Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden was on a radio show a few weeks back where he dropped a comment that shows the no-nonsense approach he and his staff have regarding expectations for 2012.
“This is a no excuse season,” said Golden. “There are no freshmen. There are no seniors. They’re just Miami Hurricanes.”
Bold statement from Al in effort to draw a line in the dirt, but how will that really play out? Also, what’s the difference between an excuse and an explanation?
Truth is Miami lost some upperclassmen to graduation and the NFL Draft. Six Canes were chosen and fourteen were passed on, a handful of which signed free agent contracts.
Due to both, depth takes a serious hit and despite thirty-three new Canes heading to Coral Gables between the end of last season and the beginning of a new one, despite Golden’s attempt to motivate, there are a slew of freshmen – which inevitably equates to some rookie mistakes.
Miami does get a shot in the arm courtesy of early enrollees, which takes away that ‘true freshman’ feel come September.
“To be able to get all our freshmen before July 1st is going to be a great advantage to us. The ones here have not disappointed,” said Golden. “They are football kids. They want to make an impact.”
And an impact they’ll have to make if the Canes want to overcome a tough schedule and brutal out-the-gate start. Miami opens at Boston College and a week later travels to Kansas State.
From there, a light home opener against Bethune-Cookman is followed by another trek, to Georgia Tech, a home game against NC State, a road game at Soldier Field against Notre Dame and then three straight against North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia Tech in Miami.
The final three are at Virginia, South Florida and at Duke. Hardly a cakewalk.
The impact of a second-year coaching staff should make a difference. That wasn’t the case in the Randy Shannon era, though. Besides Shannon’s struggles as a leader, there was also the issue of staff turnover.
After year one, defensive coordinator Tim Walton was let go in favor of Bill Young. A year later Young bolted for Oklahoma State and John Lovett was fired. 2008 also saw the firing of offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, who was later replaced by Mark Whipple. That’s a lot of shake up three straight seasons and while Lovett and Whipple returned for 2010, they were both let go, with Shannon, after their sophomore campaigns.
2012 marks the first time in forever that Miami has staff continuity – with a quality staff, no less.
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch proved capable last season, not only doing as much as was possible with quarterback Jacory Harris, but with a lot of first-year starters, like running back Lamar Miller and wideout Tommy Streeter, who the previous staff had all but given up on.
Defensively, coordinator Mark D’Onofrio didn’t have much to work with and his squad struggled early, but as they began to understand his schemes, things tightened up on that side of the ball.
Reports out of spring ball had many excited about the defensive effort and when looking at the play of last year’s freshmen, most notable defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo and linebacker Denzel Perryman, it gives hope regarding the immediate impact of this year’s freshmen – especially highly-touted cornerback Tracy Howard and safety Deon Bush, who will help a depleted secondary that hasn’t truly shone in years.
This year’s crop of Hurricanes can’t be judged until December, but between the incoming talent, the Golden process and the effort shown by 2011 Miami, there is legit hope regarding this squad’s effort this season.
How that equates to wins and losses, time will tell, but effort-wise, there’s no doubt these kids buy into Golden’s claim that they’re Hurricanes and their age and experience don’t mean a thing depth chart-wise. – C.B.