminade, CA
Tyree St. Louis
Bradenton IMG Academy
Calvert Hall College, Mary.
Birmingham Spain Park, Ala.
Baton Rouge Central, La.
Ft. Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
Red Bank Catholic, N.J.
Malvern Prep, Penn.
Bradenton IMG Academy
Before we hear coach Al Golden's take Wednesday on Miami's 2015 Signing Class, I sought the opinion of a handful of recruiting services and scouts to provide unbiased takes on the 18 players currently listed as commitments.
Let's get to it.
1. Mark Walton, RB, Miami Booker T. Washington, 5-10, 179
> Background: A Canes commitment since Sept. 29, 2013, the four-star recruit was bumped up from the Class of 2016 to 2015 so he only played three years of high school ball. He visited West Virginia late in the process but never swayed. He ran for 1,470 yards, 22 TDs and caught 24 passes for 282 yards and four TDs as a senior. Rivals.com rates him UM’s top recruit. ESPN, 247Sports also rate him a four-star recruit.
> Scout's take: "He's an every down back. I think he's a kid that can play right away and be part of the rotation, share carries with Joseph Yearby. Walton and [former Hurricanes commitment Jordan] Scarlett were different style backs. Scarlett was more Marshawn Lynch. He's more a Reggie Bush, Duke Johnson, move him around type of guys who can play in space, has more lateral quickness. Walton is a little more versatile. He's their guy for the next three years."
> My two cents: Hard to argue with the scout's take. I thought all along Walton was the best player in this class. To me, he's Duke Johnson with better hands.
> Background: Committed since August and never made trips elsewhere. U.S. Army All-American finished his senior season with 41 tackles, 3 INTs, 2 fumble returns for TD and a 58-yard punt return for a score. Rivals dropped him from a four-star recruit to a three-star recruit recently. Two-way star at Killian most of his career and four-time All-Dade First Team selection. Killian coach Corey Johnson has compared him to former FSU safety Lamarcus Joyner, whom he coached.
> Scout's take: "He'll be a role player immediately in the secondary, gives you a guy that can provide depth. He's a smart football kid, has a high football IQ. It's not going to take him long to learn the system and play right away. I think he'll be an impact player on special teams. He can be a 2, 3-year starter and All-ACC defender down the line."
> My two cents: He's the best open field tackler I've seen at the high school level locally in quite some time. If he stays healthy, he'll be Miami's best all-around safety since Ed Reed.
3. Lawrence Cager, WR, Towson, Maryland, 6-5, 195
> Background: U.S. Army All-American visited Alabama, but secured his commitment to UM after his official visit to Coral Gables. Said he’s now 100 percent with the Canes after spending time with his future QB Brad Kaaya. ESPN, Rivals, 247Sports rate him a four-star recruit. Cager picked UM at the U.S. Army All-American on Jan. 3. Rivals said he had over 800 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns as a senior. Said on his Hudl page he runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash.
> Scout's take: "Watched him at the Nike Camp in New Jersey and also at the Rutgers camp. Big, long receiver, physical, who will fight for the football at its highest point. He’s not a burner, but gets good body position. He can jump, has good body control and concentration in the air. Any time he has a one-on-one matchup he goes up and gets the football. I want to say he’s underrated even though he picked up huge offers. He’s definitely a player and with his size you can expect he’ll have an opportunity to play from Day 1. He’s a full-grown receiver. I’m 6-4 and I look up to the kid when I talk to him. He reminds of Mike Williams, who played at USC."
> My two cents: Even if he ends up the only receiver in Miami's class it's not the end of the world. UM has already loaded up on receiver commitments in 2016. Cager looks like a No. 1 guy down the line.
4. Bar Milo, OL, West Hills Chaminade, Calif., 6-6, 270
> Background: Semper Fidelis All-American and four-star prospects didn’t take visits elsewhere. Brad Kaaya’s former left tackle trimmed down from 315 to 270. ESPN, Rivals rate him a four-star recruit.
> Scout's take on ESPN: "Milo comes across as an OL that will line up and battle defenders to try and get the job done. The method is not always pretty, but he is going to give effort and fight. Shows flashes to execute with technique and once he can more consistently blend that nastiness with the technique he can be a very effective OT at the college level."
> My two cents: I'd be surprised if he isn't in the rotation as a true freshman. Whether that's at guard or tackle remains to be seen.
5. Tyree St. Louis, OL, Bradenton IMG Academy, 6-5, 300
> Background: A Canes commitment since July, the four-star prospect visited Florida over the weekend and is considering flipping on Miami. The starting left tackle on his high school team, ESPN rates St. Louis as UM’s top recruit. Losing him at a position of such huge need would hurt.
> Scout's take: "He's young, but he's improved a lot. He went from a question mark to one of the better linemen in the state as a senior. He's more of an interior guy to me. I don't think they need him to start. He has a chance to backup though. He's long and pretty good prospect down the road for them."
> My two cents: I'm beginning to think he won't be a part of this class.
> Background: Rated the nation’s No. 1 JUCO tight end by 247Sports. Should see immediate playing time with Clive Walford gone. Had 24 catches for 510 yards and TDs last season. ESPN rates him a four-star recruit.
> Scout's take: "He’s a big bodied kid with good athleticism for his size. Good hands. He can play in-line or be flexed out. Ultimately, if it didn’t work out at tight end the kid could be an ideal tackle. He could probably even play some H-Back. He can make some plays after the catch with his brute force and ability to break tackles by running through guys. He’s tough to bring down. He’s a big target. You can get a clear shot on him, but he keeps driving his legs and picks up the first down. He can beat defenders in zone spots, posting guys out. He can force mismatches against smaller linebackers. If you recruit a JUCO kid you expect them to come in and play right away for you. He definitely has the drive and skill set to do it. Physically, he’s ready. He’s a big strong kid that will force a lot of mismatches and be a huge outlet target for his quarterback."
> My two cents: I've seen No. 1 ranked JUCO tight ends come in here before and fall flat on their face. Miami can't afford that now.
7. Scott Patchan, DE, Bradenton IMG Academy, 6-5, 237 (already enrolled)
> Background: Hurricane legacy was injured his senior year of high school and is already enrolled at UM. ESPN, Rivals rate him a four-star recruit.
> Scout's take: "High energy kid, kind of how Anthony Chickillo came out from that area. He's a better athlete than Chickillo, has more speed on the edge. His only question mark is the knee injury. Does he overcome it or need a year? He understands the game. He's the type of kid that can be all-conference down the line. With the knee injury he may be a year away. He's a better version of Chickillo. I don't think he gets as big. He's more like 260. He'll be a starter at Miami for a few years."
> Background: UM is doing its best to hold onto the three-star receiver who took official visits to TCU, Arizona State recently. Miami will get his last official visit. Had a ridiculous one-handed catch in the back of the end zone his senior season dubbed “The Catch.” It has 23,484 views on Hudl.com. Rated a 4-star by ESPN and the 254th best recruit in its Top 300. Listed with 4.62-speed in the 40.
> Scout's take on ESPN: "We are a little perplexed that Chapman didn't receive more early attention. He's a naturally gifted pass catcher with innate hand-eye coordination and confidence. We wish he were a little more explosive in terms of top end speed, but he is fast enough and when you consider his playmaking ability once the ball is in the air he more than compensates."
> My two cents: Man it's going to stink losing this guy on Signing Day.
9. Jamie Gordinier, DE/LB, Red Bank Catholic, N.J., 6-4, 235
> Background: Committed to UM since June, he didn’t take any other visits. Finished season with 117 tackles, 1 sack, fumble return for TD and was New Jersey’s Defensive Player of the Year on state title team. Lined up at outside linebacker. Had offers from N.C. State, Syracuse, Purdue, Nebraska and Wake Forest.
> Scout's take: "The one area he can improve is using his length in his arms to extend and get off blocks, disengage better. But he will find the football and nail you. He’s long, athletic, runs well for his size. He has a good understanding of defensive concepts. But there’s still a little bit of rawness to his game simply because he’s played linebacker throughout high school and I don’t think that’s where he’ll be at the college level. He’s a 3-4 outside linebacker, defensive end. He’s so big he can probably put on weight and play tackle. He comes from a good high school program where he’s well coached."
> My two cents: If Al Golden and Mark D'Onofrio had a baby...
10. Charles Perry, LB, Royal Palm Beach, Fla., 6-1, 205 (early enrolled)
> Background: UM's longest-standing commitment in the class. Rated a four-star prospect by 247Sports, Perry was a two-way star in high school (1,081 yards, 10 TDs rushing as a senior). He had offers from Florida, FSU, Purdue, Nebraska and Cincinnati among others.
> Scout's take: " I've always been very high on him. He's similar to Jon Beason coming out of high school. Most underrated player in the class. He hasn't gone through the whole recruiting process like everybody else. He may end up the best linebacker in this class in the state anyway. I really like his ability to pop into coverage. High football IQ, understands the game. I think he won't just play on special teams. I think he has a chance to start. He's light now. But he'll be 230 soon enough. They can put weight on the kid."
> My two cents: Looks like a better version of Jermaine Grace to me.
11. Michael Jackson, CB, Spain Park Birmingham, Ala., 6-2, 190
> Background: Committed since late October. He said he was going to visit Clemson, but called it off and instead visited Middle Tennessee State. Rated the 56th best at his position by 247Sports.com. Scouts said Jackson’s size, physicality in press coverage is very good. Had 17 tackles, 2 INTs as a senior. Rivals.com rates him a 4-star recruit. His 40-time is listed as 4.67 seconds.
> Scout's take: "Jackson is a solid prospect and if he is not a corner he has the size to potentially help as a safety. He should make a lower level power conference school a good signee."
> My two cents: He's one of the kids I was actually impressed with on film. That said, with all the cornerbacks in South Florida this year it's a wonder why Miami had to go to Alabama to get their only corner.
> Background: Passed on offers from Ohio State, Virginia Tech and could contribute immediately with left tackle Ereck Flowers leaving school early for the NFL Draft. Committed Dec. 15 and signed four days later.
> Scout's take: "He's one of the top JUCO linemen in the country. Big, athletic, has a bit of a mean streak. He should be plug and play right away. That's why Miami wanted him."
> My two cents: He has to be plug and play.
13. Richard McIntosh, DE, Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons, 6-4, 270
> Background: Committed since July the three-star prospect took his only official visit to UM. Had 71 tackles, 11 sacks as a senior. Had offers from Clemson, Florida, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Missouri. Has a younger brother, running back Deon McIntosh, a 2016 recruit, Miami is very much interested in. Made All-Broward First team. The only recruit from Broward currently in UM's class.
> Scout's take: "He's another kid that took his game to another level as a senior. I don't know if you want him to start next year, but he he'll have a shot too with their issues on the defensive line. He doesn't have to get bigger or more physical because he already has the size to play at the next level. He's further ahead than some of the other guys there now. I think he's an All-ACC type kid with NFL potential down the line."
> My two cents: With Miami's issues at defensive tackle I get the feeling they are going to try and put weight on him.
14. Ryan Fines, DT, Bradenton IMG Academy, 6-4, 305
> Background: Committed to UM back in February and never swayed or visited elsewhere. Had 55 tackles, eight sacks, a safety in 10 games in senior season. Played in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. Only other offers were from USF and Arizona.
> Scout's take: "I don't know if he'll be a starter until late in his career, but he'll be in the rotation. He's high-energy off the bench, a lunchpail type kid that goes to Virginia Tech and make plays for them. He's not a high-end, high-ceiling type of guy. But he'll be productive player at Miami like the Matt Walters kid they had a couple years back."
15. Robert Knowles, DB, Miami Edison, 6-1, 185
> Background: Former FIU commitment flipped to the Hurricanes on January 4 after a stellar senior season. He had 44 tackles, three interceptions, three fumbles forced and two sacks in 10 games. Played a lot of deep centerfield in coverage, but also showed plenty of closing speed and big hitting ability. ESPN rates him a four-star recruit.
> Scout's take: "The kid had a good senior year. I've always been one about production. He produced. This is one area where Miami is kind of deep so he'll probably redshirt and be a starter down the road. He's not a need player, more of a luxury. Down the road, he can be a better version of Rayshawn Jenkins. He's better than some of the guys they've had in the recent past for sure."
16. Brendan Loftus, OL, Tallahassee Godby, 6-7, 270 > Background: A commitment since July, Loftus is rated the 88th best player at his position according to 247Sports.com. Had offers from Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ole Miss, Missouri and Wisconsin.
> Scout's take: "I think he's a project -- very similar to Sunny Odogwu. He's kind of stiff, not a super athletic kid. He's more of a right tackle than a left tackle. The question with him is how much weight he can put on. He's not really big and he doesn't have the structure to put on that much. He's probably more like 295 long term. He's not a kid I'm in love with. He might be a starter as a redshirt junior or senior. He's a clear backup at Miami."
17. Hayden Mahoney, OT, Malvern, Penn., 6-5, 280 > Background: Committed to UM since March, he didn’t take any other official visits. Rated 94th best at his position by 247Sports. Started at right tackle in a primarily run-based offense. Had early offers from Akron, Boston College and Villanova.
> Scout's take on ESPN: "Mahoney is a good athlete with the toughness we look for when evaluating offensive linemen for the next level of play; this is a developmental prospect needing time and a red shirt year to mature physically while improving playing strength and explosiveness."
> My two cents: Sure sounds like another project.
18. Tyler Gauthier, OL, Venice, Fla., 6-5, 305
> Background: Committed to UM since June and never visited elsewhere. Two-year starter at left-tackle in high school. Did a lot of run blocking. Other early offers were from Toledo and UCF. Arizona, Purdue, USF also reportedly offered him.
> Scout's take: "I saw him last summer at their camp. He's a guard/center. He's very similar to Derrick Morse who played at Miami. He's not going to be the most athletic guy, but he will punch you in the mouth, be a physical kid. He's not a finesse kid. They'll run behind him on 3rd and 1 and he'll move people. He can be a two-year starter down the road. He's definitely better than a Shane McDermott, Nick Linder type."
> My two cents: Miami can't afford to have more than three redshirt offensive linemen -- especially if St. Louis bails to Florida. I can also hear Art Kehoe saying he loves this kid's punch him in the mouth attitude.
The Miami Hurricanes keep picking up commitments for their top-ranked 2016 signing class. If only that Signing Day wasn't 53 weeks away.
Monday, less than 48 hours after picking up four commits on Junior Day, UM added another in Pembroke Pines Flanagan's Devin Gil (6-1, 200).
Unranked among recruits by 247Sports, Gil was the Falcons' third-leading tackler last season (64, six for loss) and had three interceptions and 1 1/2 sacks while playing both outside linebacker and safety.
"[UM] saw the way he played on the ball at safety, saw him down in the box when my son Devin [Bush] got hurt," Flanagan coach Devin Bush Sr. said. "It shows you the type of versatility you're going to get. They offered Gil last week. Temple and Miami are his only offers. The kid grew up liking Miami. I guess he got real excited about it after he was there Sunday. Right now, they got him listed as an athlete. The kid is so versatile he can play anywhere for them."
Bush Jr. and Stanford Samuels, a 2017 recruit and cornerback, also have Hurricane offers according to their coach. Flanagan reached the Class 8A state semifinals last season before losing to Columbus.
"I give everybody a shot with my son," Bush Sr. said. "My son is completely wide open. Because of where I went [Florida State] that's not a deterrent. The idea is to pick the best place for him. Devin has about 30 offers. Stanford has a lot of big SEC offers."
Bush Sr. said he's not sure why Gil isn't more highly regarded. But he expects everyone to start jumping on him as he nears his senior year.
"Just versatile," Bush Sr. said of Gil. "Talented, talented kid."
UM basketball coach Jim Larranaga, tickled to see a crowded interview room after the Canes' huge road upset over No. 4 Duke, opened by announcing that, upon further review, football players Corn Elder and D'Mauri Jones decided to stick to football and not play for the basketball team.
"Despite how excited myself and my staff were about having Corn Elder and D’Mauri Jones join us, those guys realized the amount of work they have to do academically and still with football, and the time commitment was just going to be way too much, so neither will be with us any further. Corn was with us two practices, D’Mauri just watched, and realized, `Well, maybe I need to just concentrate on the football.'’’
(My translation: Perhaps they realized just how serious college basketball is, how skilled the players are, how hard the practicees are, and it would be hard to just dabble in it. It requires a bigger commitment than they have time or energy to give)
In case you missed it, a frustrated Hurricanes fan holding a poster board with a 'Fire Al Golden' message made his way into the view of ESPN cameras Monday afternoon in Dallas, site of this year's national championship game.
Screen shots of the 'Fire Al Golden' poster -- when it was visible on TV during afternoon shows like The Herd with Colin Cowherd (you can spot it just over Tim Tebow's right shoulder in the photo here) -- made its way around social media rather quickly before the game.
Some UM students like Willy Herrera, a 22-year old senior studying accounting and finance in Coral Gables, are saying they wish they could express themselves in a similar way on campus, but claim they aren't being allowed to. Twice last week during men's basketball games (against Virginia first and then Boston College), Herrera said he and friends had 'Fire Al Golden' and 'Bring Back Butch' signs snatched away from them by UM staffers Jesse Marks (Associate Athletic Director for Development) and Alfonso Restrepo (Assistant director of Development).
I reached out to Herrera after the Virginia game (after a prominent former UM player reached out to me privately to let me know what happened to Willy and others) to get the details. Then I asked athletic director Blake James last Thursday (shortly after the press conference to announce UM's new deal with Adidas) if he thought the school was impeding on freedom of speech rights of Hurricanes fans and students displeased with Golden.
"It's a policy at the stadium that there aren't any signs [allowed in]," James responded. "So it wasn't that it was 'Bring Back Butch' or 'Fire Al' or anything like that. The policy at the BankUnited Center is that there isn't any signs allowed in. And that's for a variety of reasons.
"Obviously if you're sitting behind someone and they're holding up a sign the whole game you can't see the game. And so the environment we create is to allow the fans to enjoy the game. Like most facilities, rarely do you allow things that are going to hamper the experience of others around them."
During Donna Shalala's tenure the school has conveyed to students through various messages the administration supports their rights to freedom of speech and other civil liberties. James was adamant last Thursday the actions taken by UM staffers wasn't censorship.
"Obviously we want to recognize the freedom to express your opinions and it wasn't something that was done on that front," he said. "It's our policy that signs aren't allowed in that facility. Again, I'm not sure how they got by the security. If they had it hidden or how it was done. But, that is something that is a policy there at that facility."
James said UM doesn't make the policy at Sun Life Stadium, but the rules at the BUC are the same as the ones for Canes baseball games on campus.
"I'm pretty sure they don't allow signs or umbrellas in Sun Life Stadium," James said. "Again, most stadiums aren't going to allow you to bring things in that are going to hamper the viewing enjoyment of others around you."
Obviously there are quite a few others who enjoy the Fire Al Golden posters like Herrera, who grew up a Canes fan and graduated from Miami Columbus High before coming to UM.
"It's not the act of [my poster board] being taken away," Herrera said of why he's upset. "We're not allowed to say anything, and at the end of the day it is a school and it's for the student first. We also pay our athletic fee every year. A lot of us could argue what we pay for isn't what we expected when we decided to go and pay our athletic fee. A lot of these people who make these big decisions are in politics and are used to listening to constituents. It's just frustrating that we're trying every way of being heard and no one listens to us. Athletics is a big part of student life, a huge part of athletic experiences. Why can't we express ourselves?"
MORE QUESTIONS FOR BLAKE JAMES
I spoke to James for 10 minutes one-on-one about a variety of other issues last Thursday. Here is a short Q&A of the topics covered:
Q: It feels like there's been overwhelming constant negativity from fans regarding Al Golden being the football coach. What's your message to the fan when there is a level of vitriol we haven't seen before?
"We all want the same thing. We all want to see the program win and I'm confident -- and you spoke to Al -- Al wants to win. I know there's some out there that question if he's the right one out there to do it and if he can do it, and I still feel that he is the guy that can get it done. The only thing I would say is 'Hey that's what we all want.' We all want to see this program winning ACC championships because if you're doing that you're going to have a chance to win the national championship.' And we all know that's the end goal. Let's get an ACC championship and then let's have an opportunity at the national championship. So, it's really just to try to give -- as with any one of our programs -- give them the support they need and give them the resources to be successful.
"That's part of this [Adidas] deal. It's going to give me greater ability to give them resources they need to be successful. Whether it's the facilities we've done over the last couple years -- the student athlete training table, practice fields. We're going to put lights up out here within the next few months. It's putting all those things in place to allow us to have success. I understand people are unhappy about us being 6-7. But Al's not happy about being 6-7. I'm not happy about being 6-7. I think we just have different views on how do we get back to the top. And mine let's support and invest. Obviously others have different thoughts."
Q: Have you spoken to Al about changing his assistant coaches?
"Al and I talked about those sorts of things. But that's something I trust him to make the judgement on. We brought that conversation up and that's something that he constantly has to do. He has to do that every year. Obviously in a year that you're 6-7 it becomes a much more targeted area I think. As is the head coaching position when you go 6-7. I recognize that's what people are going to want to talk about right now. It goes into his evaluation every year. Whether you're winning a national championship or going 6-7 there's things you're going to need to change for next year. Because if you sit in the same spot everybody is going to pass you by. So it's Al's job to constantly evaluate his program and make sure we're doing the things we need to do to progress. Because you always need to make progress regardless of what you're record is. So those are things that I leave to him. But my challenge to him was evaluate everything and make the changes you need to make and then tell me what you need on resources so I can get us to where we need to be. We need to be winning the Coastal. We need to be going to the ACC championship, and again we need to be back on the national stage. And we're on the same page with that. And that's my commitment to him to get him back to that spot."
Q: I've had a couple Golden Canes boosters reach out to me and they've said the you and administration have told them there will be changes after Signing Day. What's been your message to them? What have you tried to convey to them?
