Golden brings new plan to return 'Canes to Miami of old

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- He says it matter of factly, rolling off the tongue like there's nothing wrong with it.

"4:45."

That's when new Miami head coach Al Golden wakes up every day. Don't worry, he's used to it, even if most people can barely stand the thought of waking up two hours later than that.

New coach Al Golden has been busy from the start trying to put Miami back on the map. (Getty Images)  
New coach Al Golden has been busy from the start trying to put Miami back on the map. (Getty Images)  
The early riser knows there is work to be done at Miami, coming off a 7-6 season when expectations were an ACC title and BCS game. Barely two months on the job, the 41 year-old head coach needs only to walk outside to know how special his new job is.

"We were on a recruiting tour the other day and it was just an unbelievable day," Golden said between bites of an apple (a green one, of course). "It was prior to the basketball game and we were going to have a barbeque on campus with the recruits and it's just an incredible campus. I think every coach that was walking through basically felt the same way. It was one of those moments where you could see it in kids' and parents' eyes that they thought, 'this place is unbelievable.' That's exciting to us."

Looking over the depth chart doesn't tone down his excitement either. The Hurricanes will have two quarterbacks who started more than one game and will return four of the five starters on the offensive line. The secondary will be a concern but there's still plenty of returning talent on defense.

The question isn't about talent in Golden's mind though, it's about harnessing it as he prepares to start spring ball next week.

"Number one we have to become more disciplined. We have to become more physically and mentally tough. We have to become a smarter football team," he said. "Those are things you can work on and, as I say to the players all the time, the culture is really the collective capacity of everybody in this building to create value. How are we going to create more value from our four hours today from the other 14 teams we're going to play? Those are the things we're trying to teach them, something larger than the offense and defense and special teams, the culture is larger than that."

Golden successfully lured former USC recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Brennan Carroll to join his staff after some time off from coaching. Being part of one of the most successful runs in college football history under his father, Pete, the younger Carroll sees some similarities between the two energetic head coaches.

"They both have their own styles. Coach Golden comes from the Joe Paterno family of coaching ball and it's a bit of East Coast vs. West Coast," Carroll said. "Both are very effective in what they do, both are very philosophy driven, they have a goal and purpose and they follow that. They live by it. In that way they're similar but one guy grew up in Jersey and one grew up in Marin County."

Running backs coach Terry Richardson was quick to join Golden at Miami after seeing what he was able to accomplish at Temple. A coach at UConn for 12 years, Richardson's Big East champs were beaten by Temple 30-16 last season and played the Huskies close in two other games. A native of South Florida, working with Golden was just as big a draw as returning home.

"With Coach Golden, I knew him from competing against his program at Temple, we played them quite a few times," Richardson said. "I saw how hard his guys played and how he got that program turned around. I heard from friends that he was a good guy and when I was afforded the opportunity to come here, those are some of the things I kept in mind."

Despite not completing his staff until late January and a limited number of scholarships to hand out, Miami signed a solid class of 2011. Golden kept top recruit Anthony Chickillo in the fold despite several programs pursuing him and managed to lure defensive end Jalen Grimble away from USC. The fast and furious pace of recruiting during the transition period was nothing new for the staff coming over from Temple.

"We've taken a lot of our guerilla warfare recruiting mentality with us," Golden said. "We never want to lose that and we want to couple that energy and that attitude with the tradition and the brand of the school. We want to be formidable in that aspect from a recruiting standpoint. I think we're doing that.

"The key to coaching at Temple was to know more about them than anyone. That's how Howard Schnellenberger built this program, he knew more about the players than anyone else. I think our track record at Temple speaks for itself. We were 0-12 and of the kids we recruited when we got there, five of them made the NFL. The following year's class, seven more are going to make the NFL."

Golden hopes to successfully emulate his summer camp success at Temple by drawing players from all over talent-rich South Florida. Over 1,800 players attended one of the Owls' camps last season, making it one of the top destinations in the country. Successfully connecting with local players and coaches at Miami, something that eroded somewhat under the previous staff, is one of Golden's top priorities.

Florida State signed eight players in the class of 2011 from Miami's backyard of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties while Florida signed four. The Gators also beat out the Hurricanes for badly needed quarterback Jacoby Brissett and Louisville snagged longtime commit Teddy Bridgewater away. Despite the fact that the other in-state programs have made significant inroads in the area, Golden wants to focus more on getting the right players for his program and not worry about building a hypothetical fence around Miami.

"I think the fence thing is kind of a misconception," he said. "It's easy to characterize it as that but I always look at it like this: if there's 119 players that signed from down here, you just need 20 a year. It's really important you get the right 20.

"It's easy to say let's build a fence. They've been saying it forever at every school in America but the reality is, don't worry about the ones that get away, worry about the ones that can play."

Ultimately, it is all about playing between the lines. Despite plenty of NFL-caliber talent over the years, it's been 10 years since Miami last won a national title and seven since it played in a BCS game. "National Championship or bust" isn't on the white board in the coaches' meeting room but that's the direction the program wants to move toward.

"We want to build a program that consistently competes for championships," Golden said. "We don't really talk about goals and those things, we just focus on the process of executing. From [the coaches'] standpoint, we're trying to build a program. That's what's so nice about coming to Miami, this is a destination place and a destination job. You're investing in your future by building this program because everything we build here can be something special at Miami."

After taking Temple to new heights in his first head coaching job, Golden believes his plan for his second, and hopefully last, head coaching stop at "The U" will do the same.

Given the resources and talent at his disposal in Coral Gables, it might not take him all that long to make Miami golden again.

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