TAMPA — Second-year Miami football coach Al Golden was the latest state coach to make a local stop, talking to Hurricanes fans at Cheval Golf and Country Club on Friday as part of his spring booster tour. Golden also took a few minutes to sit down with Tampa Bay Times writer Greg Auman to talk about his expectations for the fall and Miami's solid group of incoming players from the Tampa area.
You got a big impact last fall from defensive end Anthony Chickillo of Alonso, who finished third in the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year voting and finished with 38 tackles as a true freshman. How much more do you expect of him this fall?
He's already taken it to another level. He's stronger, both in the weight room and the way he plays on the field. He weighs more. He has a great attitude. He's in a good place right now. He's going to continue to work. He has patience, he loves being around the program, he's a gymrat. Hangs around the coaches, studies the game. Guys like that are invaluable to your organization. He comes from a football family and that's evident in the way he approaches the game every day.
You had a strong showing in the Tampa area in recruiting, signing Countryside QB Grey Crow, Admiral Farragut safety Rayshawn Jenkins, Plant defensive back Antonio Crawford, Jefferson end Tyriq McCord and Hillsborough defensive tackle Earl Moore. Could any of them play this fall?
I expect Crawford to come in and help right away. I expect Tyriq McCord to come in and help right away. I think Grey Crow's going to have something to say about it, and to be honest, Earl Moore's going to have a great shot, too. Our defensive tackle depth is not what it needs to be.
How much easier is it this second year in terms of making Miami more your program as a head coach?
It's easier. Clearly, the fact that we have 50 players who are first- and second-year players means the pendulum has swung to guys who don't know anything else. The majority of the team knows nothing else but what we've instilled in them. There's obviously a swing there that's a positive for us. I think the kids understand our expectation, what the standards are and most importantly, what our virtues are. What are our values in our program? So it's easier for them to give that back to us.
Miami didn't have a first-round draft pick, but you did have six players drafted and many more earn spots in NFL camps.
We had six drafted, but the way I look at it, if the juniors didn't come out early, we would have had two drafted. There's two ways to look at that. If not for the juniors that left early, that would be considered a down year for us. We want to have a team that has a lot of free agents make camps. We want to be seen as a team that's industrious, we know we have to work and have football intelligence. Those are the guys teams, as soon as the draft is over, they're highly sought after. We want to have that every year.
Are there positions where you feel like you have the biggest holes to replace this fall?
I don't think there's any question: running back, wide receiver, cornerback and defensive end. Those are the four that jump out. Those young people certainly have to come in and compete for starting jobs right away.
For a while now, you've dealt with the looming sanctions from the NCAA relating to the Nevin Shapiro investigation. How important is it for you to find out the penalties you'll face, sooner rather than later?
The biggest thing is it's going to take the ammo away from our opposition. It's one thing to recruit against the University of Miami. We understand that. Teams have been recruiting against the University of Miami for a long time. To give them ammunition is another story. I think the fact that it's not settled yet is allowing them to play on the fears of young people and their families. We all know, based on what the findings are, we believe because we've done such a great job academically, because we're among the nation's elite in graduating student-athletes, that the threat is far worse than the sanctions will be.
I'm sure you're that much prouder of the recruiting class you were able to bring in back in February, knowing all those kids came on board not knowing how harsh the sanctions will be against the school they were choosing.
I think we picked the right people. We were involved with the right families, people who understand the value of a small, private education and being part of that tradition, that wanted to be Miami Hurricanes and clearly thought they could make a difference in our program. We got the right guys. For all the hysteria and sensationalism and all the drama that surrounded it, those guys didn't waver. The Duke Johnsons, Malcolm Lewises, down the stretch, Tyriq McCord and Tracy Howard and all those guys, we really had a good class. I think it's like truth serum. We learned a lot about who they are. What you say you are is your philosophy, but what you do is who you are.