As if University of Miami football coach Al Golden didn’t have enough worries to keep him awake at night, now he has another major issue to tackle.
Hurricanes offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch, hugely popular with players and coaches, has left the Hurricanes to take a job as the offensive coordinator with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
The timing isn’t great, and not just because the ongoing UM-related NCAA case has the Hurricanes’ community skittish about what lies ahead for Miami.
UM’s quarterback of the future, nationally regarded four-star recruit Kevin Olsen, is visiting the Coral Gables campus with his parents this weekend. Olsen’s father, Chris, told The Miami Herald on Saturday evening that his son “absolutely’’ will still attend Miami, despite the news of Fisch’s departure.
Olsen’s older brother Greg was a former Canes tight end and current star with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
One of the big reasons Olsen had committed to the Hurricanes was that Fisch, known for his intelligence and as a great teacher, communicator and overall nice guy, was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. But Chris Olsen, who just retired as the Wayne Hills (N.J.) High coach after a storied 26-year career, said he had faith that Golden “has a plan’’ and will find a good replacement who is “very similar’’ to Fisch.
“Al Golden is the main guy,” Chris Olsen said. “We weren’t expecting this, but it’s a great opportunity for Jedd and everybody has to do what’s best for them.”
Fisch was the only UM coach who didn’t show up for a dinner with the recruits’ families Friday night, though nothing had been announced publicly at that time.
Golden will have to scramble to find a new offensive coordinator, as National Letter of Intent Day, when high school recruits sign their scholarships to play in college, is Feb. 6.
“There are 32 NFL offensive coordinator jobs and the opportunity to become the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator this year was based on all of the successes our program has had in the past two years,” Jedd Fisch said in a statement released by UM. “I am so excited to watch the Miami Hurricanes and Jacksonville Jaguar football teams compete for and win championships this year and the years to come.”
Said Golden in his statement: “It’s been a great week for the [UM] and the NFL as evidenced by the hires of Marc Trestman (Chicago Bears) and Rob Chudzinski (Cleveland Browns) as head coaches, having the most former players participating in the conference championship games Sunday and now the hiring of Jedd Fisch… We are happy for Jedd and his family. Jedd has done a great job for us here…’’
It has not been revealed who Golden is targeting as a replacement for Fisch. Former FIU coach Mario Cristobal, recently hired by UM as the tight ends coach and associate head coach, is not likely to make the jump to offensive coordinator.
One name that Golden is believed to be impressed with, though it is not known whether that would include as offensive coordinator, is Duke passing game coordinator/recruiting coordinator Matt Lubick – the son of former Colorado State coach and former UM assistant Sonny Lubick. Matt was one of 29 candidates this season for the Broyles Award that goes to the top assistant in college football.
The Miami offense made significant leaps this past season, Fisch’s second as offensive coordinator. Under Fisch, UM quarterback Stephen Morris, now going into his senior season, improved greatly. He threw for a career-high 3,345 yards and set a single-season total offense record with 3,415 yards.
The Hurricanes finished the 2012 season 37th nationally in total offense (440.1 yards per game), compared with 70th (377.7) in 2011.
They were 49th in scoring (31.4-point average) this past season compared to 63rd in 2011 (26.5).
“I’m sad about the news,’’ said Ed Thompson, whose son, David, will be a redshirt freshman quarterback this season. “We just really enjoyed him as a person. He was very kind not only to David but our entire family.
“Secondly, he’s just such a darned good coach. I think the results speak for themselves what he’s meant to the program. His pro-style offense has been spectacular.’’
Added Cassandra Mitchell, the mother of freshman All-American running back Duke Johnson: “Jedd Fisch is the one who sealed it for me as a mother. He could have lied to me and said, ‘We’re going to run the ball down their throats,’ when I first met him and asked him what type of offense he planned to run. He could have said, ‘Duke is going to run till his tongue falls out.’ But he was straight up from Day One.
“As a mother, honesty is all we can ask from anybody. I can’t do anything but respect him.”
Fisch, who came to UM from the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, spent nine years in the NFL as an assistant and has coached prominent NFL players such as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and receiver Brandon Marshall.