Al Golden: 'I don't respond to speculation'

After a weekend of much speculation about whether he’d remain at Miami or possibly leave for the vacant coaching job at his alma mater Penn State, Hurricanes coach Al Golden released a statement on Sunday afternoon saying he was not a candidate for any other position.

Monday morning, he went on Joe Rose’s show on WQAM-560 and shared his thoughts on the speculation about his future, Miami’s lackluster defense, and more. He’s also scheduled to hold his end-of-season press conference Monday at 12:30.

Some quick takes from the interview: Golden didn’t want to share too many specifics about the Penn State situation, he feels Miami’s program is moving in the right direction, and it’s unlikely there will be many major staff changes.

Here are some of the highlights of his interview with Joe Rose, in Golden’s own words:


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When asked about the weekend speculation about his future:

“One of the reasons I released a statement yesterday was because, just the speculation had grown so much. I thought I would be able to get to my press conference or this conversation with you on Monday, but I opted to release a statement so that we could move forward here.” 

On whether he was close to taking the Penn State job:

“I think the thing is, over the last couple years, I haven’t responded to any of this speculation of any school. Last year, I was in a recruit’s home and they had me going to another school. I think the biggest thing is, I’m not a candidate for another position and I stand behind the statement I made yesterday. I was in the office Thursday and Friday, evaluating every aspect of the program and I’m excited to move forward.”

When pressed on whether he was curious about the Penn State job:

“From a professional standpoint, I’ve never discussed any other positions. As I said yesterday, I’m not a candidate. I’m excited to be here. I’m here to welcome our guys back. We have incoming guys coming in Wednesday and the whole staff returns today. We have a staff meeting in a little while and we’re moving forward.”

On the state of Miami’s recruiting class ahead of National Signing Day:

“We’re not done. We don’t have a ton of spots, there’s no question about it. Anybody can look at our recruiting and see we basically recruited every position. I would have loved to have the opportunity to do that last year, in year three when you usually do that. But we weren’t afforded that opportunity. It’s great to be able to recruit every position. If you look at our defense, [Ladarius] Gunter at corner, will be a senior. Everybody else, Tracy [Howard], Deon [Bush] and [Antonio] Crawford will be juniors, alright, then we’ll have Corn Elder, Jamal [Carter] and Artie [Burns] as sophomores and then we’ll have freshmen coming in. We’ll finally excellent symmetry there and guys coming in in layers. Every position is important to us right now, but there’s no question there’s a couple of extra spots and the guys that really study it know who we’re targeting and we’ll finish strong here in the next three weeks and we get the chance to go out next Thursday, the 15th, I believe.”

On whether he expects to make changes in philosophy or coaching staff:

“I appreciate you asking the question. There’s no question from the last game, I worked on it Monday and Tuesday of last week and I worked on it again Thursday and Friday. I looked at everything…the biggest thing is we’re not coming from a place of 11, 13 wins. We’re coming from basically, as you know, what amounted to be a trainwreck two years ago and we’re on an upward trend. We won nine games and continuity to me…people think change is the answer. I want to get to the same place everybody wants to get. I just believe continuity, the progress that we’re making is really important, the recruiting we’re making, all of that is on an upward trend…if we look at the defense, for instance, we’re not where we want to be, but what are the trends? Those are the trends I look at every day. We moved up 17 spots in terms of points-per-game, we moved up 36 spots nationally in terms of giving up rushing defense, we moved up 52 spots in interceptions, we moved up 25 spots nationally in forced fumbles, we moved up 40 spots in takeways, we moved up 74 spots in sacks, we moved up 52 spots in red zone defense, we moved up 36 spots in red zone TDs, we moved up 21 spots in yards-per-rush, again, it’s still not where it needs to be, we need to get that under four, we moved up 17 spots in yards-per-play, our mental errors were down, our tackling percentage was up and again, I want to make sure, when I communicate, if everybody doesn’t hear the whole philosophy or whole approach that I’m making, then it’s easy to take a little piece out. We’re not where we want to be. On defense, we have to be better on tackles-for-loss. We weren’t very good there. We gave up too many plays of 20 yards or more. Many of them, as I looked at it, were attributed to missed tackles. We’ve got to do a better job with that and our third-down percentage, on both sides of the ball, is really what’s at the end of the day, hurting our defense. Our third-down differential, we’re not converting enough third downs on offense and we’re giving up too many on defense. As I look at the defense, and then I look at…we’re going to spend the next three months doing what this unit does best, we have 10 players returning now on defense with over 400 snaps from this past year, we have seven players with over 750 snaps and we have four players with over 1,000 snaps…we had 21 players on defense that took snaps as a first or second year player. We have 15 players from the two-deep returning, we had seven true freshmen that combined for nearly 700 snaps…all of those things, for me, are positive trends. We definitely need to fix some things, there’s no question about it. The first thing to do is look at our personnel and what we can do better. But everything for me, as I look at it, is positive.”

