Al Golden has delivered his “weeding the garden’’ speeches, given his share of tough love and worried enough to keep him awake for hours.
But that he is still dealing with disciplinary situations this late in the season, admittedly, could try anyone’s nerves — let alone alter game plans.
“Every team battles it,” Golden said Monday. “I just don’t want to be battling it in November. I mean, you’ve either got a headset on or earplugs or you just don’t listen to what anybody else is saying in the building, because for two weeks now that’s all we’ve been talking about.”
Neither suspended linebacker Eddie Johnson, nor disciplined linebacker Gabe Terry had returned to practice as of Monday. And suspended receiver Rashawn Scott is out, at minimum, for the Hurricanes’ home finale Saturday against USF.
“It’s been TMZ since I’ve been here,” Golden said Monday. “Let’s be honest, right? It’s been tough on the coaches. It’s been tough on me.”
Disciplinary frustration has been a theme for the Hurricanes in 2012, even if the players involved are but a small fraction of the roster.
Although details of disciplinary actions are not revealed, it is believed that some of the measures stemmed from behavioral problems, punctuality and not showing up for a game or practice.
Tackle Seantrel Henderson had his share of drama at the start of the season but has since been a valuable contributor. Then there’s defensive tackle Luther Robinson, defensive end Kelvin Cain and Johnson, Terry and Scott.
Robinson is back playing. Cain has yet to dress for a game — though he’s practicing — since he temporarily left the team in frustration before the Oct. 20 FSU game.
And Johnson’s absence from Virginia undoubtedly had an impact in UM’s 41-40 loss Saturday.
“It’s hard,” Golden said. “As I say to the team all the time, you’re sitting in a room with 110 guys and 107 of them are doing everything right and it’s two or three guys that [mess] up. Now you’re in there yelling at the whole team. We have to make sure we don’t drain everybody else’s energy because a couple of guys aren’t doing what they need to do.
“… You have to break the cycle. You can’t hand that down as acceptable to the next generation of Miami Hurricanes.”
Last year, Golden organized a “unity council” that consists of a few players from each class “that we think are leaders and do things the right way. Usually, it’s a monthly deal, but once they’re assigned, there’s a responsibility there. I’ll sit in on it. Sometimes I’ll just tell them to get together on a decision.”
He said the council, at times, has helped decide on suspensions.
“Always, players respond better to their peers,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “Sometimes you hear the same thing over and over again from a coach, but when one of your guys — the guy that you live with, you’re in the dining hall with, you hang out with — tells you the truth and keeps it real, they respond better. Guys have to be proactive in that area, and that’s something we have to improve on.
“Our job here is to develop them as human beings. If we were worried about ourselves, we wouldn’t suspend them. You’re suspending them in hopes that it will help them. You try to save everybody, but eventually they don’t save themselves.
“The last thing is to give up on somebody. We’re not pro football coaches. We’re college coaches.”
Senior running back Mike James is a unity council representative.
“They have growing pains,” James said of the offenders. “For me, it’s ‘What can I teach them?’ Everybody makes mistakes. I wasn’t the greatest kid in the world growing up, but I had to learn. All we can really do is talk to them and try to make them understand.”
After UM’s loss Saturday, senior Brandon McGee was asked how he felt about his suspended teammates.
“I’m disappointed more than anything,” he said. “You’ve got to adjust, but it can be difficult.”
Senior reserve guard Jeremy Lewis said he will keep trying to reach the younger players in the little time he has left.
“We count on these guys because they play a lot of snaps,” Lewis said. “We tell them, ‘Grow up fast. We need you.’ ”