- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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When Al Golden left Temple, he made sure to pack the thick, 4-inch binder filled with notes and philosophies on how he wants to run a program -- the expectations, core values, recruiting philosophies, camps, offseason programs, practice plans and priorities. This book doesn’t have a title. Unofficially, Golden called it his “master plan.”
Believe it or not, Miami still has one.
“It’s really important to refer to it from time to time,” Golden said, “just to make sure we’re not getting off course.”
A little detour, though, might be mandated by the NCAA.
At 42 and in only his second season as Miami’s head coach, Golden has already been through more trials and tribulations as a head coach than some encounter in their entire careers. Nowhere in his “master plan,” though, is there a page dedicated to navigating your way through an NCAA investigation. What Golden does have, however, is plenty of experience to draw from during his days in inner-city Philadelphia, where he patiently built Temple into a respectable football program. While many on the outside look at the current state of Miami’s football program and see more questions than answers both on and off the field, Golden remains steadfast in his belief that despite it all, the Hurricanes are still headed in the right direction.
“For those of us on the staff that inherited the herculean task at Temple, it provided a great challenge for us, and what it did is create pattern recognition in how to resolve problems, and not let it get in the way of achieving your goals or developing a team,” Golden said. “From that standpoint, we’re following the blueprint.”
The blueprint -- aka the solution at Miami right now -- is recruiting, and Golden has done well in that regard since he was hired. The 2012 class was ranked No. 8 in the country by ESPN.com, and his current class is ranked No. 18. The Canes have 10 commitments, and the class is almost complete, as the staff will bring in only about 15 or 16 in 2013. The current class of true freshmen has little choice but to contribute immediately, as Miami must replace 12 starters from last year’s roster, including seven on offense. The Canes lost their leading rusher, leading receivers, starting quarterback and three starting offensive linemen from a year ago.
Following the departures of five players who left early for the NFL draft, there are only two senior starters left on offense and three on defense.
“Those decisions didn’t change the way we go about our business as an organization or a team,” Golden said, “but certainly when you lose guys in December after you’ve been recruiting for a whole calendar year, it did obviously change our recruiting needs very late in the game.”
Miami’s youth movement this year includes 14 freshmen in its most recent two-deep depth chart, including only one redshirt freshman. Their introduction to college football features four road trips in the first six weeks, including two ACC games and a trip to Soldier Field in Chicago to face Notre Dame.
Golden still hasn’t flinched.
“I’m excited about the energy our team has and these young guys are bringing,” Golden said. “Let’s go play. Let’s go find out how good we can be. Why does inexperience or youth have to equate to losses? Let’s go see what we’ve got.”
Despite the ongoing NCAA investigation and the inexperience that has infiltrated the starting lineup this summer, there are reasons for Miami fans to be encouraged about the near future.
Only four projected starters won’t return in 2013. The schedule is more forgiving next year. The team will be more mature. The players will have a better grasp of the coaches, schemes and terminology in Year 3. The most difficult task could be simply playing the waiting game with the NCAA. There is no timetable for when the program might get some closure.
Golden’s patience, though, has been tested before. Before he was hired at Temple, the Owls had had only two winning seasons in the previous 26 years. In 2010 he led them to eight wins. In 2009 Temple finished 9-4 overall and tied for first place in the MAC East Division. It was the program’s first winning season since 1990 and first bowl appearance in 30 years.
“There’s more that mirrors Temple than anybody on the outside could ever have imagined,” Golden said. “Obviously the fact we’re in the middle of some adversity, I think that what we went through at Temple has prepared us for that. I hope when our student-athletes come to work every day, they see the same coaches and the same process, and guys who are consistent in their teaching and core values and not willing to compromise that.”
Cornerback Brandon McGee said that’s the message the staff has sent.
“I don’t think he’s handled anything any differently,” McGee said of Golden. “He’s handled it as a professional. He’s the same guy every day. I don’t think he wavers at all.”
Running back Mike James agreed.
“I don’t think nothing bothers that man,” James said. “He’s like a steel pole. He won’t be moved.”
Instead, Golden continues to go by “the book.”
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