"My message is the same to everyone whether it's a Golden Cane or anyone else is. I want to give them their resources. Any one of our programs. Obviously, football is the one that's the big one and football is the one that's been talked about the most. For me, it's just continuing push them to evaluate, push them to make sure I'm giving them the resources they need, and then continuing to look at our facilities and our infrastructure to see what we can do better. We need to get lights on our practice field. We need an indoor practice facility and I'm excited about what the Dolphins are doing with Dolphins Stadium. I think that will enhance some things too and should help create a better gameday environment for us."
Q: What can you tell us about the new gameday experience for Canes fans might be like with all the changes being done at Sun Life?
"The Dolphins are going to have a press conference on that. I'd rather just comment after that press conference just not to say anything."
Q: But it's going to be a better experience?
"Yeah. I would say with everything they've shared with me I'm confident our fans will feel it's a much better game day experience."
Q: Where are you in terms of season tickets sold for 2015?
"We still haven't even started because we're still waiting for the Dolphins to finalize everything. Once they finalize everything then we'll send out our renewal notices. We haven't sent out our renewal notices, which is again off schedule for us. Normally we would have already sent those out. Given this construction project it looks like it's probably going to be February when we send stuff out that normally would have been out by now."
Q: In terms of an indoor practice facility at UM how close is that to becoming a reality?
"We're working on it. It's hard for me to say how close we are. We're working on identifying the right spot for it. I think once we find the right spot the institution and our supporters, are in-line and recognize the need for it that we're going to be able to make it a reality. Right now, it's finding the right spot. Then it will be lining up the funding for it. But I'm confident we're going to make that happen."
Q: Marlins Park hosted its first bowl game. Any chance you might play a game there at some point? Maybe against FIU?
"I think it would be hard. We signed a deal with FIU and [athletic director] Pete [Garcia] had mentioned maybe we could look at doing something like that. Sun Life Stadium is our home filed and to go play somewhere else in our own market -- if it's not on a permanent basis -- I don't think it would make sense for us. But I'll continue to monitor what they're doing at Marlins Park. And if there's something we ever felt would be a fit for us we'd investigate the possibilities."
I don’t mean that in the literal sense, like the Hurricanes have yet to beat a high-end opponent under Golden's leadership.
I mean it in the sense of there’s nothing Golden can say at this point to overcome the mountain of negativity on top of him and this football program.
Al needs to phone a friend. And he needs you -- the Miami Hurricanes football fan –- to answer even if you don't want to.
I’ll admit it. I was a little angry late Monday night. About 10 days after a fourth consecutive loss to end the season, Golden’s first words weren’t delivered in a season-ending press conference (the way things are normally done) but through a one-on-one interview with Gary Ferman at Canesport. As a reporter, you get a little ticked off when you aren’t given equal opportunity.
Then, I read the Canesport interview and didn’t feel so bad. Golden's responses were what we expected. In the end, it hit me why Golden is going one-on-one with select reporters versus facing a firing squad at a press conference (there will be more one-on-ones by the way). He can control the message. He can keep tough questions private. We won't get to see him bristle.
That's smart from a public relations perspective. In the end, what is Al going to say publicly that’s really going to make anything better anyway? Will blaming himself put an end to the fire Golden chants? No.
Truth is, only actions will do at this point. And after 10 days of inaction, does it really look like coaching changes are going to be made –- forcefully by the administration, anyway? It would have happened already.
Which brings me back to my point: that mountain of negativity.
Al Golden can bunker himself in, ignore the noise and plead with his players and assistants to do the same. But the rest of us? We do live in that world. That includes recruits, parents, influential coaches, street agents, girlfriends, Ray-Ray on the corner, the woman who does Susan Miller Degnan's hair and a bunch of loud people on the radio and internet. And that’s where all this irreparable public relations damage is being done.
That’s where the University of Miami – the program you are supposed to be supporting – is losing a much bigger war.
It might look like a one man job, one man’s sole responsibility to clean up after himself, after Randy Shannon and Larry Coker. After all, Al's got the fat paycheck, those pillars and that orange tie. But this isn’t a one-man job. It’s on fans too. Even if it's a smaller role, you play one on Saturdays and all the days inbetween.
In case you didn’t know (I’ll put in capital letters to make it clear Canes Fam): WE’VE HEARD YOUR CRIES FOR CHANGE. We saw those banners fly over the stadium over and over again. We’ve read Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, seen the red cups form the phrase FIRE AL GOLDEN on the Palmetto Expressway overhang. We get it: You are not happy with the job Al Golden has done. We know you not only wanted Mark D’Onofrio gone before Christ was born, but you wanted him to legally change his name to Mark Onofrio too.
This voicemail box is full, people.
Now, it’s time to stop digging the hole even deeper for UM. You’ve got to lend the Canes a hand even if Golden can’t fix this mess himself; even if in the end he doesn't turn out to be the right man for the job. It’s time to give up on the dream of creating such a loud chorus of boos that it will result in Golden's firing, bringing Butch back or ending D'Onofrio's reign of terror.
Athletic director Blake James is not going to fire Golden anytime soon. He’s said it over and over again. James isn’t even forcing Golden to fire anyone on his staff. They are going to see this through – at least through 2015 in my opinion – whether you show up to No Life Stadium or not (and not that many of you were doing that before this 6-7 mess anyway).
Status quo is the message Golden Canes, the donors, have been receiving for weeks when they’ve voiced complaints and concerns or threatened to pull funds if changes aren’t made. One Golden Cane told me James and others have told them "to keep holding on, nothing will happen until Signing Day.”
So, there. Something might happen after Signing Day. There's a ray of sunshine, a glimmer of hope. But that's all it is for now.
That aura of negativity permeating 24 hours a day? That's not doing anyone any favors. Nobody in their right mind, who could be part of fixing the future at Miami, is looking at UM and saying ‘Man that place is sexy. Look at all the support that school gets. Those fans are the best.’
And I don’t mean coaches. You can throw money at any coach and they'll lie through their teeth about anything. They are mercenaries paid to put their heart into something.
I’m talking about kids -- from seniors on down to Pee Wee football players. I’m talking about the future. I’m talking about all those people who don’t live in Al Golden’s world. I’m talking about the people who can see, smell, taste, hear and feel the negativity and have it push them away. And right now on the nasty scale, that storm is a Category 5.
Blake James, the aforementioned athletic director who took over after Golden had already received his contract extension through 2019, tried to wish fans a Happy New Year on Twitter a few days ago. The Rated-R responses to James were sickening. These were some of the PG-responses:
@CanesAllAccess Bet you're glad 2014 is over. It was the year you proved to the world that you are the worst AD on the planet. #firegolden
I can't imagine what the response would have been had Golden or D'Onofrio tweeted something.
Wait, I can.
Brad Kaaya’s mother, Angela Means, has tried to stem this tide of negativity on Twitter and Facebook, urging fans to stick by the side of the players and the team. So has UM. Somehow, they've come up with another clever marketing campaign sure to win folks over.
The public relations machine in Coral Gables has been on overdrive promoting positivity and unity left and right. It’s obviously a direct rebuttal to what Duke Johnson’s mother and Clive Walford were putting out there in the aftermath of the bowl loss –- that there was a division among players and that players would transfer out if they didn’t have to sit out a year per NCAA rules. You know, all the kind of stuff that makes recruits feel warm and fuzzy this time of year.
In the end, though, it’s clear UM is fighting a huge uphill battle. A really, really, really big one. And one they likely won't win on Signing Day either. Recruiting wars for 2015 have already been lost long ago. More could be on the way in more decommitments.
Golden and his staff deserve a lot of that blame. Did you know Miami-Dade and Broward County produced 16 seniors this season that played in the three major All-American games? Do you know how many are headed to UM? Two: St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett and Miami Booker T. Washington running back Mark Walton.
Not all of that failure can be traced solely to Golden or the results on the field. Some of it can be traced to the black cloud of negativity surrounding the program, the one fans have helped create.
Michael Irvin, the face of The U, the man who supports Miami through thick and thin, Mr. Positive, Mr. It’s going to get better -- even he couldn’t blame his nephew, Miami Westminster Christian All-American safety Tim Irvin, for skipping out on UM to head to Texas.
@VanessaMLane@CanesFootball I said I would stay away from this. But can u blame him? He lives in Miami & hears how peeps are killing the Coach.
Pinning blame on fans for the program’s current state of affairs isn't the idea here. The players and coaches deserve all that blame –- Golden the biggest chunk of that.
You can’t have fewer wins over FBS schools (5) in 2014 than potential NFL Draft picks in 2015. You can’t keep pointing to an NCAA cloud that “devastated the program” when the basketball team won an ACC title while said cloud was hanging over its head too. And you just can’t keep harping on a convenient argument (we improved from 90th in 2013 to 15th in total defense in 2014) to show signs of improvement.
Nobody cares. Nobody wants to hear it because they’ve heard it all before. Fans want action. They want results. And if not, they want blood.
But in this case, there doesn’t look like there will be blood. No matter how loud the chorus gets, Blake James doesn’t look like he’s changing his mind or his coach.
So, my advice, take a step back and put your energy toward something you can help change. And that’s making the cloud over Coral Gables -- the real one -- a little smaller each day. Turn down the noise a little. Al Golden can pretend he doesn't hear it. It's what he does. But just remember everyone else in this world can hear it loud and clear.
Ray Lewis III, the son of former Hurricane and Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, is leaving UM for Coastal Carolina according to his Instagram account.
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity," Lewis III wrote as the caption to a cartoon of Coastal Carolina's mascot holding a football. "If opportunity doesn't knock... build a door! #Round2"
Lewis III, a redshirt freshman cornerback, never played a down for the Hurricanes in his two seasons in Coral Gables and dealt with some off the field issues. He was suspended for the bowl game his freshman year.
Lewis was a three-star recruit and Semper Fidelis All-American as a two-way star at Lake Mary Prep, a small private school near Orlando.
There’s no defending Al Golden and the way his football team finished this season.
A record of 6-6 and being tied for last in a weak Coastal Division with the amount of talent UM had this season is just ugly. The Hurricanes should have been better than they were, and yes, this has all the same feel to it of Randy Shannon’s four years on the job.
There's been no significant progress. Just the same old mediocrity.
The numbers tell you a big part of the story: Golden is 28-21, 16-16 in ACC play. Shannon was 28-22, 16-16 in ACC play. Both coaches lost the focus of their teams for the final two games of their fourth seasons once they were eliminated from division contention.
It’s been equally embarrassing and abysmal for Canes fans to swallow.
But I’m here to tell you coaching has only been half of the problem during this 11-year run of average football. The other part: Nobody in charge seems to care as much as the fans or former players do about winning titles or shedding this new image of being average.
I’m not talking about Golden. He gets paid and is contractually obligated to care through 2019. I’m talking about the school president, athletic director, board of trustees on down. Those people. It’s one thing to be visible, clap and say the right things, be supportive. It’s another thing to invest in winning, to demand it, to expect it.
I’ve only been around this program as a reporter since about 2003, but I can tell you few people were more visible, more vocal and more passionate about winning on the field than former athletic director Paul Dee. Nobody demanded it more.
He was there for the good and bad after UM’s first run of titles was over in 1991. Dee arrived in 1993 and was in charge until 2008. He guided UM through the Pell Grant scandal, hired Butch Davis and then kept Larry Coker around to lead UM to its last national title in 2001.
