For Miami coach Al Golden, nothing captures the collective makeup of his Hurricanes better than how players have responded to the yet-to-be-resolved NCAA investigation.
“During this whole ordeal that we’ve been going through, we haven’t had one kid come in with his family and say, ‘You know what coach, this is just too tenuous. I have no idea what’s going on with the NCAA. I want to get out of Dodge,’ ” Golden said Monday at the ACC Kickoff media event in Greensboro, N.C.
“That really speaks to our coaches and to the commitment those young people have made to each other. And it speaks to the brotherhood that is the University of Miami football program.”
Miami heads into the 2013 season as the media’s pick to win the Coastal Division, it was announced Monday. The ‘Canes tied North Carolina and Georgia Tech for the honor last year, but did not play in the league’s championship game due to a self-imposed postseason ban for a second straight season.
The NCAA has been investigating Miami’s involvement with booster Nevin Shapiro for nearly two years. The university expects to hear about any penalties soon.
Golden said his Hurricanes are focused on making it to Charlotte this year.
“They believe, as we all believe … we’re going to have that opportunity if we do the things that we need to do, and take care of the things we need to take care of, that opportunity won’t be taken away from us this year,” Golden said.
“We’re just moving the team forward. These guys understand what the expectations are, and more importantly, what the standards are in our locker room and our facility. We’re just going about out business every day and the rest will take of itself.”
Miami returns 19 of 22 starters overall, but will have a new offensive coordinator in James Coley, who spent the past three years at Florida State, where head coach Jimbo Fisher handles the play-calling duties. Coley replaced Jedd Fisch, who left UM to become the Jacksonville Jaguars’ coordinator.
“James knows how to make things very simple without making them simplistic,” Golden said. “I think he’s done that. He’s simplified us, he’s scaled us down a lot.
“When he made the transition to the University of Miami, he adopted a lot of our language so it was an easier transition on the kids. He didn’t (quarterback) want Stephen (Morris), who was coming off a really hot end of the year, to have to go and start all over again.”
Morris did not throw an interception in his final 139 throws as a junior last season, when he threw for 3,345 yards and 21 touchdowns with 7 interceptions.
“Although his body of work doesn’t span three years because he’s only been the starter one year, I think his body of work was excellent last year,” Golden said. “This year we like to improve on (the touchdown/interception ratio) and get his completion percentage up a little bit higher, and there are a number of ways we can do that. And become more efficient in the red zone and see if we can improve on third down. I think Stephen himself knows there’s room for growth there.”
Running back Duke Johnson finished second to Clemson QB Tajh Boyd in the preseason vote for ACC Player of the Year. Golden said “Randy” should be more at ease as a sophomore after compiling 2,060 all-purpose yards as a freshman.
“His reps should go up,” Golden said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to wear him out, because we don’t want to wear him out. But he’s an explosive player who deserves touches.”
The combination of Miami’s explosive offense and very young defense contributed to opponents running 137 more offensive plays last year.
The ‘Canes scored 31.4 points in 2012, but allowed 30.5 while going 7-5 (5-3).
“People that have followed me as a head coach would say, ‘Was that your team or did you go in a completely different direction?’ ” Golden said. “It warranted to go in a completely different direction, but when you have to play 21 freshman and 14 or 15 of them are on defense, you have to do something.
“We made some changes. Obviously, that impacted the defense negatively, but I think impacted our team positively.”
Miami’s two-deep defensive depth chart gained experience in 2012 and enters the new season having lost only one player (cornerback Brandon McGee).
“We’re stronger, we’re more mature, we’re more experienced now,” Golden said of the defense. “There’s little bit better poise and calmness factor right now on defense than there was at anytime last year.”