Statistically speaking, the University of Miami defense just endured the worst season in the program’s 87-year history.
The Hurricanes allowed school records in virtually every category including points, rushing yards, passing yards and first downs. In most cases, the former records weren’t just surpassed but obliterated.
Those woes have caused UM fans to howl for the head of defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio. But during a news conference to recap the 2012 season on Tuesday, coach Al Golden robustly defended D’Onofrio and made plainly clear that a shakeup is not under consideration.
“I hope before we start telling everybody how to make changes, we look at Mark’s record in terms of playing defense and his track record in terms of player development,” said Golden, who played with D’Onofrio at Penn State and later hired him as defensive coordinator at Temple.
The source of the defensive ineptitude, Golden said, was not D’Onofrio but a depleted roster inherited from former coach Randy Shannon two years ago that forced the Hurricanes to use a defensive unit sorely lacking in experience this season.
Without naming him, Golden pointed out freshman safety Rayshawn Jenkins, whose mental bust allowed Duke to complete a 99-yard touchdown pass in the Hurricanes’ 52-45 victory last Saturday in the regular-season finale. At times, UM employed five true freshmen on defense against Duke.
“Mark should be as mad as anybody because imagine coming to the University of Miami and having to play a bunch of kids,” Golden said. “Imagine having to be saddled with that. He’s the one that should be mad. … And he is mad. He’s going to fight. Everybody wants this change or that change (but) he’s not a quitter. None of us are.”
Golden said he knew in May the defense was going to struggle and instructed offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch to use a hurry-up attack because “we’re so damn young on defense that we’re going to have to outscore people.”
The Hurricanes (7-5, 5-3 ACC) did outscore opponents — but just barely, 377 to 366. The 366 points permitted set a new UM record, sprinting by the former mark of 314 points allowed in 1984 and 2008. Worse yet, the 366 points this season came in only 12 games. The 1984 and 2008 Miami teams played 13-game schedules.
Golden said he did not anticipate any changes on his staff. He said that Miami was one of nine FBS schools that maintained the same group of assistants in 2012 as it had during the 2011 season.
“It would be great to have that continuity again,” Golden said.
As for his own situation, Golden sidestepped a couple of questions regarding potential interest from other universities with coaching vacancies. On Monday, the Boston Globe ran a photo of Golden over a story headlined, “Who might be the next (Boston College) football coach?”
Speculation has also connected Golden to the job opening at Tennessee. More rumors regarding Golden are bound to float as UM awaits NCAA sanctions in connection with the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
“The only time I hear it is when you guys say it,” Golden told reporters about rumored interest from other schools. “It’s not like my wife … she’d cry if I said we’re moving out of town.”
Golden said his only focus right now is recruiting. Under normal circumstances, Miami would be preparing this week for the ACC Championship Game on Saturday against Florida State after clinching the Coastal Division by beating Duke. But UM officials self-imposed a second consecutive bowl ban, keeping the Hurricanes at home.
Asked if he would watch Saturday’s ACC title matchup between FSU and Georgia Tech, Golden said: “I probably won’t be. I’m hoping I’m at a recruiting dinner trying to get someone that’s going to help us get into that game … again.”
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