ORLANDO -- Louisvilles 36-9 thumping of the Hurricanes in the Russell Athletic Bowl Saturday night was a sour ending to Al Goldens third season at the University of Miami.
But it was also a stern reminder that Goldens rebuilding project, finally clear of the NCAA mess, is still in its early stages. Thats something the 44-year old coach emphasized before his staff and players went their separate ways Sunday morning.
When UM reconvenes soon in Coral Gables, changes on the coaching staff, roster and even the 2014 recruiting class could be in play.
I think its really important that every coach, every unit, every player, everybody is evaluated, and Ill start that probably [Sunday], said Golden, who through his first three seasons at UM has gone 22-15 and 3-6 against ranked opponents.
Thats similar to what predecessor Randy Shannon accomplished (21-17, 4-6 against ranked opponents) in his first three years. Shannon didnt survive his fourth season, which ended 7-5 before a bowl loss to Notre Dame.
Golden, signed through Feb. 1, 2020, is secure in his immediate UM future. But his name is a hot commodity in coaching circles and some are already projecting his return to alma mater Penn State if and when Bill OBrien is named the NFLs Houston Texans next coach.
But other reports say Penn State will likely go hard after former Rutgers and current Tampa Bay Bucs coach Greg Schiano first.
Hurricanes fans, angered and embarrassed by Saturdays loss and 2-4 stretch to close a 9-4 season, took to message boards and social media to question whether Golden is the right man for the job.
UM hasnt been to a BCS bowl game or won at least 10 games since 2003, its last season in the Big East. How much longer the wait lasts remains to be seen. Golden, questioned after the game about Miamis potential return to the top of the college football world, isnt putting a timetable on it.
We just won nine games for the third time in a decade, he said I wish we had won 10, all right, but were busting our tails right now to keep moving forward.
Its hard for me to give you a timetable, said Golden, who cited the NCAA saga as an obstacle. I made a commitment to get it done, and were going to fight our [butts] off until we get it done.
Three Hurricanes didnt make the bowl trip with the team: freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen, freshman cornerback Ray Lewis Jr. and junior receiver Rashawn Scott. Miamis sports information staff said as of late Sunday morning no players including those three had been dismissed from the team or taken off the roster.
However, every year players transfer in and out at the end of the season.
Golden said after the game UM expects to add 25 to 26 new players. UM currently has 30 commitments for its 2014 signing class, and Golden said safely eight were expected to arrive early in January.
One of them, Deerfield Beach running back Brandon Powell, said hes excited to report on Jan. 8. Despite Miamis ugly loss Saturday, Powell believes the future is bright and said he looks forward to learning from injured star Duke Johnson and backup Dallas Crawford this spring.
I committed to Miami because I feel like I can get on the field and play, Powell said. After watching the bowl game and knowing that Duke is out, I feel like even more I can go out and help.
Al Golden knows what hes doing. Hes getting all those kids from South Florida. Hes getting the program back. Coach Golden plays freshmen.
Not every Canes recruit was feeling as good about the state of the program. Miami Booker T. Washington cornerback Nigel Bethel said he wasnt considering taking any other recruiting visits until seeing Miami struggle badly against Louisville.
Im committed to Miami, but Im opening things back up, said Bethel, who is hoping to schedule a visit to Georgia.
Bethel said he wants to be assured Miamis defensive schemes will be different from what he saw Saturday to remain committed.
I want to see man coverage, more blitzes, he said. I think the [defensive] line isnt physical enough. [Fellow UM commit] Chad [Thomas] and those guys would change things I think. The [defensive] line we have committed would help.
Miami Northwesterns Michael Smith, part of the strong defensive line haul Miami hopes to bring in, still has trips planned to UM (Jan. 17) and Louisville (Jan. 31). But he said Saturdays blowout win by the Cardinals didnt shake his confidence in the Hurricanes.
Everything is going to change once I get there, Smith said. It might be a totally different team next year.
UM safety recruit Kiy Hester of Wayne, N.J., tweeted his thoughts after the game.
Im going crazy next year taking spots, he said. Dont trip Miami fans; the future is too bright.