Miami coach Al Golden played coy about whether he was pursued or even interested in the vacant head-coaching job at Penn State.
All he wanted to do Monday during his conveniently scheduled season wrap press conference was look to the future.
It is a 2014 future that will include no staff changes.
Golden has staunchly backed his defensive staff, and defended them again on Monday, despite yet another season with subpar results. Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, close friends with Golden, has found himself drawing ire from Canes fans. It continued after a 36-9 drubbing by Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28.
Golden said after the game he would evaluate every aspect of his staff and the program. On Monday, he said his evaluation showed that making changes would move the program in the wrong decision.
"Starting over for these young people was not the answer," Golden said. "We've made a lot of progress in a lot of different areas, but we've got a long way to go. I never fail to recognize that. That doesn't mean we're not going to tweak our personnel and how we devise things, the quality control we go through. A team's reborn every year. What was good for this past team may not be good for this team coming up."
Golden specifically mentioned the prospect of having additional depth in the secondary, which could allow the Canes to play more nickel coverage. He also praised his talented linebackers, a group that depends on Denzel Perryman returning to school for his senior year.
But what has been glaringly missing on this team for years now is a lack of size and talent up front.
Once again, Miami struggled to get any push with its defensive line. In eight conference games, Miami managed 12 sacks and ranked last in total defense, No. 12 in scoring defense and No. 13 in rushing defense. The Hurricanes were statistically worse in scoring defense and rushing defense in ACC play this season and only had three more sacks than a year ago.
Where Golden sees improvement, others see stagnation. In the bowl game, Miami was physically manhandled on the line of scrimmage by a Louisville offensive line that had consistency issues all season along. That cannot be acceptable moving forward.
Miami does have plenty of returning players, but the Canes also had plenty of returning players in 2013 and did not become an elite unit. Will another year of growth and maturity help this group? Only if Miami makes vast improvements on its defensive front. It is difficult to become an elite defense when you can't win the battle at the line of scrimmage.