You might remember that 2001 season for the title. I also remember it for what happened in June the summer right before it happened. Donna Shalala took over as president.
Shalala has done a tremendous job for UM, raising billions, being a leader. Brand new buildings have been cropping up all over campus for the past 13 years. She’s been there to support all the athletic teams, fighting the NCAA through the Nevin Shapiro mess (it would have been worse for UM if she wasn’t there in Indianapolis front and center). She’s done a lot of great things. Making sure the football program hasn’t slipped to where it is now isn’t one of them.
Since Dee stepped down in 2008 (it felt like his power was dwindling toward the end of his reign), UM has been through three athletic directors and the Shapiro mess. Meanwhile, the demand for excellence on the field –- the push for that sixth ring –- has quietly faded to the back burner. What we hear now is ‘Let’s win the Coastal!’
How did we get here? Here’s my theory: money.
UM did a lot of winning in the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s because they had a lot of great players and a lot of great coaches. But they did it without really spending a whole lot of money on the coaches, the facilities, their home stadium or anything else. College football was relatively small back when the good times started. Howard Schnellenberger figured out he had the most talent-rich backyard in the country and laid the foundation. State of Miami he called it.
In the end, though, there’s a reason Miami went through a number of coaches while Florida State held onto Bobby Bowden and Florida had Steve Spurrirer for years. When college coaches started making more money, Bowden and Spurrier got paid. Why did Schnellenberger leave UM after winning the title in 1983? The USFL was going to pay him more. Jimmy Johnson? Dennis Erickson? Butch Davis? They went to the NFL too. You might remember UM hired all those guys without really breaking the bank for any of them.
That happened for years with assistant coaches too. Remember Rob Chudzinski? Mark Stoops? Dave Wannstedt? The Canes had a pretty good run on assistants when coaches were willing to take a little less money to build their resumes before moving onto bigger and better things.
What’s happened over the last decade? Well, it’s not just that Miami’s remained cheap. It's also that everybody else has been raising their game too. New TV contracts and conference affiliations have put schools that once couldn’t stay on the same field with UM’s team speed on equal or better footing with the Canes everywhere else.
Up until the last year or so, UM’s facilities were considered among the worst for a power conference school. Now, the Canes are better, but still below average of what Top 25 programs have to offer. Have you seen what they’ve got in places like Alabama, Oregon, Texas, Florida State and Florida? Heck, scouts tell me all the time there are teams in non-power conferences with indoor practice facilities and all kinds of stuff UM doesn’t have.
Attendance is another issue. Say what you want about former greats not caring about playing in a half-empty Orange Bowl on some Saturdays when UM played snoozers against weak Big East teams, but the OB never felt as empty or lifeless as Sun Life Stadium has for UM over the last seven years.
What five and four-star can’t miss recruits would want to come play at No Life Stadium when just about every other school in a power conference puts UM’s real attendance and atmosphere to shame with on-campus stadiums? How can UM compete with that? Recruits nowadays care about everything –- not just about UM’s fading glory days or rich NFL history. That used to sell. Not anymore.
The saddest part of all of this isn’t that the Canes are behind on many fronts aside from coaching. It’s that Dee really was the last guy in charge at UM that made you feel like somebody was really fighting to maintain a gold standard.
Remember that ticket advertisement UM put out back in June urging fans to “GO TO FEWER GAMES!” The message was buy tickets for Florida State and North Carolina because we know you won’t show up to the other games. How pathetic was that?
UM likes to portray itself as frugal because it has to be. Small, private school setting, no stadium of its own. But don't let that fool you. The Canes have dough. They've received all the same TV deal money and conference money every other ACC school has. It’s just that the dollars don’t seem to be going back into football enough.
How do I know that for sure? I don’t. UM is a private school. They don’t share one ounce of information on how much they spend on coaching or the football budget in general.
But this is how you know they aren’t keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to paying football coaches: the results. Outside of former offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch (now with the Jacksonville Jaguars) how many assistants since Shannon took over in 2007 have moved onto bigger and better jobs? Has anybody seen or heard from Patrick Nix? Mark Whipple in now the head coach at 3-9 UMass. I can tell you nobody has been trying to pry away the assistants who have been here the last four years.
Athletic director Blake James said last week -- before the Pittsburgh loss -- Golden wouldn’t be fired after this season regardless of how things panned out. James also said Golden reserved the right to make all changes on his staff. No moves would be forced upon him.
At this point, I would have to expect Golden will make moves. He has to. Status quo isn't cutting it.
It wasn't at Florida. That's why the Gators cut coach Will Muschamp, who was hired right around the same time as Golden. He went 28-21, but won the SEC East and made it to the Sugar Bowl in 2012.
Sunday, Nebraska fired Bo Pellini because his team finished 9-3. Pellini won at least nine games every year he was there and finished 67-27 combined. You know who pulled the plug on Pellini? Former UM athletic director Shawn Eichorst, who spent two years at UM, and gave Golden his extension through 2019 because of how he handled the Shapiro bomb that was dropped on him shortly after getting the job.
Ironically enough, Eichorst told Nebraska reporters Pellini was fired because he “didn’t win the games that mattered the most.”
Remember when winning the games that mattered, mattered at Miami?
Golden hasn’t done that yet. That’s a fact. His biggest win to date? Over 9-3 Duke this year.
Bottomline: he should have won more with this year’s team. The Coastal, weak as ever, was there for the taking. The Hurricanes, potentially with four top 100 picks in next year’s draft (only Florida State and Oregon have more), grossly underachieved.
It's hard to explain some of the things that happened this year. How does five-star cornerback Tracy Howard start a ton last year and regress to hardly playing this year? How did Stacy Coley, one of your most electrifying players last year as a freshman, regress? Why was Dallas Crawford -- one of your 22 best -- sitting behind a former walk-on most of the season?
The one thing I don’t blame Golden for -- not being able to get his team up for these last two meaningless games. The Canes did the same to Shannon. When UM lost to FSU -- after investing all it had to beat the Seminoles and keep its Coastal Division hopes alive -- there was nothing tangible to play for anymore. Virginia and Pittsburgh, meanwhile, were fighting to become bowl eligible.
Golden was essentially a coach without a carrot to dangle. In the end, do you think it really mattered to the players if they were 8-4 or 6-6 when they couldn’t win the one thing they set out to accomplish in the beginning? Maybe to the fans, but certainly not the players.
Here is where we’re at: If UM’s leaders want to get serious about winning again it starts with who is chosen to replace Shalala.
That new school president can’t be satisfied with just winning the Coastal Division or selling fans on what this week’s uniform combination is going to be. They don’t want to see another 3Penny Film about how hard guys are working, read another report about where UM’s next recruiting class is ranked or be reminded about that NCAA cloud Golden had to deal with.
Canes fans are tired of all that. They want results.
Enough quality talent has come and gone through Coral Gables over the last 11 years -- no, not as frequently as it did before, but enough -- to win the Coastal at least once. Miami hasn’t done that.
A huge part of that failure is on coaching. The bigger part of that is how much financial support Shannon and Golden have received to go out and bring in quality assistant coaches and coordinators to help make these players better and get the most out of them. In the end, you can have a real nice car, but you can’t expect to win the race if you’ve got a below average pit crew you’re paying with nickels and dimes. You’re giving the driver no chance.
The proof is in player development. Anybody remember the last time UM had a pass rusher opponents feared while he was here? No, but we’re quick to point out how good Olivier Vernon looks with the Dolphins. How about a defensive tackle who plugged the middle and was a menace? Vince Wilfork is in his 10th season in the NFL. How about a ball-hawking safety like Ed Reed? Where’s that next guy been?
Until Brad Kaaya showed up, we were all wondering when UM was going to have a top flight quarterback again.
Why? Yes, there have been recruiting mistakes. Lots of them.
Much of the local talent UM has been able to hang onto lately didn’t pick the Canes because they were an elite program. They stayed home for the love of The U, because they grew up rooting for Sean Taylor and dreaming of being Canes.
Imagine where UM would have been this season if Duke Johnson hadn’t decided to stick with the hometown Canes even after they fired Shannon? How about Denzel Perryman? Or Phillip Dorsett?
In the end, this blog post isn't a fire Golden letter or even a fire Mark D’Onofrio letter.
I’m just saying UM’s problems extend beyond Golden. It extended beyond Shannon.
The U needs somebody in charge to really care about how far this program has fallen, come up with a plan to right the ship, demand excellence and invest in the program all out.
Right now, to me, it just seems like the folks in charge in Coral Gables are happy if you show up for two games a year. They're okay with mediocrity.
Come January it's going to be 12 years since the Miami Hurricanes last played for a national championship, and 11 since they went to a major bowl game.
Mediocrity has become the norm in Coral Gables. Let's count the ways:
> Counting Miami's 6-5 record heading into Saturday night's regular season-finale against Pittsburgh (5-6) at Sun Life Stadium, the Canes have lost at least four games every season since 2006. That happened only three times at UM from 1983 to 2003.
> Miami hasn't had a double-digit win season since 2003. Meanwhile, rivals Florida and Florida State have had four double-digit win seasons each and they've won three national titles combined.
> Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004, the Canes have floundered at 81-55 overall. That's fewer wins than six other teams in the conference: Virginia Tech (104), Florida State (103), Clemson (93), Louisville (92), Georgia Tech (87) and Boston College (82). Meanwhile, lowly Wake Forest and Duke have each won division titles while the Hurricanes simply tied for one and had to vacate it because of impending NCAA sanctions.
When will the mediocrity end? When will UM become a real threat for a national title again? Al Golden's youngest Canes have talked about that. Several have said they won't accept the losing.
"Me, Brad [Kaaya], Chad [Thomas], Braxton [Berrios] we talk about [national championships] a lot, saying that next year we have to turn things around, do what we've got to do to get to that spot," said freshman running back Joe Yearby, who went 53-5 and won three state titles in his four years at Miami Central.
"We've got to shoot higher than [the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division Title]," Yearby continued. "We've got to take everything day-by-day to accomplish everything we have to do. But we believe we can be champs again. That's still very much a goal."
Thomas, a five-star recruit who won a national title at Miami's Booker T. Washington last season, has said in the past he expects the Canes to win a national title while he's here -- and that he hates losing.
Before Miami's 30-13 loss at Virginia last Saturday, Berrios said the Hurricanes should win the remainder of their games. He said UM's three-game win streak following its loss to Georgia Tech -- and close loss to Florida State -- was a sign UM is getting closer to being what it wants to be.
Kaaya, UM's brightest young star, spoke this week about what it has been like losing five games. Kaaya went 26-4 and won a state title in California.
“I see it all as a part of the whole progression,” Kaaya said of the ups and downs. “It’s all a test; every single game is a test. I don’t know if God is testing me or something like that, but I take it all as a trial or a test and just get better. That’s my whole view on it.
"College football, the way it’s going now, it’s almost like every game is a playoff. You win one game two weeks ago and the next game you lose, everyone is pissed off so you’ve just got to keep playing. It’s week-by-week warriors.”
