Entering his third season as the University of Miami football coach, Al Golden was considerably less tense and more laid-back Monday during the final day of the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff.
Last year he sat at the same Grandover Resort, staunchly defending his character after being bombarded with then-new NCAA-related reports about his staff in the Nevin Shapiro/UM case. On the same day, he learned of the blockbuster NCAA sanctions against his alma mater, Penn State.
On Monday, acknowledging that NCAA closure is at hand, Golden spoke for more than an hour on a variety of subjects. But most reporters — and there were plenty of them — wanted to know about the case and, as Golden described it, the “turbulent time.”
“I’m proud of our coaches, and I’m proud of our kids that have basically looked that in the eye and didn’t flinch,” Golden said. “We’ve had kids come and go, but we have not had one kid walk into my office with his family and say, ‘I’m leaving because I don’t know what the future is with the NCAA. It’s too tenuous. I want out.’
“And that’s a testament to those young kids and the commitment they’ve made to each other, and how special it is to be a Miami Hurricane.”
Golden said he hopes Miami will learn of its sanctions in the next couple of weeks, though he said he really has no idea.
“I don’t know what the process is and what the procedures will be. I don’t know if what we’re getting is a final ruling. I’m just hopeful that there will be closure here shortly.
“This is the most normal six weeks, seven weeks, eight weeks that we’ve had at the University of Miami since I’ve been here — period.”
Golden discussed several players, praising the obvious stars such as running back Duke Johnson (he’s up to about 193 pounds and in great shape, Golden said), quarterback Stephen Morris and the entire veteran offensive line.
He also revealed that two-sport prep star Corn Elder, Mr. Tennessee Football as a running back, will play cornerback, kick returner and punt returner with the Canes. A two-time basketball state champion for Ensworth High in Nashville, there’s a good chance he could bounce over to Jim Larrañaga’s basketball team for practice before this football season ends — especially if he redshirts.
“Absolutely,” Golden said. “Jim and I have a good relationship on that. So, certainly if [he redshirts], we’ll be able to expose him to basketball a lot sooner.”
Golden said Larrañaga “did not” ask him to redshirt Elder.”
“[Jim] watched him practice this summer, and he’s excited about him as a basketball player, which is great to hear,” Golden said.
Earlier Monday, during individual interviews, Golden addressed several other topics.
He said he expects incoming freshmen defensive linemen Ufomba Kamalu and Al-Quadin Muhammad — “we call him Quan,” Golden said — to qualify and arrive in time for the first day of fall camp Aug. 3. He also expects defensive lineman Julio Derosier, a junior college transfer — to arrive for the start of camp.
Some injury-related matters include the yet-to-be-determined status of running back Eduardo Clements, who had neck surgery and missed the spring but has been working out with the team.
Defensive lineman Dyron Dye (Achilles tendon surgery) is not ready to practice. Tight end Clive Walford is still recuperating from an injury, as is safety Deon Bush. Sunny Odogwu, a 6-8, 318-pound offensive tackle, had minor surgery and will be OK, Golden said.
It is still unknown if the quarterback Odogwu might one day protect — incoming freshman Kevin Olsen of Wayne, N.J. — will be redshirted.
“They all deserve an opportunity to prove themselves,” Golden said. “I’m not into predicting someone’s status in the future. It sets a bad precedent. We’re then telling someone not to compete, which is contradictory to what we’re trying to do in our culture.”
Regarding the other quarterbacks, many believed redshirt freshman Preston Dewey would transfer before the season, but Dewey — behind Morris, Ryan Williams and Gray Crow — is still a Cane.
When asked his thoughts on Dewey’s progress, Golden said, “Anybody can make progress. The biggest thing is making a complete commitment to it on and off the field. That’s the case with anybody, not just one student-athlete.
“Obviously, Gray beat out Preston in the spring, so by virtue of that he’ll see the majority of reps in the third slot.”