Four days after the Miami Hurricanes gave one away against Washington State in the Sun Bowl, steps are being taken to ensure that type of incompetence doesn’t happen again—starting with new head coach Mark Richtmaking an official announcement regarding coaching staff upgrades.
Wednesday afternoon saw four new coaches added to the Canes’ roster—co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Thomas Brown, defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, special teams coordinator Todd Hartleyand Jon Richt—Mark’s son—in an offensive assistant role.
These hirings officially put a handful of Miami coaches out of a job; former running backs coach Tim “Ice” Harrisand former defensive line coach Randy Melvin, specifically. Melvin appears headed to Purdue—with former defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio supposedly in the hunt for the same role he held at UM. (There’s a Coach D joke here somewhere but I’m too lazy to put in the work.)
The addition of Brown—coupled with the elder Richt’s admission that he wants to work with quarterbacks and to be more hands-on with the offense—all but seals the fate of James Coley, who ran the offense and coached up quarterbacks the past three seasons in Coral Gables.
Regarding the newest hires, the most attention seems to be going towards Kuligowski—referred to as Coach Kool by his players. Kuligowski comes to Miami from Missouri, where he spent the past 16 seasons.
Unlike the culture of underachieving that has taken place at “The U” in recent years, Kuligowski earned praise for doing more with less—five freshmen and no seniors on his defensive line this past season with the Tigers, yet second-ranked in the nation in tackles for loss. Missouri’s defense also accounted for 44 sacks.
The word “technique” comes up often in articles about Kuligowski—especially in regards to former players who praise his efforts and impact on their game.
Without changing the tone of this piece and railing on the Hurricanes’ defensive line issues this past decade; an acknowledgement that Miami’s tackles and ends have been a huge disappointment—technique-wise, as well as overall development of talent and general aggressiveness.
Former Canes’ end and current Pittsburgh Steelers defender Anthony Chickillo was outspoken about his time at Miami under D’Onofrio and in the 3-4 style preferred by then head coach Al Golden. Chickillo’s rants began at the East-West Shrine game last January and he hasn’t missed an opportunity since to vent about how his skills were misused at UM.
Right up there with the Kuligowski hire, Brown is a solid pick-up for Richt’s staff. Brown spent last season coaching up running back Sony Michel at Georgia. Prior to that, he was at Wisconsin and working with Heisman Trophy runner-up Melvin Gordon. Brown also spent a year at Marshall (2013) and Central Michigan (2012) prior-to.
Hartley also heads south from Athens, where he was the Special Teams Coordinator and the Bulldogs’ Director of Recruiting and Player Personnel. Prior to that, Hartley was an assistant coach at Marshall—working with safeties and then tight ends—and served as the Herd’s recruiting coordinator.
The best thing about the Hartley hire; his special teams-related efforts—an area where Miami once dominated and has since fallen tremendously off. Long gone are the days where Butch Davis put together a beastly unit. Since then, an afterthought and something Golden never cleaned up on his watch, despite being in charge of that unit.
Solid recruiters and technique guys; seems to be Richt’s modus operandi with these recent hires.
The additions also speak volumes regarding the new Canes’ leader’s overall ties in the collegiate coaching world and way he is viewed by his peers. Good, experienced gents are ready to join Miami’s staff under Richt—the Canes a much more desirable program now than it was in year’s passed due to the upgrade in quality leadership.
Regarding what’s next, Canes’ faithful are waiting to see who Richt can reel in as defensive coordinator—as well as which current Miami coaches could be retained. A lot of chatter recently that tight ends coach and interim head coach Larry Scott could remain in the fold.
Outside of that, tons of speculation online—the majority of which has been nothing more than errant reporting by overzealous folks and who take their social media fan page updating a bit too seriously.
As more bowl games are played and seasons wind down, safe to assume there will be a handful more hirings in the coming days for Miami.
IN OTHER NEWS: It was reported days back that junior cornerback Artie Burns will forego his final year of eligibility and will enter the 2016 NFL Draft.
Rumors have swirled regarding some other Hurricanes—wide receiver Stacy Coley and cornerback Corn Elder; both of which should return—but for Burns, a no-brainer due to real life dealing some heavy blows this season.
Burns penned a letter to the media days back, explaining in eloquent fashion why he needs to make the move—most-notably, to play a man-of-the-house role for his siblings in the wake of his mother’s untimely passing in October (as well as mentioning his father’s incarceration.) Burns also has a young son he has to provide for.
The former Canes’ cornerback explained that playing in the NFL has been a life-long dream and he thanked Miami faithful for their support over the years. Burns finished with six interceptions this season; the most since the late, great Sean Taylor hauled-in ten in 2003. Burns also posted 36 tackles and five pass break-ups.
Where cases could easily be made for other Miami on-the-fence kids to return—specially Coley and Elder—Burns’ departure is a no-brainer. Outside of a solid season and the six picks that he arguably wouldn’t improve upon, the responsibility of stepping up as a man and growing up overnight are as real as it gets.
The dream of playing professional football will come with some extra baggage and responsibility for Burns—but knowing his heart is in the right place and that he’s making the leap for all the right reasons, it’s impossible to not root twice as hard for the kid.
Go get it, Artie.