Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden seemed comfortably unencumbered Monday as he sat with reporters at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff — even if he had no idea who his starting quarterback would be at Louisville on Labor Day night.
After nearly three years of the negativity that arose from “always answering questions on the defensive” because of the NCAA case that was resolved in October, Golden said this season the Hurricanes as an organization are “back to attacking.
“I’m looking forward to just coaching the football team,” he said. “I was more involved with everything this spring and I enjoyed it.”
Anything he’d have done differently?
“I don’t think,” he said. “I’m happy where I am. I’m excited about where we are. I mean, the last couple of years were tough. But it’s as equally bright right now. Recruiting is starting to turn. We’re starting to be on the offensive. We’re starting to represent what we want to represent: our brand, our identity, our university, the cultural aspects of the Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, South Miami communities and the diversity of the city.
“I don’t know if I would do anything differently. Is it how I drew it up when I came to Miami? I promise you it wasn’t.”
As for that quarterback quandary
Golden said third-year sophomore Gray Crow has been switched from quarterback to H-back, narrowing the pack to redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen, recently arrived freshmen Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier; and graduate transfer Jake Heaps, who played his first two seasons for BYU and his past two for Kansas.
Heaps was rated the nation’s No. 1 quarterback by Scout.com and No. 1 pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com coming out of Skyline High School in Sammamish, Washington.
“Jake Heaps wouldn’t be with us if they stayed with the same philosophy and continued to have a drop-back system,” Golden said of Kansas. “[That] opened up the door for us.”
Golden said former projected starter Ryan Williams, recuperating from a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained during an April scrimmage, was having an “excellent” rehabilitation, but the coach would not commit to a date of return for the senior.
“I think it’s really important for us to conduct like he’s not going to be with us in the short term, and that as a team we rally around whoever the quarterback is and whoever comes out of this race early on. I’m not the doctor. All I can tell you is he’s having a great recuperation and when the doctors clear him we’ll move forward.”
The coach said the four contenders will be narrowed to two after the first fall scrimmage — likely around mid August. He said he would not make any decisions on redshirting Kaaya or Rosier (who will also play baseball) until he sees them in action. “We’re going to let it play out on the field. I want to see what we have before we decide to redshirt them.”
Other topics discussed Monday during a separate interview with the Miami Herald:
On whether Golden was offered the Penn State job after last season: “I’m just not going to comment,” the coach said. “I just don’t want to get involved in that.’’
On former UM linebackers Alex Figueroa and JaWand Blue and their rape-related case, one which Golden refused to address specifically: “Ultimately I’m responsible for all 114 student-athletes on the team and making sure they’re conducting themselves in a manner consistent with the University and our mission.”
On the new players who still haven’t arrived, freshmen receiver Darrell Langham and athlete Trayone Gray: “We expect them.’’
Golden also said sophomore cornerback Nate Dortch has left the team but didn’t give a reason. He said the offensive line looked strong, but needs help filling the “eighth, ninth and 10th“ spots. And he praised the defense as much improved — it “was better at any day in the spring than it was last year’’ — but deemed it imperative that the defensive line steps up with the addition of talented newcomers such as Michael Wyche, Anthony Moten and Chad Thomas.
“We all say we want to bring it back,” Golden said of UM’s past dominance. “But we want to do it with our own identity.”