Golden this week said he doesn't "think anybody will ever get used to losing" at UM and he's glad his young players are talking about winning national titles.
"Nobody likes to lose, nobody wants to lose," he said. "Saying that is one thing. The other thing is addressing the things we need to address individually and collectively, charting a course and getting it fixed in the time span we have.
"I want them to be winners. I want them to be champions. I want them to scratch, claw and compete. Joe Yearby is one of those guys that I'm glad he feels like that because when he practices it looks like that. We want everybody in the organization to think like that."
Restocking the roster with the kind of talent it once had hasn't been easy. UM had 10 first round picks and 18 top 100 picks on the last team that played in the Orange Bowl (drafted between 2004-07).
Randy Shannon coached Miami's last first round pick, Kenny Phillips, in 2008. Shannon had nine players drafted with top 100 picks during his tenure and another four taken in 2012 he recruited to the program.
Golden had those four top 100 picks that were Shannon recruits his first year at Miami (Olivier Vernon, Sean Spence, Lamar Miller, Travis Benjamin) but has had just one other top 100 pick (Brandon Linder) during his tenure. That will change this May.
Scouts believe UM could have as many as five players (Ereck Flowers, Duke Johnson, Denzel Perryman, Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford) taken among the first 100 picks. NFLDraftScout.com listed four Hurricanes as top 100 picks this week (Dorsett not among them). Only Florida State (10) and Oregon (5) have more than that. UM is tied for the third-most with Louisville, Washington, Alabama and Baylor. Only Washington has as many losses as UM. The other teams are all ranked in the Top 25.
"Miami has dynamic NFL talent and everybody can see it," said Rob Rang, a writer for NFLDraftScout.com. "They also have a very talented, but inexperienced freshman quarterback. To me, they've just had some trouble late in games they could have won. That's been the difference."
Most NFLDraftScout.com Top 100 prospects by college
> Florida State (10): QB Jameis Winston (3), DT Eddie Goldman (20), CB PJ Williams (27), CB Ronald Darby (47), DE Mario Edwards (50), OT Cameron Erving (54), OG Josue Matias (59), WR Rashad Greene (68), OG Tre' Jackson (71), TE Nick O'Leary (90)
> Oregon (5): QB Marcus Mariota (1), CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (32), DE Arik Armstead (46), C Hroniss Grasu (82), OT Jake Fisher (87)
> Miami (4): RB Duke Johnson (51), LB Denzel Perryman (58), TE Clive Walford (74), OT Ereck Flowers (77)
> Alabama (4): WR Amari Cooper (5), SS Landon Collins (7), RB TJ Yeldon (55), OG Arie Kouandjio (61)
> Baylor (4): DE Shawn Oakman (12), OT Spencer Drango (49), QB Bryce Petty (88), WR Antwan Goodley (100)
> Louisville (4): DeVante Parker (18), FS Gerod Holliman (28), DE Lorenzo Mauldin (36), CB Charles Gaines (52)
> Washington (4): OLB Shaq Thompson (6), DT Danny Shelton (22), CB Marcus Peters (34), DE Hauoli Kikaha (48)
> USC (3): DT Leonard Williams (2), WR Nelson Agholor (73), RB Javorious Allen (75)
> Auburn (3): WR Sammie Coates (39), C Reese Dismukes (63), DT Gabe Wright (78)
> Fresno State (3): FS Derron Smith (44), WR Josh Harper (53), DT Tyeler Davison (96)
> Michigan State (3): CB Trae Waynes (13), FS Kurtis Drummond (93), RB Jeremy Langford (97)
> History: Miami leads 6-5 and won last year's meeting 45-26 at Sun Life Stadium.
> Background: Cavaliers, who beat Louisville earlier this year and fought UCLA tough at home before falling 28-20, have dropped four in a row and are playing for their bowl lives with an extra bye week to prepare for UM. The Hurricanes are coming off a tough-to-swallow 30-26 loss at home to Florida State, but have played their best under Golden over the last five weeks.
> Favorite: UM by 5 1/2
> Counting recruiting stars - Miami: Canes have three Rivals.com five-star recruits (RB Duke Johnson, CB Tracy Howard, DE Chad Thomas), 15 four-star recruits (eight on defense), 22 three-star recruits (11 on each side), 3 two-star recruits (two offense) and 2 no-star recruits (starters Nantambu Fentress and Thurston Armbrister) on their depth chart. The draft: Among that group 10 players are projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Those are: RB Duke Johnson (2nd RD), MLB Denzel Perryman (2nd RD), LT Ereck Flowers (2nd-3rd RD), CB Ladarius Gunter (4th RD), WR Phillip Dorsett (4th RD), TE Clive Walford (4th RD), DE Anthony Chickillo (5th-6th RD), LG Jon Feliciano (6th-7th RD), DL Olsen Pierre (6th-7th) and C Shane McDermott (7th-FA).
> Counting recruiting stars - Virginia: Cavalier have three Rivals.com five-star recruits who are all freshmen (RB Taquan Mizzell, DT Andrew Brown, S Quin Blanding), 8 four-star recruits (five on defense), 28 three-star recruits (17 on offense), 8 two-star recruits (four each side) and four no-star recruits on their depth chart. The draft: Among that group, only one player is projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Strong safety Anthony Harris, tabbed a second to third rounder and the second best at his position.
> When Virginia runs the ball: The Cavaliers like to run a balanced offense, but the last two weeks they've been forced to throw more in losses to Georgia Tech (35-10) and FSU (34-20), their only double-digit losses of the season. Senior Kevin Parks (5-8, 200) gets the brunt of the work, but hasn't exactly dazzled along with the overall running game, which ranks 92 in yards per game (142.0) and 93rd in yards per attempt (3.81). The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have done a nice job since getting torched for 318 yards by Georgia Tech. UM has given up just 307 yards rushing on 111 carries since then (2.76 a carry). Parks did run for 130 yards last year against UM so the Canes can't sleep on him. Edge: Miami.
> When Virginia throws the ball: Sophomore quarterback Greyson Lambert ranks 91st in QB rating (116.42), 52nd in completion percentage (159.94) and has thrown more intercetions (9) than TDS (8). Five different pass-catchers have at least 20 receptions this year. The top receivers are senior Darius Jennings (24 rec., 466 yards, 2 TDs), junior Canaan Severin (34-441-4) and senior Miles Gooch (24-371-1). Mizzell catches a lot of balls out of the backfield (33-190-0) as does Parks (28-166-2). The Cavaliers rank 103rd at converting red zone trips into TDs (50%), but they are good on third down (44.10%, 38th). The Hurricanes, ranked 22nd in pass defense (192.9 yards per game) and 21st in opposing QB rating (110.13), faced a much more talented team last week. This week UM will likely be without starting safety Deon Bush, who leads the nation with five forced fumbles and has had a stellar season, but was listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury. FSU scored its final 13 points after Bush left the game against UM. Virginia has allowed just 12 sacks all season (19th fewest). UM has produced 25 sacks (38th most). The difference here could be turnovers. Virginia has coughed it up eight times in four consecutive losses. UM has taken it away 11 times over its last four games. Edge: Miami.
> When UM runs the ball: The Cavaliers held the nation's third-leading rusher, Pitt running back James Conner, to a season-low 83 yards back on Oct. 3. And now they'll take their shot at trying to slow down UM's Duke Johnson, who has eclipsed the 100-yard mark six games in a row and ranks eighth nationally with 134.3 yards per game. Virginia is giving up just 3.22 yards per carry this season (13th nationally) and 118.6 yards per game on the ground (15th nationally). A lot of what UM does running the football, though, will be predicated on how the Cavs line up defensively in pass coverage. When teams have lined up against the Hurricanes in zone, they've preferred to run and had lots of success doing that lately. Sophomore Gus Edwards, who missed the FSU game with an ankle injury, should be back for UM to provide depth. Still, this is going to be a stiff test for both sides. Edge: Split.
> When UM throws the ball: Virginia's defense, run by Jon Tenuta, lives and dies off turnovers. The rank eighth nationally with 95 points off 24 takeaways. The Hurricanes had been doing a good job with freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya protecting the football. But the Canes coughed it up three times last week against FSU including twice on fumbles by tight ends. Virginia's secondary has talent (freshman safety Quin Blanding has over 100 tackles) and experience with strong safety Anthony Harris and cornerback Brandon Phelps back there (65 starts combined). But they haven't been dominant. The Cavs rank 71st in passing defense (229.2 yards per game), 56th in opposer passer rating (12.32) and they've given up 16 TD passes (63rd) despite the 13 interceptions. They essentially live and die with the turnover and sacks (27, 28th most nationally). If Kaaya and the Hurricanes can throw against Virginia's Cover 2, Cover 4 and Cover 8 packages underneath they'll have success. UM struggled last week when FSU went from playing man-to-man in the first half to zone in the second. Edge: Miami.
> Special teams: Virginia kicker Ian Frye is a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award. He's made 17-of-20 field goal attempts this season. He's missed from 46, 52 and 50 yards out. UM kicker Michael Badgley made career-long 45- and 46-yard field goals last week against FSU, but had another extra point blocked and missed a 29-yard field goal. The Cavaliers haven't returned a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown and haven't blocked a punt, a field goal or extra point this season. They did surrender a kickoff return of a touchdown in the loss at BYU, but have only surrendered two kick returns of 30 yards or more all season. UM has allowed seven kick returns of 30-yards or more including one for a score against Louisville. Edge: Virginia.
> Prediction: Several signs point to a Canes letdown. There's the FSU hangover; Virginia, coming off a bye, is playing for its bowl life; it's going to be cold and in the 30s. Truth is Virginia isn't that good and Miami is motivated. The Cavaliers generate much of their offense off turnovers and if the Hurricanes can avoid those they should win this game easy. I'm betting on just one or two UM mistakes and more from the home team. UM 36, Virginia 22.
Barring an unexpected setback, it's looking more and more like Ereck Flowers will be starting at left tackle for the Hurricanes on Saturday.
Coach Al Golden said Flowers ramped up his workload Wednesday and took more reps than he did during Tuesday's practice. During the 20-minute portion the media was able to watch practice, Flowers was lined up at left tackle with senior Jonathan Feliciano at left guard and freshman Trevor Darling at right tackle.
"Everyday is a step. Hopefully we'll have good luck and not have any swelling or setbacks," Golden said of Flowers. "He's doing great. He's getting the best care he can get in college football and just doing what he needs to do."
Golden said Feliciano could play left guard or right tackle Saturday and was taking reps at all three spots -- left tackle included. Golden said Darling worked at tackle and guard. Freshman Nick Linder, who has started the past four games at left guard, was also working at center according to Golden.
Golden said the Hurricanes will end up rotating linemen against the Seminoles. UM hasn't done much of that in games thus far, usually playing its starting five from beginning to end in close games barring injury.
"This is a heck of an outfit we're getting ready to play," Golden said. "So we're going to need to rotate anyway."
FSU DROPS IN RANKINGS
Even though they're still unbeaten, the Seminoles (9-0) dropped from No. 2 to No. 3 -- behind one-loss Oregon -- in the latest college football playoff rankings released Tuesday night.
