‘Canes try to block out criticism, focus on second half of season

Quarterback Brad Kaaya watches the final minutes of the Hurricanes' loss to Georgia Tech.

David Goldman

University of Miami head coach Al Golden continually asks his players to ignore the noise.

Adhering to this message couldn’t be more crucial for the Hurricanes this week coming off a loss at Georgia Tech and with the American Athletic Conference’s Cincinnati visiting on Saturday.

Former players and fans alike have taken to social media and local airwaves expressing their discontent over the 3-3 (1-2 ACC) record, the defensive scheme and lack of progress over the past decade.

While Golden gave his team Monday off to heal both mentally and physically, junior running back Duke Johnson and senior linebacker Denzel Perryman held court via teleconference.

”Stay away from it,” Perryman said. ”I feel like social media — I just don’t feed into it. It can be a big distraction. At one point I could probably say my freshman year, my sophomore year, I used to get caught up in things people say and mess with me mentally. I pretty much got rid of my social media. Coach Golden tells us ignore the noise, and that’s one of the things we do is ignore the social media stuff.”

Added Johnson: ”Me personally, I don’t have a reaction. Guys are going to feel the way they feel for whatever reason. They’re entitled to their own opinion. There’s nothing I can do about that. Nothing no one in this program can do about their opinions. 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.”

Leading up to the matchup in Atlanta, Perryman said if the Yellow Jackets did what Nebraska was able to do against the Hurricanes two weeks earlier — run the ball up and down the field with relative ease — it would be a long game.

Georgia Tech’s option offense rushed for 318 yards, which in turn limited Miami to just 19 minutes and 35 seconds in time of possession. The Hurricanes turned the ball over two times and didn’t force a takeaway in the 28-17 defeat.

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Perryman, an All-ACC member of the defense, is in his fourth year with the program. A local product from Coral Gables High, he has seen how things can quickly turn in the public eye.

”We have to tell them that coming out of high school they probably had a lot of fans talking to them, especially being recruited from here,” Perryman said. ”They get in and that’s the first thing we tell them — all that social media — Twitter, Instagram, all that stuff. Leave that alone and don’t feed into it.”

Johnson, also an All-ACC player, made note that the ”older guys have been through this before, so they know how to handle it.” Even with the ”off day,” Perryman would make sure to reach out to the younger players and keep them positive.

According to Johnson, Golden and his coaching staff don’t need to lead the way or force the issue because this team has strong veteran leadership.

”Just keep playing football,” Johnson said. ”Don’t really worry about what’s going on the outside. Just control what you can control and that’s come in every day working hard and playing football.”

When a reporter mentioned to Johnson how he and others from his recruiting class said they would bring the program back to national prominence, has there since been disappointment? Has there been frustration? Johnson considered his response.

Perhaps it’s the realization with six games remaining in the season that there is still time to regroup? Last season, the Duke Blue Devils began conference play 0-2 before capturing the Coastal Division and earning a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. But Miami wasn’t dealt its first loss in 2013 until its eighth game. The Hurricanes have since gone 5-7.

Perhaps that youthful optimism has given way to the stark reality of how — like many things in life — change rarely happens overnight?

”When you plan on changing a university you don’t do it in one year,” Johnson said. ”This is something that takes time. We’re 3-3 right now, but I still think we have a lot to accomplish and things out there we can reach. Just at least to get us back to our winning ways and get us to the Coastal (Division) championship. I wouldn’t say our season’s over.”

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.