Al Golden won't let NCAA issues serve as distraction

BY foxsports • August 1, 2013

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — A different climate prevails around the University of Miami as head coach Al Golden begins his third season with the Hurricanes.
Everyone still waits to hear from the NCAA about possible penalties resulting from an investigation into the UM program. But unlike in Golden's first two seasons — each including a self-imposed postseason bowl ban — rays of sunshine can be seen slipping through that lingering NCAA cloud.
"It's been an anomaly, for sure, since we've been here," Golden said of the current atmosphere surrounding his 'Canes. "My biggest focus right now is to keep the team focused. We know at some point there's an answer coming, but we're going to do everything we can to bunker down, stay focused and not let this disrupt our third consecutive training camp."
Speaking to the media Thursday morning, Golden said it was nice to be a football coach again after having "15 jobs the last two years" due to the NCAA investigation.
"We've been to hell and back the last two years," he said. "Right now, we just want to anchor in, close the doors and go to work to see how good we can get."
The 2013 Hurricanes, the media's preseason pick to win the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division, will begin camp Saturday morning. Fans and media already are looking toward the Aug. 30 season opener against Florida Atlantic University and the Sept. 7 meeting with Florida at Sun Life Stadium.
"All I know is, a staff meeting tomorrow at 1 o'clock, 3:30 conditioning test, dinner, team meeting at 7 and other meetings at 8:30," Golden said. "That's the schedule for ours guys. The rest will take of itself."
Although the Hurricanes were not among the Top 25 teams in the coaches' preseason poll announced Thursday — UM was 27th — Golden insisted he had "the right guys on the train" and liked the makeup of a team returning 19 of 22 starters.
"I don't need to remind the players of what our goals are, or what our mission is and what our standards are," he said.
Golden touched on various topics during his 30-minute pre-camp press conference. One big topic involved the players' offseason dedication to getting stronger.
"I think our conditioning is better ... this year was better certainly than last year and markedly better than two year ago," Golden said. "All indications from (health and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey) is we're ready to crush it, we're ready to dismantle it."
Without mentioning names, Golden said he expected more players to be added to the roster before the season.
"We're not much different than the Dolphins right now," he said. "We're going to keep the waiver wire open and we'll release names as we go."
If one addition proves to be Devante Bond, that could be a very good thing for the 'Canes. The JUCO edge rusher reportedly has been trying to appease the UM admissions department in terms of his academics.
Golden also said indications were running back Eduardo Clements and receiver Malcolm Lewis, each returning from injury, would be cleared to play.
"I think we're going to have a good rotation at just about every spot," Golden said. "We certainly need some new guys to step up for that to come to fruition. And we need guys who have been around and maybe had a nick here or maybe couldn't get out of their own way (by) making decisions off the field inhibiting their progress on the field."
Miami's roster depth has resulted in a few good problems. Golden said he didn't know who would comprise the starting offensive line — "There are at least six guys going to bed tonight thinking they're the starter," the coach said — or the who would be the starting receivers. Among that group is Golden's freshman nephew, Greg.
"I warned him, I told him not to do it," Golden said with a laugh. "It's a lifelong dream for him, and I think he's mature enough to understand that I'm the coach."
Senior quarterback Stephen Morris and sophomore running back Duke Johnson headline an experienced offense that scored 31.4 points per game last season. Golden expects the unit to be "chasing excellence" in 2013.
The Hurricanes' dedication to conditioning especially should benefit the defense, which played many freshman and sophomores last year.
Golden cited 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior defensive end Anthony Chickillo as an example of a player who'll benefit from getting bigger.
"Chickillo grew up on the field, and his mistakes were evident to everybody," Golden said. "Now, he's hopefully going to harness all that experience and then be where he is physically."
Whether it's the off-field issues of the past two years or the team's accomplishments (e.g. co-Coastal Division champ), Golden is looking ahead.
"A team is reborn every year. I wish we can pick up (offensively) where we left off last year, but that's not the case," Golden said. "This team, this leadership, this chemistry, this dynamic on offense, defense and special teams will be new and it will be formed here in training camp."
Charlie McCarthy can be reached at mac1763@bellsouth.net or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas


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