"They haven't lost in a long time," Golden said. "I can't imagine there's one, let alone two or three better [teams] than them in the country."
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, on the ACC teleconference call with reporters Wednesday, said he paid little mind to the latest rankings. His reaction? "Nothing," he said. "I kept watching film of Miami."
Still, one has to imagine the Seminoles will have some extra juice for Saturday's game considering the slight. "It can motivate you in that you want people to respect what you do," Fisher said of dropping.
"We've played a great schedule," he continued. "Oklahoma State had four straight years of 10 wins. Notre Dame is a great team. They had one bad game this past weekend. They played well against us. I'm very happy the way we've played. We're winning games and we're winning by significant margins also. You don't win games like we did last year. Nobody had done it in 68 years. But thing is we're very resilient. We're great in our way. Maybe, each team has a different style. But I love this team. They understand how to compete and playing extremely well -- especially when we're getting everybody's best week in, week out. Everybody plans for you in the off-season, studies you in the off-season when you're the champ. I'm very proud of this team and I think we've played well."
> Golden said freshman quarterback Malik Rosier has been playing the role of Jameis Winston in practice.
"We're wearing him out," Golden said. "He's had a tough week. He could be the MVP of the week though. Overall, he's getting better, doing a good job throwing the ball and running. He's athletic. Its a good fit for him. I really appreciate the kind of effort he's giving this week.
"There's only one Heisman trophy a year. That should give you an idea of how unique that young man [Winston] is. But we're getting what we need from [Rosier], which is great."
> Asked how many recruits will be at Saturday's game, Golden responded: "The max. I don't know what that is, but it's going to be a big number."
What would beating FSU mean for UM's recruiting efforts? "I say it to you guys every year, winning the game is great and it helps. But the recruiting is not seasonal anymore," Golden said. "It's year round. For a lot of these guys the relationships started two or three years ago. So, although it's a huge game and has great ramifications and all that, really from a recruiting standpoint we've identified who we want to go after and so have they. There may be some fence sitters. But other than that I'm not really thinking about that right now."
> Florida State hasn't returned any kickoffs for touchdowns this season and ranks 104th in kickoff return average this season (19.07 average). But that doesn't mean the Hurricanes aren't weary of their issues on kickoff coverage or the fact FSU's Kermit Whitfield led the nation last year with a 36.41 average and two scores. UM has surrendered seven kickoff returns of 30 yards or more this year (109th worst).
"We've got to get good kicks," Golden said. "It's hard to cover line drives when there's no hang. This group is going to test us here for sure. They got great returns and they got a lot of guys that block like crazy. It's going to be a challenge for us. But I hope we have the right mix."
NO. 2 FLORIDA STATE (9-0, 6-0 ACC) at MIAMI (6-3, 3-2 ACC)
> Kickoff, TV, radio: 8 p.m., Sun Life Stadium, ABC, WQAM (560 AM), radio CARACOL (1260 AM, Spanish).
> History: Miami leads 31-27.
> Favorite: Seminoles by 1 1/2 points.
> Counting recruiting stars - Miami: Canes have three Rivals.com five-star recruits (RB Duke Johnson, CB Tracy Howard, DE Chad Thomas), 15 four-star recruits (eight on defense), 22 three-star recruits (11 on each side), 3 two-star recruits (two offense) and 2 no-star recruits (starters Nantambu Fentress and Thurston Armbrister) on their depth chart. The draft: Among that group 10 players are projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Those are: RB Duke Johnson (2nd RD), MLB Denzel Perryman (2nd RD), LT Ereck Flowers (3rd RD), CB Ladarius Gunter (4th RD), WR Phillip Dorsett (4th RD), TE Clive Walford (4th-5th RD), DE Anthony Chickillo (5th RD), LG Jon Feliciano (6th-7th RD), DL Olsen Pierre (6th-7th) and C Shane McDermott (7th-FA).
> Counting recruiting stars - FSU: The Seminoles have nine Rivals.com five-star recruits (five on offense), 26 four-star recruits (14 on defense), 16 three-star recruits (10 on offense) on their depth chart. The draft: Among that group, 13 are projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Those are: QB Jameis Winston (1st RD), CB P.J. Williams (1st RD), DT Eddie Goldman (1st RD), CB Ronald Darby (2nd RD), DE Mario Edwards (2nd RD), WR Rashad Greene (2nd-3rd RD), LG Josue Matias (2nd RD), RG Tre' Jackson (2nd-3rd RD), LT Cameron Irving (2nd-3rd RD), TE Nick O'Leary (3rd RD), RB Karlos Williams (3rd-4th RD), DE Desmond Hollin (5th-6th RD) and CB Nick Waisome (7th RD).
> When FSU runs the ball: FSU averages just 32 rushes a game (113th fewest) and the running game ranks 104th nationally (129.89 per game). The 'Noles have faced six top-50 ranked run defenses including No. 2 Louisville (173 yards, 3 TDs) and No. 4 Clemson (13 yards, 2 TDs). Senior Karlos Williams has run for 520 yards and is averaging a pedestrian 4.37 yards per carry. Freshman Dalvin Cook, Mr. Florida Football last season at Miami Central, is averaging 5.27 yards per carry and has run for 416 yards and five scores. But he's fighting through a hip injury. UM's run defense led by Denzel Perryman has vastly improved (3.31 yards per carry ranks 17th nationally) and the team has faced some good backs already including Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (1,250 yards, 5th nationally), Duke's Shaun Wilson (9.22 yards per carry, 2nd nationally) and Georgia Tech's Synjyn Days (6.21 yards per carry, 54th). The biggest improvement for the Hurricanes has been cutting down on the big play. Last year, the Canes gave up 15 run plays of 20 yards or more. This year, they have allowed just four (tied for 1st nationally). Coach Al Golden said that's a product of better tackling. If the Canes keep playing this way they will slow down FSU's so-so running game. Edge: Miami.
> When FSU throws the ball: The Hurricanes haven't faced a pass offense or quarterback quite like Jameis Winston this season. No, Winston is not having the kind of season (2,540 yards, 17 TDs, 11 INTs) he had a year ago (4,057 yards, 40 TDs, 10 INTs). But whatever struggles he has in the first half of games (63.9 comp. pct, 1,183 yards, 8 TDs, 8 INTs) he fixes them in the second half (69.8 comp. pct, 1,357 yards, 9 TDs, 3 INTs). Although FSU did lose a first round pick in receiver Kelvin Benjamin and a veteran pass-catcher in Kenny Shaw from last year's team, Winston still has Seminoles all-time leading receiver Rashad Greene to throw to. The former St. Thomas Aquinas standout ranks sixth nationally in catches with 71 and he's averaging 109.9 yards per game (8th most). Senior tight end Nick O'Leary (33 catches, 364 yards, 2 TDs) is also still around as a security blanket. Winston also has a pair of five-star freshmen in Homestead's Ermon Lane and West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman's Travis Rudolph, who only has 19 catches this season but ranks 62nd nationally with 16.21 yards per reception. Miami ranks 18th in opposing quarterback rating (108.17), but the Canes have only faced three passers ranked among the Top 50. And the best of that group, Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel, played with bruised ribs against UM. He threw for 355 yards and three scores against the Canes (most of it came in the second half when the game was decided). Miami has plenty of veterans in the secondary -- led by corners Ladarius Gunter and Tracy Howard and safety Deon Bush -- so youth isn't an excuse. But this is a very tough assignment. UM had a season-high six sacks in its win over North Carolina. Winston has been sacked 19 times, but has four seniors blocking for him including three potential draft picks in left tackle Cameron Irving, left guard Josue Matias and right guard Tre' Jackson. Edge: Florida State.
> When UM runs the ball: The Hurricanes come in red-hot having churned out 994 yards rushing and nine touchdowns over their last three games after making a full-fledged commitment to the ground game (137 rushes compared to 60 passes). Running back Duke Johnson ranks eighth nationally in rushing yards per game (134.78) and 12th in yards per carry (7.68). Freshman Joe Yearby (6.48) and sophomore Gus Edwards (6.18) have provided a nice lift off the bench and rank 40th and 56th respectively in yards per carry. FSU's run defense ranks 25th in yards per carry (3.54) and 35th in yards per game (135.67), but the Seminoles haven't faced much in the way of prolific running backs or run offenses. Virginia's Kevin Parks (669 yards, 67th) and Notre Dame's Tarean Folston (562 yards, 99th) are FSU's only previous opponents ranked in the top 100 in rushing yards. No FSU foe before UM ranked in the top 50 in rushing. The Seminoles, though, are coming off their best day of the season stopping the run, holding Virginia to 37 yards thanks to nine tackles for loss and four sacks. The defensive line is anchored by potential first round picks Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards. UM could have starting left tackle Ereck Flowers (knee surgery) back in the lineup Saturday, moving veteran Jon Feliciano back to right tackle and freshman Trevor Darling into a backup role. Edge: Miami.
> When UM throws the ball: The Seminoles lost two key members from their national championship-winning secondary to the draft in Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks. But there's still tons of talent around. Cornerback P.J. Williams is a projected first round pick and counterpart Ronald Darby is expected to be a second rounder. Still, the results haven't shown on the field often enough for FSU this season. The 'Noles rank 66th in opposing QB rating (they ranked 2nd last year) and have already given up more TD passes (15) and big plays (32 pass plays of 20 yards or more) than they did all last year. And they've only faced two quarterbacks ranked in the Top 50: Notre Dame's Everett Golson (313 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) and Louisville's Will Gardner (330 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). Canes freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya has better numbers than both of those guys. But he also has benefited from a very good running game over the last three weeks, helping him stay interception free. Kaaya, though, figures to be asked to throw more this week. He made plenty of tough throws at Nebraska earlier this season and had his best game (359 yards, 3 TDs). Nebraska ranks second in opposing QB rating. Florida State's pass rush is something UM feared last year, but the Seminoles have just 16 sacks this season. They had 35 last year. UM has allowed only 15. Receiver Phillip Dorsett leads the nation with 30.11 yards per catch and is always a big play threat. Senior Clive Walford ranks second among tight ends with six touchdown catches and leads the team with 29 catches. Where FSU could ultimately win this battle is on third down. UM has been a lot better on third down in its last two wins (13 of 28, 46.4%) compared to its season average of 30.69% (120th nationally). But that's because the Canes have run the ball and haven't asked Kaaya to throw on third and long (UM is 7 of 34 on 3rd down and seven yards or more). FSU isn't dominant on third down (82nd nationally at 40.71%), but they are good on 3rd and long (13 of 45, 28.8%). Edge: Even.
> Special teams: Florida State has gone 136 consecutive games without giving up a kick return for a score -- the longest streak in the nation. UM, meanwhile, has struggled in kickoff coverage giving up seven returns of 30 yards or longer (109th worst) including a touchdown to Louisville. FSU speedster Kermit Whitfield has just one return this season longer than 30 yards, but led the nation last year with a 36.4 kick return average. UM's Stacy Coley, one of the most explosive freshmen in the country last year, ranks 36th in kickoff return average (24.69) but is going up against a Seminoles kick coverage team that's longest return allowed was 34 yards. Seminoles kicker Roberto Aguayo is 37 of 39 for his career on field goal attempts and has made three from 50 yards or longer including a career-long 52-yarder earlier this year against Wake Forest. Miami walk-on kicker Michael Badgley has gone 7-of-8 on field goal attempts and has a career-long of 42 yards. His only miss was from 50-plus. UM punter Justin Vogel has been a valuable weapon of late and has pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line on 20 of his 38 punts this season. FSU's Cason Beatty has allowed returns on just 16 of his 34 punts and has had 11 go inside the 20. FSU's Rashad Greene has had two punt returns over 20 yards this season and his 10.00 average ranks 28th nationally. Edge: FSU.
MIAMI (5-3, 2-2 ACC) VS. NORTH CAROLINA (4-4, 2-2 ACC)
> Kickoff, TV: 12:30 p.m., Sun Life Stadium, FSN.
> History: Series is tied 8-8. Canes won 27-23 last year in Chapel Hill.
> Spread: Miami favored by 14.5
> What to watch for the Canes: How freshman Trevor Darling handles his first career start at right tackle and how senior Jon Feliciano handles his switch to left tackle in the aftermath of the Ereck Flowers injury.
> Prediction: North Carolina's Marquis Williams is going to cause Miami's defense headaches, but in the end too much Duke Johnson and a heavy dose of the Canes' running game will prevail. Miami 38, North Carolina 29.
Live Blog Miami Hurricanes vs. North Carolina: Nov. 1, 2014
Stacy Coley's sophomore season hasn't gone the way he expected it to. But at least he's putting a smile out there for the world to see.
One of the most electrifying freshmen in the country last season (he ranked second nationally with a 21.8-yard average the 67 times he touched the ball as a receiver or return man), it's almost startling that Coley hasn't found a way to break loose yet this season.
For one, he scored 10 touchdowns last season (seven receiving). But seven games into 2014 (he missed one game with an injury), Coley has yet to find the end zone.
As a receiver in 2013, he ranked third on the team in catches (33) and second in yardage (591) and made seven starts. This year, he's started one game (Louisville) and has 12 catches (seventh-most on the team) for 72 yards (eighth-most) and his longest catch has gone for 17 yards. Last year, Coley had eight catches go for more than 20 yards.
As a return man, he's had just two kickoff returns longer than 30 yards this season (he had five last year) and just one punt return longer than 20 yards (he had five last season).
"For me, I just feel like my season isn't going as planned," Coley said Tuesday. "But right now I'm just going to keep pressing forward, keep focusing and put God first."
The thing is Coley isn't getting a ton of chances either. His 18 receiving targets rank seventh on the team behind Braxton Berrios (38), Phillip Dorsett (35), Duke Johnson (32), Clive Walford (32), Malcolm Lewis (27) and Herb Waters (23). And that's with eight of those targets coming in his only start in the opener.
Last week at Virginia Tech, Coley ran a jet sweep on a wildcat formation and picked up two yards. He had one pass thrown his way -- a quick flare pass he turned into a 13-yard gain in the fourth quarter with Miami already ahead 30-0.
"Whenever I get another opportunity or just get the ball in my hands I have to try and make something happen," Coley said.
Is it frustrating? "No. Not at all," he said. "I'm just happy the team is winning. I'm a team guy. It's not about me. It's about the team. Whatever I can do to help the team I just do it."
If he can get the ball in his hands this week he'll have a pretty good chance to score against North Carolina's secondary. The Tar Heels ranks 119th in pass defense (302.1 yards per game) and have allowed 20 touchdown passes this season. UNC is pretty good on kickoff coverage (16.16-yard average). The Tar Heels ranks ninth nationally and have surrendered just one return longer than 30 yards this season.
THIS AND THAT
> UM coach Al Golden said after Wednesday's practice that he remains in regular contact with sophomore defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and fully expects Miami's top 2013 recruit to return to the team in January.
"He's 256 now," Golden said. "He's getting stronger and bigger. He's eight weeks away, but whose counting? We're just trying to offer support, making sure he's doing the little things he needs to do and we'll gladly welcome him back in January."
> Even though he churned out a career-high 249 yards on the ground in the win at Virginia Tech, Duke Johnson said it wasn't his best game as a Hurricane and that he found plenty of things on tape to improve on.
"I don't think I've played a perfect game yet," Johnson said. "There's always something I can do better in. Like on the play where Brad threw the ball to me and it was low, but I still dropped it. That's a negative because I touched the ball with both hands."
Asked if that was his one mistake against the Hokies Johnson smiled and said: "Probably running into the bench too. That's probably a minus. That's definitely a minus."
> Carter Hucks, the eight-year-old Make-A-Wish kid who was with the Hurricanes in their wins over Cincinnati and at Virginia Tech, entered the hospital Wednesday and is set to receive his bone marrow transplant on Nov. 6. Golden said there is constant communication between Carter and the team, especially Johnson, his favorite player.
> What did Gus Edwards do better during his breakout performance at Virginia Tech? "Run behind his pads," Johnson said. "One thing we tried to tell Gus was he's not a scat back. That's not what he does. He can do it at times, make a couple guys a miss. But for the most part when he's going, we want him to run straight, run behind his pads. We tell him 'a lot of guys don't want to tackle you as it is. A lot of guys move out the way. So run behind your pads and run strong and when you get to the next level just have fun, do what you do.'"
> Offensive coordinator James Coley said quarterback Brad Kaaya had a menu of plays to choose from against Virginia Tech depending on the coverage he saw.
"He had the ability to exit out of the pass game and get into the run, which he did the first several plays," Coley said. "If he had a bad count in the box, he could go into a pass. Man, he did that all night long."
Coley said he kept telling Kaaya he was doing a great job even though he stats (7-of-16, 92 yards, 1 TD) didn't necessarily show it.
"We're starting to see the leader of Brad Kaaya, not just the quarterback Brad Kaaya," Golden said Wednesday. "We're starting to see him comfortable in his own skin and grow as a leader. Those are the two things I would say, his decision making in terms of protecting the football, as it relates to protecting the ball, then leadership, feeling more comfortable as a leader, not just a quarterback."
> Even though North Carolina ranks 109th in run defense (210.63 yards per game and 20 TDs allowed) and has just 13 sacks on the season (91st nationally), both Coley and senior offensive lineman Jonathan Feliciano, who is moving over to left tackle this week, said the Tar Heels scheme could be problematic for UM.
"They do a really good job making things look messy for you," Coley said. "They give you funky looks and things aren't they way they're supposed to be with regard to how you see a defense until a ball snaps. So, they'll make some plays especially the guys in the perimeter because of those looks and then up front they're constantly moving and bringing some untraditional blitzes."
Said Feliciano: "People aren't going to give them much credit because they're not statistically ranked high but they do a lot of things that mess the o-line up and mess the whole offense up. They do a lot of weird stunts, weird blitzes. That caught us off guard last year too. It was a close game last year and I know that they're going to come down here and bring it again."
> What does Kaaya think of the Canes running the ball down opponents throats (88 rushes for 699 yards) instead of throwing it (41 passes for 378 yards) the last two weeks?
"That's fine. Keep feeding them," Kaaya said of his running backs. "Sooner or later, playaction is coming. If they're going to play coverage, deep coverage, then we're going to keep running the ball. "
Is that what teams have been doing more? "Yeah. Certain teams," he said. "Virginia Tech came out like that. First play of the game they're playing their safeties are 30 yards deep, cornerbacks 15 yards deep. All week long we saw them load the box and play man defense and then first play they completely change all that. Maybe that's what he saw or was baiting us to throw. I don't know. It worked for us."
Said James Coley: "Week in and week out probably for the last five weeks we've gone into the first series and really within the third or fourth play, said 'Hey they're not playing what they thought they were going to play. This is different.' Part of it is because of Brad. Part of it early is because of Duke and Dorsett and Stacy with his threat he gave last year with all the screen stuff. So you get a lot of funky looks and Clive's made a presence in the middle of the field. Teams have really adapted to what they've done for us. So we've had to adjust within drives and within games some stuff we probably didn't see in practice. I'm sure it will be the same way this week."
> Coley said freshman quarterback Malik Rosier has been doing a great job running Miami's scout team this season. Rosier is one of 16 players UM plans to redshirt.
"We don't get a lot of work with him except for a few times, but he's very sharp," Coley said. "If I pulled him in to talk about the game plan for North Carolina he would know all the checks. "He may not have all the reps that Brad has, but he's definitely soaking up stuff in meetings and really it made you feel good as a coach somebody cares as much as he does to not only execute his role in the scout team, but know what's going on."
> Like Golden said last week, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio mentioned linebacker Raphael Kirby as the player who has made the biggest strides since the first week of the season.
Here is everything coach Al Golden talked about Friday during his teleconference the day after UM's 30-6 win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg:
Q: How did you come out injury wise?
"I think Joe Yearby will be fine. I think Juwon Young will be fine. Both of those guys. Obviously Joe didn't play. Juwon got hurt in the first half. Everybody else is good to go."
Q: You've talked about wanting to play the complete game. Was this as close as you've gotten to one since coming to Miami?
"It was the most complete game we've played this year. I thought Cincinnati we played really well in all three units for three quarters and this one I thought we played really well. We could have done a couple things better late in the game, but again your mindset changes a little bit when you're up 24 or 31 late in the game. I thought it was a good performance."
Q: What happened to Juwon Young?
"Juwon actually got a hamstring too."
Q: How much did having the bye week off help?
"I think we needed the rest. I opted to only practice once last week. So we really didn't get a tactical advantage on Virginia Tech. Again, I just thought the rest was more important based on how the season was going with the three night road games away not getting back until 5 a.m. three times and I just thought the rest was better and I think it showed up last night for sure."
Q: Is there anything going on with Herb Waters who didn't play?
"Is there anything going on with Herb Waters? No. We ran the ball for close to 400 yards and that's just the way the game played out. We didn't anticipate Virginia Tech playing us the way they did play us. And then obviously when they continued to play us that we continued to run the ball. It just was a function of personnel groups. I don't want to start any rumors or whatever your question is coming from it's unfounded. I don't understand it. We just won the game 30-6 on the road in Lane Stadium. I think the guys gave an incredible effort and the receivers especially -- Malcolm and Phillip and all those guys were so unselfish blocking all night. I really appreciated it."
Q: What did you like most about the way you played on defense?
"We didn't miss many tackles. Our tackling percentage, we're still working through it in terms of our quality control and making sure we don't miss anything. If there's anything we need to correct we're going to do that. But we didn't miss many tackles. We fit them pretty good. We were very unselfish up front. Everybody was spilling the ball and directing the ball where it needed to be -- either to the linebacker or the safety. And I think when the defensive lineman had opportunities they made plays. I thought the pass rush was good. I wish we could have finished it with a couple more sacks. But we certainly made the quarterback uncomfortable, made him move his feet and alter a lot of his throws especially when we had them backed up with the field position."
Q: Does this feel like the biggest win or most impressive win you guys have had since coming to Miami?
