UM FOOTBALL

Miami Hurricanes’ Al Golden deflects Penn State questions, says staff remains intact

 
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UM coach Al Golden addressed several issues during a press conference Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 but dodged questions about whether he was contacted about the coaching vacancy at Penn State, his alma mater.
UM coach Al Golden addressed several issues during a press conference Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 but dodged questions about whether he was contacted about the coaching vacancy at Penn State, his alma mater.
CW Griffin / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

Al Golden had a heck of a day Monday facing the South Florida media and evading the specifics that those who care about Miami Hurricanes football wanted to know — mostly the genesis of the Penn State saga and if he was offered the coaching job.

“I’m here, and I plan to be a coach at the University of Miami,” Golden said. “I never speculate on any other programs, and we’re ready to move forward.”

Also at the forefront of questions about the Hurricanes: Does Golden intend to make any changes in his coaching staff?

“I do not,” he answered. “I evaluated all of that on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and finished my evaluation [Sunday] night. We obviously had three position changes last year on offense, and I’m happy with all those guys. I really am.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in a lot of different areas, but we have a long way to go, and I never fail to recognize that.”

Golden addressed the media after at least four days of speculation that he was being courted by, and eventually interviewed by, his alma mater Penn State when Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien resigned to become coach of the Houston Texans

Golden never mentioned Penn State by name, and opened his session by saying, “It’s humbling and it’s flattering and it’s a testament to our staff and student-athletes that other people expressed interest in us and like I said yesterday, I’m excited about where we’re going here at [UM] and excited about our student-athletes coming back next week.”

He repeated that he won’t “talk about other programs or other universities” but did say that “obviously there are some universities that have expressed interest the last couple of years, and I’ve never addressed them, and I’m not going to start to do that now.

“I’m not a candidate for any other job, and I plan on being at the University of Miami.”

When asked why he waited until 4 p.m. Sunday to release a statement saying he wasn’t going anywhere, Golden said: “The only reason” was because athletic director Blake James and other UM officials told him “just how, I guess, widespread the speculation was.”

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported Sunday that “Golden was never a slam dunk,” and that Penn State needed time to interview Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and just-fired Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, a fellow Penn State grad.

The paper reported, through an unnamed source, that “Golden was never offered the position.”

Golden covered a variety of topics Monday, including much-maligned defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio in a radio interview with WQAM 560 AM at 6:30 a.m.

“The trend right now is positive,” Golden said about D’Onofrio and his defense, as the coach cited numerous statistical trends reflecting an improvement. “First of all, it’s impossible for me to say anything without somebody saying I’m making an excuse. I’m responsible for everything in the building. I always will be.”

He later stressed the importance of maintaining the coaching staff for his players’ “continuity,” and that a lot of playmakers will return, as well as join the team for the first time.

Other subjects Golden addressed Monday afternoon:

• Receiver Rashawn Scott, quarterback Kevin Olsen and defensive back Ray Lewis were suspended for the bowl game for “conduct detrimental” to the team.

Golden said all are still on the team.

• Running back Duke Johnson’s status for the spring is still unknown as he heals from a broken ankle.

• The eight early enrollees who are expected to report Wednesday are Miami Central tailback Joseph Yearby and offensive tackle Trevor Darling; Deerfield Beach tailback Brandon Powell; Palm Beach Central offensive tackle Kc McDermott; Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College defensive tackle Calvin Huertelou; Winter Park defensive end Trent Harris; Albany (Ga.) linebacker Juwon Young; and Raleigh (N.C.) Leesburg Road receiver Braxton Berrios.

• Ryan Williams, although he is highly respected, will have to compete for the starting quarterback job with Olsen and Gray Crow and the newcomers.

• Not everyone who is draft-eligible has told the coach whether they are returning for the 2014 season.

• The Canes were outplayed by Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl because they struggled on third down and didn’t play well offensively — and because quarterback Teddy Bridgewater “was just too good. He had a special night. We didn’t get to him enough.”

Also on Monday, UM announced that kick returner Stacy Coley was named to the 2013 Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America Team.

Miami Herald sportswriter Josh Walfish contributed to this report.

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