Golden still dealing with storms at Miami

Al Golden reworked Miami’s practice schedule a bit over the last

few days, minor adjustments that were needed because a tropical

storm was bearing down on South Florida.

By now, that doesn’t even seem like an inconvenience.

”It’s been storming for 19 months now,” Golden said. ”And

that’s the truth.”

He isn’t speaking of the weather.

Since Golden got hired as Miami’s coach in December 2010, the

Hurricanes have dealt with one issue after another, like

underclassmen leaving, player suspensions and the still-unresolved

NCAA inquiry into compliance practices. Sanctions are certain to

come, probably early next year. And the university has been dealing

with other problems, such as the medical school laying off hundreds

earlier this year because of financial woes.

In short, it doesn’t look like the best of times at Miami – and

football, its showcase athletic program, has been seeking a

turnaround for years.

That quest continues Saturday, when Golden’s second season at

Miami starts with a trip to Boston College to open the season and

Atlantic Coast Conference play.

”I just want to play,” Golden said. ”Just want to go out and

play. You know, let’s be accountable to each other. Let’s be

internally driven. Let’s not talk about it. Let’s go be about it.

Let’s go do it. Stop worrying about the external. Look, if we’re

worried about the external, we’re in for a long year.

”So that’s where we’re at. We’ve just got to stop talking and

start playing.”

Stephen Morris will start at quarterback on Saturday; he threw

nine passes over the final 11 games of last season’s 6-6 campaign,

one that ended with a loss to Boston College and without a bowl

trip because of university-imposed sanctions. The starting

offensive line for Week 1 may include one junior, three sophomores

and a freshman. It’s possible Miami could have just one senior

starting on offense, maybe just three on defense. And it’s

conceivable more true freshmen play on Saturday – Golden thinks

that number will be around 15 – than seniors.

”We’re not using excuses,” sophomore defensive lineman Anthony

Chickillo said. ”We have a lot of young guys and a lot of talent.

Guys won their jobs in camp, guys are hungry, guys are talented. So

no excuses.”

That’s exactly what Golden wants his players to say. Asked this

week about the notion that Miami is in a position to silence

doubters, Golden bristled, saying he wants no part of that sort of

thinking.

As he’s said from the day he arrived in Coral Gables, what

people think about the program from the outside, to him, is

irrelevant.

”We’re just trying to get these guys through game week now,”

Golden said. ”School’s starting. So just keep them on task, stay

with the process, just trust it; that that process is going to

deliver them. Don’t look ahead. Just take care of business today.

Just win today. That’s all we really focus on.”

Allegations made by a former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme

architect were made public a couple weeks before Golden’s first

season at Miami began, and the stigma is still with the Hurricanes.

Still, the school was able to sign a deep recruiting class last

winter, with Golden standing by his expectation that the worst days

are already behind Miami.

Not everyone in the ACC would be surprised if Golden and Miami

made strides this season, much in the same way he did at Temple

when he revitalized a program there in ways few could have

imagined.

”Last year obviously was a big transition for them, all the

circumstances swirling around everything that was going on down

there,” said Boston College coach Frank Spaziani, who has known

Golden for more than 20 years. ”They’ve had time to settle in a

little bit. They understand their roles now, and what they’re doing

and where they’re going. I think they’ll be a lot different

football team and program.”

Golden likely expects the same. And Saturday might show what

sort of year 2012 will be for the Hurricanes.

”We’re going to learn a lot,” Golden said. ”I don’t think

there’s any question, we’re going to learn a lot. I think you can

say that every year, but I think we’re going to learn a lot about

whether these guys can really hold it together and play with poise

and trust.”

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