Storm passes, but Golden still reigns

The story isn’t about another kid transferring; it’s about a head coach who will continue pushing his core values until every member of this squad is finally on board. In the end, the process will weed out the weak, while forming an unbreakable bond regarding those who manned up, stuck around and bought into the system. It’ll result in more wins and it’ll put ‘The U’ back on the map.

This isn’t the first time the University of Miami has seen a new, hard-nosed coach getting on board, squashing out lethargy and righting the ship in the process. Butch Davis ran some guys off as he had to break some old habits in the mid 90s and after a mediocre five-year run by ‘The U’, Al Golden is flushing out the type of players who led to an uninspired 35-29 record since 2006. The latest casualty, running back Storm Johnson.

Johnson ended spring football third on the depth chart, behind Lamar Miller and Mike James. Rumors also swirled regarding off the field issues and an early season suspension looming, which build a case for Storm choosing to push the ‘reset’ button instead of paying his dues and earning his way back into the fold.

Johnson’s father, Wesley, said Storm was leaving due to an overcrowded backfield and homesickness. Coach Golden tells a different tale.

“He wasn’t doing the things he needed to do. He can spin it or portray it any way he wants, but he wasn’t doing the things we need Miami Hurricanes to do,” said Golden. “It was best for him to move on.”

Golden’s response elicits three reactions. First, kudos to the first-year Miami coach for having the stones to call it as it went down, instead of letting the culture of entitled teenage athletes prevail. Second, why wasn’t Johnson – or any other recent transfer – doing what was asked by coaches and third, when did parents start letting their college sophomores have such a say regarding these big life-altering decisions?

The Golden Era will be one of accountability, competition, hard work and earning everything that comes your way. Players will get it done in the weight room, on the practice field, in their down time and on game day. Former coach Randy Shannon worked to make his kids model citizens and scholars, which is equally as important – but at the end of the day, the job must get done on the field, as well.

For years there’s been talk about kids in Shannon’s doghouse and rumors of promised playing time. No one knows the degree to which that is true, but when you hear of players not stepping up and doing what’s asked of them on and off the field, it’s hard to not believe there was some sense of entitlement that trickled down from somewhere.

This isn’t the time to pile on Storm, but it’s not time to shy from the truth either. The lack of sticktoitiveness doesn’t say much for Johnson’s grit, which is necessary if he has aspirations of playing in the National Football League. The University of Miami has made many players, but it has broken its share as well. Look at the list of transfers over the years and you’ll be hard pressed to find many kids who began their careers at Miami, left for supposed greener pastures and went on to find great success elsewhere.

There’s a reason the U Family so strong and resilient and there’s a reason UM has sent so many kids to the next level. ‘The U’ generally breeds kids who are stronger, faster, better, harder and guys who simply want it more. Guys who have another gear. Guys who NFL GMs refer to as “Miami guys”, which pretty much says it all. In this case, it had the opposite effect; Johnson and the other recent transfers just told the football world they’re not “Miami material”, which isn’t what the NFL wants to hear.

Johnson was entering his sophomore season at the University of Miami; a program with no true proven quarterback or passing game and one that will rely heavily on a ground attack this fall. Miller and James will carry the load, but Johnson would’ve gotten his reps and had he stepped his game up, he could’ve easily climbed that depth chart if he applied himself.

The raw talent is there, but like so many other one-dimensional backs, it comes down to fundamentals; holding on to the ball and becoming a solid blocker. Without that, you’re just another kid who can run fast and in college football, there are a lot of kids with wheels.


Honestly, where did the work ethic go in the past decade? In 2001, Miami suited up Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee as the one-two punch, while Frank Gore exploded onto the scene as a freshman. Senior Najeh Davenport slid over to fullback to make room for the bevy of ball carriers. These were guys who wanted it, guys who reached the NFL, guys who won a national title and played their part in a 34-game win streak, four straight BCS games and back-to-back title games. Combined, this quartet put up 2,333 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground en route to UM’s fifth ring.

Portis was the workhorse, carrying 240 times for 1,366 yards and 11 touchdowns during the Canes last championship season but the freshman Gore was the second-most productive back with 579 yards and 5 touchdowns on 64 carries. Both Portis and Gore saw action in all twelve games.

Gore blew out his ACL entering the 2002 season, paving the way for a Heisman-worthy run by McGahee – who had his knee shredded in the title game, rehabbed and bolted to the NFL, paving the way for Gore to start in 2003, which he did for five games, before another knee injury sidelined him.

