University of Miami

Beleaguered UM coaches Al Golden, Mark D’Onofrio get support from team leaders

MIAMI HERALD STAFF

As former University of Miami players hit the airwaves Monday to continue the public assault on Hurricanes football coach Al Golden and defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio after their seventh loss in the past 12 games, team leaders Duke Johnson and Denzel Perryman defended their coaches and said it’s not their fault.

“I don’t really have a reaction,” said running back Duke Johnson of former UM offensive linemen Brett Romberg and Joaquin Gonzalez calling for the immediate firing of D’Onofrio at the very least — and of Golden if that doesn’t happen. “Those guys obviously feel that way for some reason and they’re entitled to their own opinion. There’s nothing I can do about that, there’s nothing no one in this program can do about them and their opinion.

“They can say what they want and they can feel the way they want. That’s out of my control. I’m just here to play football.”

The Hurricanes (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) host non-conference opponent Cincinnati (2-2, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) at noon on Saturday, but the sting from the 28-17 loss at Georgia Tech — the third consecutive road loss of the season — is still too fresh a wound for diehard fans who keep seeing the Canes get trampled by the run.

Though Golden insists UM is adjusting to teams that attack on the ground, his secondary for the most part lines up far from the line of scrimmage and seems to do little to disrupt the offense. Last game, the Yellow Jackets ran 65 times and threw seven passes.

“I think the whole thing needs to be gutted and changed right now,” 2001 national champion center Brett Romberg, joined by ’01 right tackle Joaquin Gonzalez, said on the Zaslow and Joy show on FM 104.3 The Ticket. “As long as Al Golden is going to be at the helm of [UM], I feel that D’Onofrio is going to be at the helm of Miami because Al Golden will not fire his friend, D’Onofrio.

“Therefore, if you want to change the program around, if you want to create sparks, if you want to put people in the seats, you need to spend money on a prime-time head coach.”

Gonzalez, a Miami native, said he was “really upset about the defense because we keep seeing the same stuff and it obviously doesn’t work. …Are you kidding me — Georgia Tech? They had the ball for 40 some-odd minutes compared to our 19 minutes.

“We have a national caliber quarterback and something needs to happen because we can’t let Brad Kaaya go through his next two to three years [at] this university without putting him in a position to give us a shot at the national title.

“If you want to restore any faith whatsoever into your fan base and if Al wants to save his job or his perception, I think Mark D’Onofrio has to go, literally, right now.”

Speaking after Johnson on a teleconference, linebacker Perryman noted that he has said repeatedly that the answer is for the players to execute and has nothing to do with how they are coached.

“Everybody’s not happy with losing,” Perryman said. “We could perform way better than we did. But we didn’t. We left a lot of plays on the field.”

Gonzalez indicated that he has heard from people involved with the football program that some players “are confused’’ with the game plans.

“Everybody knows the playbook,” Perryman said. “Last time when we lost against Nebraska, I just feel like guys wanted to do too much. Like I said, it just comes down to execution, man.”

Johnson, a junior ranked 12th in the nation with 625 rushing yards, was asked if he feels his classmates are making progress in resurrecting the program like they vowed to do.

“When you plan on changing a university, you don’t do it in one year,’’ Johnson responded. “It’s something that takes time. Yeah, we’re 3-3 right now, but I still think we have a lot we can accomplish. There are still things out there that we can reach. Just at least get us back to our winning ways and get us to the Coastal [Division] championship.

“… I wouldn’t say that our season is over.”

Still, he couldn’t put his finger on how to get back to winning regularly.

“I could say it’s at the point it’s upsetting we’re not doing it,” he said. “We have to figure out what’s going on, and start to turn the ship around. … Right now we’re just trying to figure everything out [and] get back to our winning ways.”

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