Al Golden spoke to the media for the first time Monday since rumors swirled over the weekend that his name was linked to the Penn State head-coaching vacancy. While he didn’t comment on whether he was interested or pursued for the opening, he repeatedly preach one word: continuity.
Golden said he won’t make any changes to his coaching staff after evaluating his assistant coaches following Miami’s loss to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl. He instead wants continuity for his players to allow them to develop further next season.
“Although we're not where we want to be there are so many little things I look at as the head coach that say the answer right now is not change,” Golden said. “The answer is continuity. The answer is continued progress with our young people, continued development. I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't excited about the talent we have coming back on defense. I am. I'm excited. We have a lot of play makers coming back. No. 2, we're adding 14 to 16 more recruits to that. I'm excited about that.”
That means defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s job is safe for next season despite Miami’s defensive struggles. Golden must now find a way to improve a unit that finished the season ranked 89th in the country in total defense.
“The reality of it is, we weren’t good enough,” Golden said. “We didn’t get it done. It’s my responsibility for us to be better at that time of year. Again, we just have to continue to build our depth and that’s going to be critical. Everybody goes through a lot of injuries and injuries are part of the fact when you look at that time of year and the guys that we lost, it was difficult, but again, there’s no excuse. I’m making sure you understand that all that goes into play, including us coaching better, playing better.”
Even though Miami’s defense performed poorly in multiple areas this season, Golden said the defense showed improvement from a season ago and believes staying the course is the right move for the program’s future. He made that clear in his press conference and during an interview on the Joe Rose Show this morning on WQAM.
“We scored five touchdowns on defense. We blocked four kicks for the first time. Those to me are all positive trends. The other thing was we went from 31 penalties a year ago on defense to I think 10 playing all those young guys a year ago,” Golden said. “Again, it's my decision, and my decision was that starting over for these young people is not the answer. Continuity, continued progress, continue with the same position coaches and techniques and scheme was the better answer for me. I made that decision after careful evaluation.”
Miami’s most glaring weakness this season was its lack of a pass rush. The Hurricanes only recorded 12 sacks in their eight conference games and finished second to last in total defense in the ACC. The Hurricanes do have a lot of players returning next season but they also did in 2013 and the defense didn’t show much of an improvement. Golden is going to have to find a way to improve his defensive line if his unit has any hope of taking the next step next season.
One feather Golden has in his cap is that he and D’Onofrio improved Temple’s defense immensely during their tenure with the Owls. The duo took Temple’s defense from 112th in the country in total defense in 2005 to 16th by the time they left in 2010. Golden is hoping continuity in Coral Gables can produce that same type of improvement for the Hurricanes.
“A team is reborn every year,” Golden said. “What was good for this past team may not be what's best for this team coming back. Whether it’s a different quarterback, a different running game. On defense we may have more -- especially with the kids coming in -- we may have more defensive backs than we've had in awhile. We can play more nickel for instance. Those are all things that go into consideration when you're making that decision.”
Golden seems to believe that another year with his current group of players in addition to his top ten recruiting class will help take Miami’s defense to an elite level in 2014. He’s now put all his chips into the center of the table with D’Onofrio.
We’ll have to wait and see if his call pays off.