Al Golden might not have known it at the time, but the USA Today Coaches’ Poll was about to be released, and his Miami Hurricanes missed being voted among the Top 25 by two spots.
Not that Golden, a voter in the poll, would care one way or the other. Outside expectations don’t mean much, he figures, if they don’t translate to on-field production.
Regardless, the man whose team finished 7-5 last season spoke to the South Florida media with confidence Thursday about his newest roster, saying “the pendulum for the first time is really heavy on the competitive side,” and that coaches are doing “everything in our power to bunker, stay focused,” and not let the governing body of college athletics “disrupt our third consecutive training camp.”
Just two days away from the opening of preseason camp, Golden avoided saying “NCAA,” instead calling it “that four-letter word.”
Though he had hoped the NCAA would have delivered its sanctions to the Hurricanes before now, he said he is intent on keeping the team’s vision directed toward bettering itself for the coming season.
“It’s been an anomaly for sure since we’ve been here,” Golden said of the recent calm. “We know at some point there’s an answer coming.
“We have the right guys on the train right now. It’s a mature team. It’s a team that’s focused. I don’t need to remind them of what our goals are or what the mission is and what our standards are. It’s been quiet — knock on wood — because guys are too busy trying to get better and trying to take the next step.
“… I know you guys want all these nice stories with the music in the background and everything, but I’m telling you, I’m here to go to work. … Not a lot of talk right now.
“We’ve been through hell and back the last two years, and now we want to anchor in and close the doors and see how good we can get.”
Golden praised the fitness level of his players, indicating they are in better condition than last season and “markedly better than two years ago.”
“We’ll have another conditioning test [Friday],” he said, “but from all indications, we’re ready to crush it. We’re ready to dismantle it. Our guys are starting to understand the impact that strength and conditioning and nutrition has on their career.’’
Some examples of the “bigger” part: Defensive tackle Curtis Porter is 313 pounds, end Anthony Chickillo is 276 and linebackers Denzel Perryman, Jimmy Gaines and Alex Figueroa are 243, 240 and 238, respectively.
Other highlights from Thursday:
• Running back Eduardo Clements (neck) is expected to be cleared to practice.
• Incoming defensive linemen Julio Derosier and Umfomba Kamalu are expected for Saturday morning’s first practice.
• Duke Johnson will continue to return kicks, despite being given more carries.
• Gaines is ahead of Raphael Kirby in the middle, though there is an “or” between their names on the depth chart.
• One of the new members of Golden’s class is someone he knows quite well. Walk-on Greg Golden, Golden’s nephew, is listed as a 6-3, 192-pound freshman receiver out of Red Bank Catholic in New Jersey.
“I warned him,” Golden said with a smile. “I told him not to do it. But I’m happy for him. It’s a lifelong dream for him.
“He’s mature enough to understand that I’m the coach. From a social standpoint or from a workout standpoint, what happens in the locker room is his business. What comes from the head coach is my business, and I think it’s really important for him to understand that dynamic and that both he and I never cross that line.
“But certainly he has competed all summer and is in good shape, and I’m excited that he’s here.”