Again Gore worked his way back, played all twelve games in 2004, carried 197 times for 999 yards and 8 touchdowns before heading to the NFL as a third round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in spring 2005. Over the past six seasons, Gore has racked up 6,414 yards, 35 touchdowns, two Pro Bowl selections, one second team All Pro selection and was named NFC Rushing Champion his second season.

Entering his sophomore season and prior to injury, Gore had beat out McGahee for the starting job. No one handed it to him – it was earned. Johnson had his chance this spring and in the end, was beat out by both Miller and James. Period.

As a parent, where is the life lesson here? What is a young and formidable Storm Johnson learning from this experience? That it’s all right to quit when you come in third place, simply because you’ve always been number one your whole life?

One has to wonder how “homesick” Johnson would be right now had he been named the starter at the end of spring football.

For a kid who wanted playing time, Johnson just relegated himself to the bench until 2012 per transfer rules and from there, a whole new crop of young and hungry backs will be competing for playing time wherever he winds up. Conversely, as seen at Miami with McGahee, Gore and a slew of others backs, injuries are prevalent as the position and who’s to say Johnson wouldn’t have had his fair share of carries this season had he simply applied himself?

With Johnson gone and Miller / James as the one-two punch, the Canes will rely on Darion Hall, Maurice Hagens and and freshman Kevin Grooms to provide depth and fresh legs. Former running backs Eduardo Clements and Lee Chambers have been moved to corner, but could return to the offense if need be.

And so it goes. Another one who got going when the going got tough … and Johnson isn’t the only one.


Golden also took some time to address the fate of almost-transfer Tate Forcier, as it was announced this week that the former Michigan quarterback won’t be headed to Coral Gables. There was talk about Forcier’s transcripts, with Golden making it clear that “it was in his best interests not to come” and explaining why Miami reeled in Memphis transfer Ryan Williams, stating that “we had really good film on him against quality competition”.

Tight end Andrew Tallman is also expected to transfer, making it a half dozen Canes who are moving on / being shown the door. Of those six, only Johnson and linebacker Travis Williams were expected to compete for playing time in 2011.

While the departure of Johnson and other Canes has been front page news, Golden and staff have quietly been adding depth to the current roster. In the past few days, former Wake Forest cornerback Michael Williams has joined ‘The U’. Williams played thirteen games and started two and will add depth to a depleted secondary.

Miami also added defensive tackle depth with a Pennsylvania JUCO transfer Darius Smith and West Boca High’s Corey King, who had 56 tackles, seven sacks and three forced fumbles as a senior last season.

On the recruiting front, UM got a shot in the arm and made a statement when four-star linebacker Raphael Kirby verbally committed. Kirby chose Miami over two dozen other programs – Florida, Florida State, Alabama, LSU, Southern Cal, etc. – and cited a bond with Micheal Barrow and other Hurricane coaches.

Like others before him, Kirby stated that he wants to be part of the solution, fixing the problem and bringing this proud program back and while this is the sixth four-star prospect – and ninth overall commitment – Golden has received a verbal from, that’s just the subplot. The overall culture is changing at Miami and folks should take notice.

Sometimes it takes a small step back to take a giant leap forward and while a few transfers will make headlines, forcing Chicken Littles to cry that the sky is falling, while opposing fan bases work to build their case that ‘The U’ is on the decline, the exact opposite is taking place.

Golden is weeding out the dead weight, while bringing on the right kind of player that will turn this thing around. At the same time, the internal culture is being changed. Competition is being promoted and conditioning is king. The new “U Tough” workout will whip last year’s underachievers into shape and will turn some ‘good’ players into ‘great’ ones.

Don’t pencil Miami into the ACC title game just yet, but don’t count the Canes out, either. Give this thing time to gel and trust the process. If a kid has been brought on board, know that he has the core values, buys into the system and is the type of kid this staff is believes in. For a kid that’s been shown the door, accept that it happened for a reason and trust this coaching staff more than you do recruiting rankings, message board hype and grainy YouTube clips.

Simply say ‘goodbye’, move forward and know that what’s been done was done for the greater good of this program.



13 thoughts on “Storm passes, but Golden still reigns

  1. Amen to every point you made! The good ole days are coming back to Miami. Just took a coach who was worried about discipline off AND on the field as well to kick our players' butts in the right direction. Go 'Canes!

  2. Great, great commentary. Very well said. Couldn't have said it any better. Definite food for thought. Storm Johnson should read this. Loved the part about not being a Miami guy, is not what the NFL wants to hear, because one day NFL GM's are going to ask "why did you leave Miami?" And what are you going to say?

  3. Absolutely stellar write up. Nailed it.

    Storm Johnson did himself no favors by leaving UM. Not in the present and not in his future. He'll have a long year to think about it when sitting out the season and he can watch Golden's Canes doing their thing all year, while other running backs not named Miller or James are getting carries that would've gone to him.

    Sad to see so many kids quitting in this day and age and good job calling out the parents as the buck stops with them. Wesley Johnson should've pushed his some to stick it out and show some heart and pride instead of letting him quit.

    I have a feeling Johnson winds up at Georgia Tech where he can have a nice career, but he'll never be a superstar. Everyone now knows that he couldn't hack it at Miami and that will follow him for the rest of his career. Shame.

  4. The offense looks ready for a break-out season, but I am very worried about the defense. Serious lack of depth at DT is a concern, but more importantly, we only have one reliable starter at LB.

    Anyone heard anything about one of the young LBs stepping up his game this year? Buchanon, Gaines, Futch, or Williams?

  5. Futch looked good this spring and was in a black jersey, meaning he was working hard on and off the field.

    Depth has been added at DT with JUCO transfer Darius Smith and freshman Corey King, both who were mentioned in the article as recently signing on with Miami. Michael Williams has also come on board from Wake Forest to add depth at corner.

    No doubt there are some gaping holes on defense. Golden and staff will have to get the most out of these kids, while newbies will have to have an immediate impact.

    We heard all spring about true freshman cornerback Thomas Finnie looking good and getting a grasp of the defense … so hopefully there are more 'immediate impact' kids like him and less like Jamal Reid, who spent two season on the sidelines before transferring out.

  6. Wow. Like Coach Al Golden not being afraid to pull punches regarding what drove Storm Johnson away, you met this topic head on and did the same. Nice work, Canes305. One of your better pieces lately. Keep it up.

    As for Mr. Johnson, best of luck wherever you wind up from here, but you made the wrong decision. This was a chance to act like a man and you chose to react like a boy, taking your ball and going home.

    All you have in this life is your word and your character and unfortunately both of yours took a hit with this recent decision. Best of luck, young man.

    Darren Morgan
    Fort Myers, FL

  7. Great Article.
    @ Anonymous-T.Williams is gone, but the incoming freshmen LB's are poised to make an impression this year.
    Despite the Transfers I'm excited about "The Golden Era", Can't wait to see the Changes made to the Attitude of the Team on the Field in Uniform against an opponent, Maryland Games gonna be tough, but will set the tone for the Season.
    My honest opinion I feel we lack in WR's ability to catch and go after balls.
    I can't wait to see the New staff in Action. Especially the OC

  8. Very well said. You got it all. All I have to say is I can't wait the the football season! It's all about the U.

  9. I really thought he was going to be the next "big thing" when I snapped this photo CB. I truly didn't see this coming from the young man I met that night. I wish him well…

    Hated by many. loved by few, we are the [|_|]

  10. Hopefully the weak will be weeded out. What needs to return is the HEART of thr U.

  11. Well done! At first when hearing about the departure of young Mr. Johnson I was deeply concerned. Not at the future of the running back position, (because with or without storm I think we are stacked) but more in regards to the fact that we keep losing recruits. But after doing a little research it became clear to me that these kids were shown what it was going to take to earn the playing time that they thought they deserved,and decided that they would be better off elsewhere. I dont know about the rest of you guys, but that, to me , screams.."I CANT HACK IT HERE". And that certainly is NOT the type of player I want toting the rock in the 4th quarter of a game that we are trying to win in the closing minutes. I also believe that any coach worth his salt is going to take a long hard look not only at storms high school tape and his brief one play highlight reel while at the U, but mores so at the fact that when faced with a fair and equal chance to earn the first team honors at running back, he chose to hit the road..Not a good decision Storm..Not at all…Best of luck to you kid!

  12. I just received a CD showing the1980 championship runs made by the 'canes and enjoyed seeing it again!
    Unfortunately I can't show it to a life long friend because he would flip out at the rude and sometimes criminal behavior of the 'canes!
    Miami can be champs again while exhibiting excellent character under new Coach Golden! I am a life long Miami fan and look forward to it!
    Roland C. Woodaka

  13. Correction, this is not a return to the past. With all due respect to the past, Coach Golden is dealing with a completely new culture in college football and it appears he's right-on with his firm but fair style. GO CANES !!!

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