On his defensive priority list:

“We’ve got to stop the run. At the end of the day, we’ve got to stop the run and I think our pass rush, obviously improved. Our pass rush improved greatly…our stats moved up 74 spots in the national rankings to 29 sacks. We were getting to the quarterback better, we need to get to the quarterback better with a four-man rush…if you looked at the Louisville game, we put the defense out there for 80 plays, that’s a function of, that’s my responsibility as a head coach. That’s a function of the team. The defense is what held us in there in the first half and they were excellent against the run in the first half. The reality of it was, we were on the field too much, we weren’t scoring or converting on offense. We’ve got to be better against the run and as I look at the veterans we have coming back and the maturity that we’ll have, I’m confident we’ll do that, that we will continue to get better. Having [linebacker Alex Figueroa] healthy will help there, [Thurston] Armbrister’s coming back, [Tyriq] McCord’s coming back, [Deon] Bush, [Rayshawn] Jenkins, in terms of the safeties and guys that can stop the run, [Olsen] Pierre, [Denzel] Perryman, [Ufomba] Kamalu, Jelani Hamilton is maturing. Those are the guys that we’ll be counting on to step up and fortify us and help us stop the run.”

On the offense:

“We can talk about all the explosive plays, we can talk about all the things we did well this year, but the reality is that the two areas we failed in, that negatively impacted our team, were time of possession, which really can be attributed to our…lack of success on third down. We were not good enough on third down to hold the ball enough, to take the onus off the defense, and take the pressure off the defense in terms of that. The two areas of concern for me in the off-season going into the offseason, and [offensive coordinator James Coley] and I have already met…third down conversions and some of that is related to first-down efficiency. Third down conversions and time of possession, we have to do better…we want to continue to have an explosive element…but what I’d like to do is continue to be more balanced. We had the explosive element, we improved 16 yards in our rushing yards per game up to 160, but I wanted to get that number higher. I thought we could have gotten that number to 180, 185 this year. In an ideal world, I’d shoot for 200 because I think that’s going to help us with the time-of-possession. Our points per game was 34th in the country at 33.8, we had more 10+ yard runs this year, that’s a tribute to Duke [Johnson], Dallas [Crawford], Gus [Edwards] and [Eduardo Clements], but that’s a lot of guys cutting down field and giving extra effort. We had 22 more runs of 10 yards or more, which was good. Our completion percentage wasn’t as good as it needed to be. Obviously, that’s going to be a challenge for us this offeseason to try and get that completion percentage up to 65, 68, 69 percent. We’d love to get it up there so we can control the ball more. I think we were 15th in the nation in 20-yard passes or more, third in the nation in 30-yard passes, we had one less sack allowed than last year which was really good. There’s a lot of positives there, but I think without holding onto the ball and converting on third down, we’re not going to be able to move forward as a program, not just an offense.

The good news is a lot of our playmakers are coming back. Herb Waters, Clive Walford, Duke Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, Dallas [Crawford], Stacy [Coley], Gus [Edwards], Beau Sandland. So we’re really excited about that group coming back and obviously the young people that we’re adding, some of them at midyear.” 

On the job specifically defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio has done:

“I just said, the trend right now is positive. It’s very hard to look at…first of all, it’s impossible for me to answer anything without somebody saying I’m making an excuse. Number one, I’m responsible for everything in the building. I always will be. That means whether a young man makes a bad decision in the community or someone’s not making a tackle in the field or not lifting or running or doing the things they need to do, I’m responsible for it. 2012, with everything we were working through on defense, was a difficult year. Form that year, we made great progress. Is it where we want to be? No…we gave up 20 points per game, 17th in the country; We were No. 10 in the country in red zone scoring defense, we were No. 2 in the country in red zone TDs allowed, we were No. 5 in the country in rushing touchdowns allowed, we were 45 in total defense, sixth in explosive plays allowed. So all I’m saying is, we are not where we want to be, and we all recognize that, but the young people that played for us the past couple years fought their tails off. They fought their tails off, we coached our tails off and we’re going to continue to keep getting better. I want to make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of the things we need to do better, which we identified and we go and fix them. We fix them with quality control, we fix them by looking at an open and honest evaluation, by give and take, by dialogue, we fix it by personnel, by changing this guy to this position or call a little more this on this down. Those are all things we’re doing. If it was not all a positive trend right now, then I would go in a different direction. But the reality is I like the direction we’re going as a program overall. I’ve looked over all three of these entities, and the weight room as well and recruiting and every facet of the program.

On whether he was aware of the speculation in both State College and Miami:

“I became aware of it and worked with [Miami athletic director Blake James] on just, there’s no way we’ll be able to get to this conversation or the scheduled press conference on Monday, which is why we released the statement. We’re moving forward and we’re back at work today.”