"I don't get into all that, respectfully. You guys analyze that. We're pretty much putting a bow on this thing by 6:30 tonight and then moving on to North Carolina. So, I'll leave that analysis up to you. But a year ago we needed a two-minute drive to win at Chapel Hill and it seems like the last two years we've won big games on Thursday night in really tough environments. So I think from that standpoint our team had a good look, a lot of confidence and again there's a lot of teams that go into that place and fall victim. So I was glad glad that we didn't."
Q: What was it like having 8-year-old Make-A-Wish kid Carter Hucks around again for the game?
"It's been awesome. We have an opportunity to bring joy and fulfillment, Carter's dream to and he and his family. At the same time we think he's doing the same to us. He's been a lot of fun, a lot of joy to be around. Great attitude, great personality. Obviously we're blessed to have him around. Hopefully we'll see him again soon.
Q: Why has the running game been so explosive and productive (699 yards on 88 attempts) over the last two games?
"Like I said earlier I think we have a lot of unselfish guys right now. If you look at Duke's first long run against Cincinnati, Malcolm Lewis is on the right side and he gets a great block on the safety. Phillip is on the front side and he gets a great block. Otherwise it's a seven-yard gain. The offensive line has been doing a good job. Danny [Isidora] is making a lot of progress. And Nick Linder is making a lot of progress. Alex Gall. I think those guys are making progress. But we're getting a lot of unselfish play. We really asked the receivers, both tight ends Clive and Stan and Tucker, to simply go out there and block for three hours and they all did it pridefully and willfully and did it really well. I think that is a characteristic that's really hard to come by. I'm glad we're starting to see that."
Q: You had fewer penalties (4 penalties, 28 yards) against Virginia Tech. Did that come from coaching, guys understanding the line better?
"I think there is a line and we want them to walk that line and we want them to be aggressive. One of the things about being disciplined is self governance and the last couple games we got into a couple selfish penalties whether it was a retaliation penalty or celebration. So we can't have any selfish penalties. Last night, again, I go back to being unselfish. We were unselfish last night in a lot of the ways we played the game and I think penalties was one of them. I just think we were very unselfish. There were a number of opportunities to retaliate and we did not. I think if we got on the perimeter and we were blocking and starting to hold them we let them go. I just think from that standpoint we were smart and disciplined and unselfish and that's what corrected the penalties. But we've got to keep going."
Q: How big a jump has Raphael Kirby made over the last month?
"I can't believe you said that because we were just talking this morning. This last four weeks -- I don't even know how to describe it. We were just talking this morning. This last four weeks I don't even know how to describe it. He's so process-oriented right now. His preparation is through the roof. He's practicing really hard. He's playing mike and will for us. So again, it goes back to him being mature, being unselfish, saying you know what I'll play whatever spot you want us to play. His production over the last month has been really, really good and I just can't say enough about the direction he's going, leadership and really consistency is the word I would describe."
Q: How about Jermaine Grace's improvements?
"Jermaine Grace is a talented young man who is really working harder and harder each week on the mental aspects of the game, on his preparation, on his film study. And he has to continue to do that. When he marries those two he has a chance to be a formidable presence for us. I hope that he sees know, he understands and he accepts that challenge. That's going to be the challenge week in and week out. The offense we're going to see this week is a lot different in many ways than the offense we just saw. He's going to have to invest again mentally and from a preparation standpoint and back it up physically, which he has been doing. His effort has been really good. We just have to get that mental aspect down, I really believe if he can marry those two he's going to be tough."
Q: What's the schedule moving forward?
"We actually have a team meeting in about 10 minutes. So we're going to knock out this film, get that cleaned up, make sure any mistakes we made last night we don't let them sit or forget about them. Let's clean that up, be honest about it. Whenever you get a big win, some guys want to sweep stuff under the rug. We don't want to do that. If we made mistakes whether its technique or mental errors or whatever the case may be depending on your positions we get it cleaned up. We're going to do that and then I'll give them off [Saturday] and then normally they have Sunday off. So we'll stay with that schedule and return on Monday."
The Hurricanes' 30-6 blowout in Blacksburg Thursday night keeps them very much in the race to win the Coastal Division with four games left to play.
Here's a look at how the division stacks up the rest of the way from a Canes perspective:
Duke (6-1, 2-1 ACC) > Wins: at Georgia Tech 31-25, Virginia 20-13 > Losses: at Miami 22-10 > Remaining games - Nov. 1 at Pittsburgh (4-3), Noon (ESPNU) - Nov. 8 at Syracuse (3-4) - Nov. 15 vs. Virginia Tech (4-4) - Nov. 20 vs. North Carolina (3-4), 7:30 p.m. - Nov. 29 vs. Wake Forest (2-5) > The Breakdown: The Blue Devils rebounded from their loss at Miami on Sept. 27 with a pair of back-to-back wins in Atlanta and at home over the Cavaliers to take control of their own destiny in the Coastal. At this point, the two toughest games left on the schedule for Duke appear to be at Pitt, which they'll have two weeks to prepare for, and a Thursday night showdown with rival North Carolina just five days after facing Virginia Tech. The good news for UM is they own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Duke. The bad news: it's unlikely the Blue Devils will lose more than two ACC games the rest of the way, if that. Duke's ranks fifth nationally in scoring defense (15.1 ppg) and the only offensive juggernaut still on the slate is Carolina.
Pitt (4-3, 2-1 ACC) > Wins: at Boston College 30-20, Virginia Tech 21-16 > Losses: at Virginia 24-19 > Remaining games - Oct. 25 vs. Georgia Tech (5-2), 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU) - Nov. 1 vs. Duke (6-1), Noon (ESPNU) - Nov. 15 at North Carolina (3-4) - Nov. 22 vs. Syracuse (3-4) - Nov. 29 at Miami (5-3) > The Breakdown: Behind running back James Conner (172 carries, 959 yards, 11 TDs) and a decent defense (14th in scoring, 18.6 ppg) the Panthers will be a formidable final hurdle for the Hurricanes to close out the regular season. Pitt can do Miami's dirty work over the next eight days by beating the Yellow Jackets (who own the head-to-head tiebreaker with UM) and bringing Duke back to the pack.
Virginia (4-3, 2-1 ACC) > Wins: Louisville 23-21, Pitt 24-19 > Losses: at Duke 20-13 > Remaining games - Oct. 25 vs. North Carolina (3-4), noon (ESPN3) - Nov. 1 at Georgia Tech (5-2), 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU) - Nov. 8 at Florida State (7-0) - Nov. 22 vs. Miami (5-3) - Nov. 28 at Virginia Tech (4-4) > The Breakdown: The Cavaliers weren't supposed to be in this race, but are very much players in it after an impressive start to the season. Their losses are at home to a ranked UCLA team by eight points and on the road at a ranked BYU team by eight points. The Hurricanes are just 2-3 all-time in Charlottesville and have lost two in a row there.
Georgia Tech (5-2, 2-2 ACC) > Wins: at Virginia Tech 27-24, Miami 28-17 > Losses: Duke 31-25, at North Carolina 48-43 > Remaining games - Oct. 25 at Pittsburgh (4-3), 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU) - Nov. 1 vs. Virginia (4-3), 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU) - Nov. 8 at N.C. State (4-4) - Nov. 15 vs. Clemson (5-2) - Nov. 29 at Georgia (6-1) > The Breakdown: The Yellow Jackets have been on a slippery slope since beating the Canes in Atlanta. They've given up 79 points and 952 yards over their last eight quarters in back-to-back losses. With a head-to-head win over the Canes in their pocket, the Yellow Jackets would win the tiebreaker if they finish in a two-way tie with the Hurricanes. But at this point that doesn't look like that will happen. They've got a tough road game this Saturday and still have to host a good Clemson team.
Miami (5-3, 2-2 ACC) > Wins: Duke 22-10, at Virginia Tech 30-6 > Losses: at Georgia Tech 28-17, at Louisville 31-13 > Remaining games - Nov. 1 vs. North Carolina (3-4), 12:30 p.m. (ESPN3) - Nov. 15 vs. Florida State (7-0) - Nov. 22 at Virginia (4-3) - Nov. 29 vs. Pittsburgh (4-3) > The breakdown: The Hurricanes have dropped four in a row and seven of their last nine to the Seminoles and haven't beaten FSU at home since 2004. Beating the defending national champions and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston at home will be a tall order, which means winning the other three ACC games are musts. The only game UM probably won't be favored in aside from FSU is at Virginia. If the schedule plays out with UM winning three of its final four except FSU the Canes will finish 5-1 in the division and the only team they'll lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with is Georgia Tech.
North Carolina (3-4, 1-2 ACC) > Wins: Georgia Tech 48-43 > Losses: at Clemson 50-35, Virginia Tech 34-17 > Remaining games - Oct. 25 at Virginia (4-3), noon (ESPN3) - Nov. 1 at Miami (5-3), 12:30 p.m. (ESPN3) - Nov. 15 vs. Pittsburgh (4-3) - Nov. 20 at Duke (6-1), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN) - Nov. 29 vs. N.C. State (4-4) > The Breakdown: The Tar Heels haven't been able to stop anybody on defense (rank 127th out of 128 FBS teams in scoring defense with 43.3 ppg). And nobody has really stopped them from scoring either (38.7 ppg, 17th nationally). Quarterback Marquis Williams has been a one-man wrecking crew. He's completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 1,776 yards, 15 touchdowns and six picks and leads the Tar Heels in rushing with 448 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Carolina lost 50-43 at Notre Dame scored plenty on Clemson. It's unlikely the Tar Heels will remain in contention for the division with the schedule they've got left, but you never know.
Virginia Tech (4-4, 1-3 ACC) > Wins: at North Carolina 34-17 > Losses: Georgia Tech 27-24, at Pittsburgh 21-16, Miami 30-6 > Remaining games - Nov. 1 vs. Boston College (4-3), 12:30 p.m. (ESPN3) - Nov. 15 at Duke (6-1) - Nov. 22 at Wake Forest (2-5) - Nov. 28 vs. Virginia (4-3) > The Breakdown: As bad as the Hokies looked Thursday night against the Hurricanes it's not out of the realm of possibility they turn things around and win out -- especially with two weeks to prepare for a trip to Duke. After all, this is still a team that won on the road at Ohio State back on Sept. 6 and has won the Coastal four times. At least the Canes own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Hokies.
WHAT ARE THE ACC'S TIEBREAKERS?
Two-way tie: 1. Head-to-head competition between the two tied teams.
Three-way tie (Note: Once a team is eliminated from the tie, the tie-breaking procedures restart for the remaining teams. If the three or more team tie can only be reduced to two teams, the two-team tiebreaking procedure will then be applied): 1. Combined head-to-head winning percentage among the tied teams. 2. Winning percentage of the tied teams within the division. 3. Head-to-head competition versus the team within the division with the best overall (divisional and non-divisional) Conference winning percentage, and proceeding through the division. Multiple ties within the division will be broken first to last, using the league’s tie-breaking procedures. 4. Combined winning percentage versus all common non-divisional opponents. 5. Combined winning percentage versus all non-divisional opponents. 6. Winning percentage versus common non-divisional opponents based upon their order of finish (overall conference winning percentage) and proceeding through other common non-divisional opponents based upon their divisional order of finish.