Reporting Tim Kephart
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – After more than two years of a dark cloud hanging over his program, University of Miami head coach Al Golden has his team poised to make a run at the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
Golden has navigated the Hurricanes through an NCAA investigation started when disgraced former booster Nevin Shapiro alleged wrongdoing throughout the Canes program. Golden has dealt with recruiting losses, on the field losses, and postseason bans since the allegations were first made.
“We’ve been through hell and back the last two years and now we want to anchor in and close the doors,” Golden said, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I had 15 different jobs the last two years. I’m a football coach right now.”
UM and Golden are still awaiting word from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions about the exact penalties the school will receive. The COI could issue its ruling as early as next week, according to published reports. No matter what, the Canes hope the sanctions come before the season.
But for Golden, he has a team that went through plenty of ups-and-downs last season due to the necessity of having to play a lot of young players. While it was tough last year, it should pay off in a big way this season.
The Canes are set at quarterback and running back with Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson respectively. Both should continue to fuel an explosive offense that can put up points against any team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the bigger problem is Golden’s defense.
Last season, Miami’s defense was about as bad as it possibly could be. The Canes ranked 120th out of 124 teams in total defense, allowing nearly 500 yards of offense per game, or more than a first down on every other play a team ran against the Canes.
The Canes struggled mightily during the middle of last season during a three-game losing streak to Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Florida State. The Canes gave up 587 yards, 486 yards, and 447 yards to each team respectively.
The Canes managed to hold only two teams to under 400 yards of offense last season, Bethune-Cookman, a Football Championship Subdivision school, and the University of South Florida. In four games last year, the Canes gave up at least 500 yards of offense, including a horrid 664 yards of offense to North Carolina State.
For UM to move past the defensive struggles, they will have to get more pressure on the quarterback. A full offseason in the weight room should benefit a Canes team that managed just 13 total sacks last season, next to last in the ACC.
“I think we have the right guys on the train now,” Golden said Thursday, according to the Associated Press. “We’re ready to crush it. We’re ready to dismantle it.”
Golden will still have to translate the potential of all of his players into victories and a bowl win, which has been off UM’s radar for a long time. Since UM last won a bowl game, 95 schools have won at least one bowl game.
It’s a streak Golden and UM hope to snap this season as the Hurricanes try to return to prominence in the ACC and the nation.
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