Miami Hurricanes: Change In Some Form Is Coming

The Miami Hurricanes dropped their third game of the season this past weekend, falling to undefeated Georgia Tech, in yet another winnable game where the five-time national champions weren’t up to task—despite knowing precisely what was coming.

Yellow Jackets’ head coach Paul Johnson—a triple option wizard—made his intentions rather clear days before the game; “We’re going to run the ball. If they can stop the run, they’re going to win the game.”

The rest–just another sad chapter in Miami’s recent history.

Georgia Tech ran consistently and at will—65 times, to be exact. They amassed 318 yards on the ground, converted nine times on third down, held onto the ball for 40:45, never turned it over and picked up 21 first downs, all while running back Zach Laskey had another one of those career-high nights that always seem to happen against “The U”.

Welcome to today’s Hurricanes—where average opponents are made to look like title contenders and mid-tier players turn into next-level superstars, by way of season-best performances.

Meanwhile a proud legacy is being chipped-away at game-after-game and and a multi-year rebuild has officially stalled, leaving no clear-cut answers in sight.

Miami head coach Al Golden is feeling the heat and even he knows he’s backed into a corner. The product on the field isn’t measuring up, losses are piling up and fans are no longer showing up. Hardly a winning combination.

Golden was granted some early reprieve, guiding Miami through the perils of an NCAA scandal and helping clean up a mess he didn’t make. Fast-forward and year four is half in the bag, the stigma of the investigation gone since last October and with the incentive and talent to get off to a better start in 2014, the Hurricanes sit at .500 with seven to play.

The critics are officially out in full force—talking heads, fans and some fired-up former players—and rightfully so. Things are worse than expected at this point.

Golden doubled-down on himself earlier this year—backing his staff and scheme, going with no coordinator changes. Miami lost four of it’s final six in 2013 and since then, three more, leaving Golden to defend his guys and process on a weekly basis—often saying a lot, while saying nothing.

It’s on me. We have to get this right. Beat in all three phases of the game. Guys are freelancing. Poor tackling. We’re not executing. Too many night games. New team to focus on. Put the loss behind us and move along.

That get-over-it mindset—easier to request than implement. This drought is going on a decade-plus and folks are simply too backed up to process anything but wins and a legitimately renewed program right now.

Miami looked on-track after a '10 win over North Carolina, but quickly fell apart, going 7-6.


Like his predecessor Randy Shannon, Golden also had a 9-4 third season and higher expectations on the horizon year four. A proverbial corner should be turned by most good coaches that point in their tenure, no?

Even with all the personnel losses the Hurricanes have suffered (upwards of 30 players have left the team or been dismissed since Golden’s after the 2010 season), this is officially Golden’s team. There’s been enough time to implement a new culture and while it’s understandable the Hurricanes’ aren’t back-back for a handful of reasons, this team should have a proper identity, while getting better week in and week out.

Miami looked like it grew up in a win against Duke—playing aggressive and clutch, while getting some big stops, laying some lumber and making a statement.

The Hurricanes genuinely looked like they brought some authentic attitude in a big-game environment and were turning a corner and eerily reminiscent to Miami’s 2010 win over North Carolina. Another spirited, nationally-televised night game where even Shannon was letting loose, animated with his players and giving a feeling like “The U’ was almost back.

From there, the familiar late-season skid with losses to Virginia, Virginia Tech and in overtime to South Florida; the final chapter in Shannon’s era with his late November firing.

Whatever Miami channeled against Duke, it reverted back to Nebraska-mode this past weekend in Atlanta. Georgia Tech set the tone, played their game, maintained a pace and steamrolled the Canes to a slow death.

Inconsistency is a sign of immaturity. Making the same mistakes and over at this point of the season—and Golden’s tenure—beyond troubling.

Denzel Perryman still making mistakes year four; scheme or player execution?


Weeks ago senior linebacker Denzel Perryman admitted that even he was freelancing on defense, not playing his gap and not wrapping up his tackles.

Miami’a best defensive player and thisclose to declaring for last April’s NFL Draft and playing Sundays—why is Perryman copping to freshman-like mistakes after a primetime loss, while parroting the litany of excuses that spew from his coaches mouths?

“It’s not coach, man. I ain’t going to lie. I try to ignore the outside noise, but when I hear stuff like that it bothers me a lot,” said Perryman after the Nebraska game. “It’s not coach, you know. Coach D’Onofrio does a great job putting us in the best [positions] and the best situations where we need to be. It’s just up to us to execute. We had a lot of freelancing going on.”

