Posted by Chip Patterson
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Miami , who opens spring camp this Saturday, March 5.
How will Miami buy into Al Golden's plan to change the culture around Miami football?
When Miami left the Big East, they were on a four-season streak of winning the conference and making an appearance in a Bowl Championship Series game, including one national championship in 2001 and the infamous double-overtime loss to Ohio State in the title game the next year. But since moving to the ACC Miami has failed to even win their own division, much less the conference. Randy Shannon put together a 28-22 record in his four seasons as head coach, failing to deliver success with a team loaded with highly-touted recruits at one of the most notable programs of the last 30 years.
Whether you think the blame falls on former coach Randy Shannon, the administration, or the players themselves; the Hurricanes are hungry to be back among college football's elite. At the conclusion of a coaching search that tossed around names like "Gruden" and "Leach," Miami settled on Temple's Al Golden as the head coach of the future. On Saturday, Miami kicks off Spring Practice. It will be the first of fifteen opportunities Golden will get to build the foundations for a new era in Miami football.
But Golden does not want to focus on changing the schemes, but instead changing the themes. His first goal is to change the attitudes and culture of the team.
"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," Golden recently told CBSSports.com's Bryan Fischer. "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."
After observing a few practices leading up to Miami's 33-17 Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame, Golden immediately commented that he wanted to change the speed of practice. That mental toughness has been tested in the winter conditioning workouts already. Players are said to have been pushed like never before with the offseason conditioning, with different stories that paint a picture of vomit-inducing physical exertion. Message boards always give birth to hyperbole, but the fact these things are shocking and different support Golden's message of improving physical and mental toughness.
One of the reasons Golden wants to focus on the toughness and culture in Coral Gables is because the talent is already there. Miami's 2008 recruiting class was heralded as one of the best in the ACC. Those players (now mostly juniors and seniors) came to Miami to be champions. Instead, the class has a combined 23-15 record with three straight bowl losses.
One thing that has helped Golden's cause is that this frustrated group of upperclassmen welcomes the change. With their college days numbered, the leaders of the 2011 Miami team know that they must buy in to Golden's culture or everyone will suffer together. In fact, Golden recently said that it is the older players that have "bought in" first. Starting Saturday, he will count on those players to set the example for the rest of the roster as the Hurricanes begin sorting out the details for the 2011 season.
While Golden has mostly focused on the big picture changes/decisions, there will be a lot of attention on the position battles this spring. According to the head coach, every position is "open" at this point. The hope being that the competition for starting jobs will help push player development and lead to a more polished final product. But most of the attention will fall on the quarterback position.
Jacory Harris has had the opportunity to see the field since he arrived with the rest of the 2008 recruiting class. But between injury and inconsistent play, the hometown Miami native has yet to really take ownership of the quarterbacking duties. Harris recognizes the competition ahead, and welcomes the challenge.
“I really feel like I need the push,” Harris said during an interview last week according to the Palm Beach Post. “The past two years it was me being too comfortable. I think that’s how we felt as a team – too comfortable. These new coaches are bringing the dog out in us. Competition is good for you. All that comfortable stuff is out the door.”
But there is also Stephen Morris. The talented quarterback was called to take over after Harris was sidelined with a concussion against Virginia. Morris displayed flashes of potential at times, but the 9 interceptions in less than 6 full games of action do not support his case as the immediate answer for Harris-based frustrations
So the competition will begin this spring, pushing both quarterbacks to prove why they should be the starter next August. Harris appears to have bought in to Golden's philosophy, and the coach thinks that many of the other leaders have as well. But now he has to make an entire roster buy in to "Al Golden's Miami."
It's a little more hard-nosed and gritty than most of the team has become accustomed to, but after watching the last couple seasons of Hurricanes football it might be their only option for success.
Miami kicks off Spring Practice on March 5, they will hold their annual spring game on April 16.
Click here for more Spring Practice Primers
Fischer: Golden brings new plan to return Canes to Miami of old