UM Football

Bowl game loss shows Al Golden still in early stages reviving University of Miami football

 

A nine-win season in 2013 and a few new moves on the coaching staff, roster and even the 2014 recruiting class could leave Miami in good shape for next year.

 
Miami's Stephen Morris is sacked by Louisville’s Marcus Smith in the third quarter. The Miami Hurricanes vs the Louisville Cardinals during the Russell Athletic Bowl at Orlando's Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013.
Miami's Stephen Morris is sacked by Louisville’s Marcus Smith in the third quarter. The Miami Hurricanes vs the Louisville Cardinals during the Russell Athletic Bowl at Orlando's Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013.
AL DIAZ / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

mnavarro@MiamiHerald.com

Louisville’s 36-9 thumping of the Hurricanes in the Russell Athletic Bowl Saturday night was a sour ending to Al Golden’s third season at the University of Miami.

But it was also a stern reminder that Golden’s rebuilding project, finally clear of the NCAA mess, is still in its early stages. That’s 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 it’s really important that every coach, every unit, every player, everybody is evaluated, and I’ll start that probably [Sunday],” said Golden, who through his first three seasons at UM has gone 22-15 and 3-6 against ranked opponents.

That’s similar to what predecessor Randy Shannon accomplished (21-17, 4-6 against ranked opponents) in his first three years. Shannon didn’t 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 O’Brien is named the NFL’s 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.

Vocal fans

Hurricanes fans, angered and embarrassed by Saturday’s 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 hasn’t 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 Miami’s potential return to the top of the college football world, isn’t 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 we’re busting our tails right now to keep moving forward.

“It’s 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 we’re going to fight our [butts] off until we get it done.”

Three Hurricanes didn’t make the bowl trip with the team: freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen, freshman cornerback Ray Lewis Jr. and junior receiver Rashawn Scott. Miami’s 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.

Early recruits

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 he’s excited to report on Jan. 8. Despite Miami’s 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 he’s doing. He’s getting all those kids from South Florida. He’s getting the program back. Coach Golden plays freshmen.”

Second thoughts?

Not every Canes recruit was feeling as good about the state of the program. Miami Booker T. Washington cornerback Nigel Bethel said he wasn’t considering taking any other recruiting visits until seeing Miami struggle badly against Louisville.

“I’m committed to Miami, but I’m opening things back up,” said Bethel, who is hoping to schedule a visit to Georgia.

Bethel said he wants to be assured Miami’s 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 isn’t physical enough. [Fellow UM commit] Chad [Thomas] and those guys would change things I think. The [defensive] line we have committed would help.”

Miami Northwestern’s 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 Saturday’s blowout win by the Cardinals didn’t 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.

“I’m going crazy next year taking spots,” he said. “Don’t trip Miami fans; the future is too bright.”

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