Defensive end Anthony Chickillo—who almost left with Perryman after last season—has also been taking up for defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, echoing his coaches’ mantra—it’s not a scheme-thing; players are in position, but aren’t making plays.

“Coach D is one of the best football minds I’ve been around,” Chickillo told the Herald’s Manny Navarro. “He probably is the best football mind. His football IQ is unbelievable, and he puts us in the right position to make plays. People just have to make them.”

While it’s easy to understand the sentiment, it’s a hollow statement. Chickillo’s degree of experience is high school and a few years under the tutelage of Golden and D’Onofrio.

He’s not an NFL journeyman in the twilight of a lengthy career, studying under the game’s best for years on end. His benchmark on what is or isn’t superior coaching simply can’t be established at his age.

Chickillo and Perryman are simply backing their coaches—like most there-to-learn, impressionable college athletes across the nation. It’s a good trait and far from a knock; it’s just a reminder that loyalty doesn’t mean that one is right.

Both will come to understand that in time.


Miami is now 25-18 under Golden, has lost four consecutive road games and dropped seven of it’s past 12 match-ups—on the heels of a 7-0 start in 2013.

The continuous backsliding is also causing some pipe dream scenarios regarding how this could all shake out; things as outlandish as mid-season firings that will never come, buyout rumors or illogical scenarios where Golden will just walk away—leaving millions on the table—because the job is just too big for him.

Never. Going. To. Happen. Not now and certainly not under those circumstances.

Timing-wise, the University of Miami is in transition-mode and like a divorce-bound couple hanging on an extra few years while the last kid finishes high school—a changing of the guard and new era in Coral Gables needs to take place before any major coaching moves are to be made.

UM president Donna Shalala is stepping down next spring and certainly doesn’t want one of her last tasks in office to be firing a coach currently signed to a long-term deal and eating the balance of his contract.

She also knows that Miami’s next president deserves to have their say in such a monumental decision—picking an athletic director and head coach who fit their core values and vision for how a successful football program should be run.

No one is going to saddle the new leader with that kind of baggage.

Based on that key component, there’s is zero scenario where Miami and Golden part ways until after the 2015, unless the head coach wants out and takes another gig.

Time will tell if that’s a good thing. Right now Golden sits at a crossroads, knowing he has to create his legacy year five, or it’s seemingly over—and that process will include some career-defining decisions.

The Hurricanes have a quality class on deck, a bonafide young star at quarterback and the type of great-running-back-even-better-person that would surprise no one if he returned for a monster senior year, in effort to carry his team and to truly put Miami back on the map.

Not something to bank on, but if anyone did something like that, ia homegrown, Miami-pride kid like Duke Johnson would be the one. If not, the next great running backs are already lining up. On a positive note, the Canes are in finally good hands at the skills position again.

Edge put up 299 yards against No. 2 UCLA, but Miller's D allowed 670 yards, despite upset.


With the offense seemingly in primed to be something special, Golden’s dilemma remains defensive-related—much like Butch Davis after his fourth season in 1998.

A few late backbreaking games did-in defensive coordinator Bill Miller, giving up 66 points in a loss at Syracuse—with a Big East title and Orange Bowl berth on the line—followed a 670-yard, 45-point breakdown in a miracle win over No. 2 UCLA.

Davis dropped the hammer on his long-time coordinator, knowing it was his name was on the line. He quickly hired Greg Schiano, who brought an “attack, attack, attack”-style defense to South Florida—a change from the previous failed scheme.

The Hurricanes had some breakdowns year one, but a season later things fully clicked, and so began what would eventually become a 34-game win-streak, four consecutive BCS berths, two title games and one ring.

Fans soured on Davis early on and right up through a year-six loss at Washington. Weeks later, a win over top-ranked Florida State—breaking a five-year curse—proved the turning point, with fans finally believing in Davis’ process, by way of winning and accepting nothing less.

Where this situation is different for Miami in the Golden era; this is the head coach’s long-supported defense the Hurricanes are running.

D’Onofrio is simply pushing the buttons and pulling the levers. His firing would mean nothing unless Golden were to scrap his current scheme, turning the keys over to a next-level defensive coordinator with a completely different philosophy.

Where does year four wind up and what happens next year? That’s still to be determined. A few marquee games remain—the type that can still save, or at minimum, reshape the season’s narrative.

Can Golden this thing keep from completely unraveling and spiraling down? Are these losses growing experiences that will help the younger kids in years to come—or is this simply the new-new; Miami now a middle-of-the-road ACC football program that wins some and loses some, ho hum?

