Young Hurricanes ready to prove themselves
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Al Golden can’t take away his players’ iPhones and iPads. He can’t get them to cover their ears each time they hear a disparaging word about the Hurricanes.
But the University of Miami coach doesn't want his players to respond to all the talk about how the team should occupy the bottom of the ACC standings.
“I would like to put them in the chair that you’re in and shock them,’’ Golden said to a reporter who asked about players vowing to defy the skeptics. “That’s what I would like to do. I would like to give them a lot of volts. I just want to play. 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. If we’re worried about the external, we’re in for a long year.’’
Good luck. It’s human nature for the players to respond to how prognosticators are dismissing the young Hurricanes, who open the season Saturday at Boston College.
“When I hear stuff like that, that’s just motivation for our team,’’ said sophomore linebacker Thurston Armbrister. “That’s just a chance to prove everybody wrong.’’
What’s wrong with using it for motivation? After all, this is a proud program that has won five national titles in the past 30 seasons and has been a fixture in bowl games.
The Hurricanes, who went 6-6, didn’t go to a bowl last season due to self-imposed sanctions. The NCAA is investigated allegations that rogue booster Nevin Shapiro provided players with illegal benefits, and it’s possible the program might be barred from a bowl this season.
Then again, the Hurricanes might not even win enough games to quality for one. At least so say the soothsayers.
“There’s always talk outside this program,’’ said Miami starting quarterback Stephen Morris, a junior. “But our biggest thing right now is just continue to focus. We have a great bunch of guys in the locker room that are all focused on one common goal and that is to go into Boston College and play Miami Hurricanes football . . .. The doubters will soon see what we’re building inside here, and it will definitely be a change of heart.’’
For that to happen, Miami’s many young players have to show maturity beyond their years. Of the 61 players listed on the offensive and defensive depth charts, 34 are freshmen or sophomores, including 19 of 30 on defense.
The Hurricanes have 42 freshmen, eight of the redshirt variety. Of the 34 true freshman, Golden predicts 15 will play Saturday.
“That is what it is,’’ Golden said of Miami's youth. “We haven’t been a team that is making excuses and worrying about that. They just got to go out and perform and play and have fun, just enjoy it . . .. I don’t think there’s any question we’re going to learn a lot (Saturday) about whether these guys can hold it together and play with poise.’’
Miami players might be talking about silencing the doubters more than Golden would like. But they’re certainly on the same page when it comes to not using youth as an excuse.
“Of course, everybody wants to prove everybody wrong,’’ sophomore wide receiver Phillip Dorsett said of preseason predictions. “I’ve seen a lot of things where we’re really young, and we know that we’re young. But we’re going to have everybody play as if they’re a senior.’’
That’s obviously much easier said than done. The Hurricanes placed only one player on the Preseason All-ACC team, and that was punter Dalton Bolts, who could be getting plenty of work this season.
Miami returns just three regular starters on offense, although six are back on defense. Among those gone are starting quarterback (Jacoby Harris), star running back (Lamar Miller), the top two receivers (Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin), No. 1 tackler (Sean Spence) and a top defensive back (Ray-Ray Armstrong).
“We have a lot of young guys, but there’s no excuse why we can’t be good,’’ said sophomore defense end Anthony Chickillo. “We’re a talented football team.’’
Well, there is the matter of the schedule. The Hurricanes face four teams in the Top 25 in Kansas State, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. And Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Virginia and South Florida all got Top 25 preseason votes.
No, the Hurricanes didn’t get a single vote. And, whether Golden likes the talk or not, players vow to prove the doubters wrong.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson