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Golden still battling storms with Hurricanes

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 01:46 AM
CORAL GABLES -

Al Golden reworked Miami's practice schedule a bit over the last few days, minor adjustments that were needed because a tropical storm was bearing down on South Florida.

By now, that doesn't even seem like an inconvenience.

"It's been storming for 19 months now," Golden said. "And that's the truth."

He isn't talking about the weather.

Since Golden got hired as Miami's coach in December 2010, the Hurricanes have dealt with one issue after another, like underclassmen leaving, player suspensions and the still-unresolved NCAA inquiry into compliance practices. Sanctions are certain to come, probably early next year. And the university has been dealing with other problems, such as the medical school laying off hundreds of people earlier this year because of financial woes.

In short, it doesn't look like the best of times at Miami — and football, its showcase athletic program, has been seeking a turnaround for years.

That quest continues Saturday, when Golden's second season at Miami starts with a trip to Boston College to open the season and Atlantic Coast Conference play.

"I just want to play," Golden said. "Just want to go out and play. You know, 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. Look, if we're worried about the external, we're in for a long year.

"So that's where we're at. We've just got to stop talking and start playing."

Stephen Morris will start at quarterback on Saturday; he threw nine passes over the final 11 games of last season's 6-6 campaign, one that ended with a loss to Boston College and without a bowl trip because of university-imposed sanctions. The starting offensive line for Week 1 may include one junior, three sophomores and a freshman. It's possible Miami could have just one senior starting on offense, maybe just three on defense. And it's conceivable more true freshmen play on Saturday — Golden thinks that number will be around 15 — than seniors.

"We're not using excuses," said sophomore defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo, who starred at Tampa's Alonso High. "We have a lot of young guys and a lot of talent. Guys won their jobs in camp, guys are hungry, guys are talented. So no excuses."

That's exactly what Golden wants his players to say. Asked this week about the notion that Miami is in a position to silence doubters, Golden bristled, saying he wants no part of that sort of thinking.

As he's said from the day he arrived in Coral Gables, what people think about the program from the outside, to him, is irrelevant.

"We're just trying to get these guys through game week now," Golden said. "School's starting. So just keep them on task, stay with the process, just trust it, that that process is going to deliver them. Don't look ahead. Just take care of business today. Just win today. That's all we really focus on."

Allegations made by a former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect were made public a couple weeks before Golden's first season at Miami began, and the stigma is still with the Hurricanes. Still, the school was able to sign a deep recruiting class last winter, with Golden standing by his expectation that the worst days are already behind Miami.

Few in the ACC would be surprised if Golden and Miami made strides this season, much in the same way Golden did at Temple when he revitalized an abysmal program there.

"Last year obviously was a big transition for them, all the circumstances swirling around everything that was going on down there," said Boston College coach Frank Spaziani, who has known Golden for more than 20 years. "They've had time to settle in a little bit. They understand their roles now, and what they're doing and where they're going. I think they'll be a lot different football team and program."

Golden likely expects the same. And Saturday might show what sort of year 2012 will be for the Hurricanes.

"We're going to learn a lot," Golden said. "I don't think there's any question, we're going to learn a lot. I think you can say that every year, but I think we're going to learn a lot about whether these guys can really hold it together and play with poise and trust."

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