Lastly, will Golden go down swinging, his way—or does he follow the lead of past greats who learned how to react and adapt, turning things around like Davis did his fifth year?

Time hasn’t run out, but everyone’s officially aware the clock is now tick-tick-ticking.

Even the man in charge, despite any stay-the-course vibe he continues giving off.

Christian Bello have covered Miami Hurricanes football since the mid-nineties, stood with “The U” since the early-eighties and like most, can’t believe how far this proud program has fallen. Bello is currently the loudest voice at, was a featured Miami columnist for BleacherReport last fall and has written for and Yahoo! Sports in the past. Click here to follow him on Twitter.



13 thoughts on “Miami Hurricanes: Change In Some Form Is Coming

  1. Thanks for the very thoughtful commentary. I know we must ride out this season. My disappointment is with the failure to see any defensive ajustments on the field, during the game. It seems to be a ‘cookie cutter’ approach that doesn’t change regardless of our opponent. Defense wins games. The offense puts numbers on the score board, but in the end the defense wins the game! It is time for change, if not in staff, certainly in the scheme.

    1. … thanks, Bob. Yes, there is definitely some blanket-style management, opposed to scheming for opponents—and the defensive halftime adjustments are flat-out non-existent. The offense is doing enough to carry this team right now and while the defensive personnel isn’t where it wants to be … the result should be better than it current is. No way around that.

  2. So, is there any hope Al wakes up one day and realizes he is coaching college kids and his defense is really better suited for the pros where there is unlimited time to teach and study, and you actually pay the guys who run it? Or are we simply stuck in football purgatory for another couple of years. I drove six hours round trip to watch our games, every game, in person, for years. This year we gave up season tckets and planned to make maybe a couple of games. Now, I don’t plan to come to any and may not even continue watching the games on television.

    1. …. Darrell, that has to be the off-season eureka-moment or I believe 2015 will be Al’s last. All great leaders adapt and if he doesn’t make the necessary off-season changes going into 2015, I don’t believe the next president keeps this current regime. The pressure will be full-blown if next year is more of the same.

      I believe the football purgatory ends in 2015, if Al gets his head out of his ass, or 2016 if he doesn’t, as a new coach will be brought in. I don’t believe we’ll see more of the same. It’s just not feasible based on the noise outsiders and insiders are making.

  3. Golden either really believes his defensive scheme will work, or he is extracting a long awaited revenge from back in his college days by sabotaging Miami. In either case, he is not going to fire No’D, and he is not going to change the scheme. He will continue the downward trend with an occasional surprise win against someone noteworthy, extending his graces with the Board of Trustees and Athletic Director. I really liked his attitude about winning championships, but it seems diametrically opposed to the product we see on the field. e talks up “Utough”, but then blames a loss on the team being tires from too many night games. He is a two faced liar at this point, and one that surely suckered us in with a 300 page essay. I would love to read it and compare it to what has transpired.

    1. … he obviously believes in the scheme year four, but where does that go year five as things didn’t go as planned thus far?

      Firing D’Onofrio does zero if Golden doesn’t change his own long-time philosophies about how a defense should be run.

      I don’t believe Golden is a two-faced liar, but thus far he’s certainly proving stubborn. No, he doesn’t have the defensive personnel run to the scheme he wants—but he’s also not going to have it year year or the year after, so what does he choose to do? Definitely facing go-down-with-the-ship repercussions here. How he plays it is up to him.

      Safe to say 2015 is secure with the presidential change, but if next season is a repeat of this one and there’s no personnel changing going into next year, he’s setting himself up for failure and a new president could easily can him. Should he make some huge off-season defensive changes, he’ll absolutely buy himself another year, or two, for those to take hold.

      Time will tell. For now, let’s just get some f’n ACC wins down the stretch and go from there.

  4. Chris:

    One of the best pieces I have read recently and one of the best that you have done in my opinion. You struck the perfect balance between the harsh facts that Golden simply is not getting it done and touched on the reasons we have for hope. I really hope he can figure this out. He’s a great ambassador for the school and can recruit. It’s too early to start the Butch Davis, Chud, etc. talk, and the reality is as you point out no change will be made with the departing Shalala.

    1. … thank you, Scott. As I tell fans all day long; VERY tired of writing these pieces. I long for the days this team is winning again and I can accentuate the positives. Beating down the program and pointing out the flaws … it’s really killed my passion for covering this program. I never aspired to be a sportswriter. I write about The U as a labor of love … and in the words of Led Zeppelin, there hasn’t been a whole lotta love lately.

      As you mentioned, there won’t be a head coaching change this year for various reasons, but it’s time for Golden to look himself in the mirror and contemplate a philosophy change as his coaching career is at a crossroads. He’s no longer the “good guy” who was blindsided and showed integrity sticking around to clean up a mess he didn’t start. He’s a guy who’s been around four years, thought of bailing earlier this year and in his fourth season still has guys making elementary mistakes that plagued the program under him in 2011.

      No, he doesn’t have the defensive personnel to have Miami where it should be … but the Canes have enough on that side of the ball to not let Georgia Tech ram it down their f’n throats for 39 minutes. C’mon now.

      Golden will either change his philosophy defensively this offseason or he’ll have one more do-or-die year as the next president will feel the financial heat to make changes going into 2016. No way Al is here the year after next (with a new pres in the mix) if the defensive scheme is still a shit-show next fall.

  5. At first reading, you sounded really pissed. Almost as if you were ignorning some logic but then as I continued it, your words came to that point where I always seem to agree with you. I’ve been saying it from the beginning of the season. D’Onofrio has this season to prove himself worthy, if not he is gone. I really like Al Golden. I think he really has recruited well. There is talent on the team. He is a good psychological coach. There is chemistry. The boys are always fired up and ready to play. We have offensive firepower, although at times, we hate the calls that Coley makes. Despite those brutal calls, the offense is pretty damn good. So the problem behind all of it is simply the defense. I am no expert in football but at some point, you see what’s going on and you have to admit, something is wrong. I don’t hold it against Golden that he kept D’Onofrio. It made sense, but the underlining should’ve been going into this year is that if he can’t prove himself this year, then he has to go. Sadly, as much as I love Golden and think he is a great coach, he has to go as well this year if D’Onofrio is not gone. He is pulling dead weight with him attached as D Coordinator. If you can’t cut your dead weight, you bury yourself entirely and that’s what will happen to Golden if he can’t cut ties. I don’t wish bad upon anyone but for the sake of Golden’s career and the talent he has now and my sanity as a die hard fan….I hope he does what is necessary.

    1. … appreciate the note, Michael. What I’ll give the offense is that it’s growing up, tweaking things and learning on the fly. With a true freshman quarterback, there will be setbacks. With a junior superstar running back trying to do too much, there will be some mistakes. With an offensive line that’s been banged up and lost some key guys, there will be breakdowns. As for the receivers, there are guys getting hot, while others are cold and remain in slumps. So it goes. Still, there are enough shining moments to give folks reason to pat James Coley on the back.

      The issue is defensively—and that’s not on Mark D’Onofrio as much as it’s on Al Golden for pushing his scheme, not adjusting, pushing statistics in the wake of a loss and throwing around hollow statements how this is all on him to fix, his mistakes, have to get things right, get guys off the field on third down, blah, blah, blah … with zero answer HOW to do so and no noticeable progress.

      Getting rid of D’Onofrio would be half the battle. The other is looking himself in the mirror, realizing his philosophy isn’t working and accepting that is must be changed, or it will cost him his career at Miami and send him back to being a lifer assistant. This is his one shot at glory and the mainstage.

      How does he handle this off-season after another shit defensive showing, a lack of defensive playmakers in the 2015 or 2016 classes (as top kids could realistically be scared off by the scheme) and not having fired anyone in the off-season, staff-wise?

      It’s do-or-die time for Al. A few games to play and some MONSTER decisions to make after bowl season. Let’s see where it goes….

  6. Do you think it would be possible to have a 2015 defensive coaching staff comprised of Hurrlie Brown, Michael Barrow, Greg Mark and Vernon Hargreaves in some way shape of form?

    1. … that list of names, no, but I don’t doubt that defensive changes are coming this off-season. Much like Butch Davis after year four—firing his friend Bill Miller and bringing in Greg Schiano—we’re reaching critical mass, where Golden’s future, stock, reputation and career are all in question.

      Miami will have a new president by spring 2015 and not a shock if this individual wants to create their own legacy, or chooses to bring in someone else. (Especially if UM gets a football-minded president, opposed to one focused more on academics and the medical school—which was Shalala’s legacy and did a ton for the university. Not a knock, just reality.)

      Golden could be on a very short leash next year and after no staff changes this off-season, a 7-5 or even 8-4 run could prompt some change moving forward.

      Fact is, the NCAA cloud dissipated a year ago and the Canes are 6-7 since. There was also the Penn State flirtation and bailing-like-a-theif-in-the-night thing that almost happened in January. All of which really killed Golden Al in the court of public opinion.

      Results are all that matter from this point forward. There’s little wiggle room.

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