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Tim Reynolds | The Associated Press | January 6, 2014

Miami's Golden says it is 'humbling and flattering' to be pursued

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Miami coach Al Golden said Monday that he has been pursued by other programs, doing so while reaffirming his commitment to the Hurricanes and refusing to discuss his reported candidacy at Penn State.

Further, Golden repeated that he's ready to experience working without the NCAA investigatory cloud hanging over the school.

"It's humbling and flattering, a testament to our staff and student-athletes, that other people express interest in us," Golden said.

Golden is 22-15 in three seasons at Miami and was widely pegged as a candidate for Penn State, which made sense for many reasons. He played for Joe Paterno, was a Nittany Lions captain and his experience at Miami throughout its rogue-booster scandal showed that he can lead a program through difficult off-the-field matters, much in the same way that Bill O'Brien did for two seasons before leaving Penn State.

But the NCAA issue is essentially dead now at Miami, and Golden can spend this month doing something he's yet to do in his tenure with the Hurricanes, that being close the assembly of a recruiting class without having anyone wonder how much trouble the Nevin Shapiro matter will ultimately cause the school. The NCAA said last year that Miami's football program will lose nine scholarships over three years.

"We've made a lot of progress now," Golden said. "This will be our first year being able to going out and recruit without any NCAA cloud hanging over us. There's a big part of me that wants that. I haven't experienced that. None of us have experienced that. We haven't really experienced a season or a training camp without that hanging over our heads."

So the NCAA matter is done, and Golden is staying.

There are many more issues for the Hurricanes to address before spring football starts in about two months.

Golden plans to keep his staff intact, saying continuity is essential right now as part of the path toward getting better as a program. He insisted that progress has been made, particularly on the defensive side of the football, though the numbers would suggest that there's still many reasons for major concern there.

Miami finished the season with four losses in its last six games, and the defensive numbers were awful in that span.

The Hurricanes gave up 524.5 yards per game in that stretch, a figure that was better than only seven of the nation's 123 major-college clubs. That same defense ranked 121st in rushing touchdowns allowed in the season's final two months, along with 121st again in third-down conversion percentage.

"The reality of it is we weren't good enough," Golden said. "We didn't get it done. It's my responsibility for us to be better at that time of the year. But again, we have to continue to build our depth. That's going to be critical."

Many of Miami's top playmakers on both sides of the ball are expected to return, including running back Duke Johnson, who missed most of the second half of the season with a broken ankle. That was one of many examples Golden cited when saying how he believes the program has gotten better in his three years, in which Miami has gone 6-6, 7-5 and 9-4 respectively.

"But we're not yet where we want to be," Golden said.

Ryan Williams will be a frontrunner to replace departing senior Stephen Morris at quarterback, though Golden cautioned that no one is anointed as the starter there or at any other position.

And changes, he vowed, will come. He just won't be one of them.

"I'm here," Golden said. "I plan to be the coach at the University of Miami."

NOTES: Miami expects to have eight early enrollees arrive later this week. ... Golden said no potentially draft-eligible underclassmen has given him any indication about planning to leave early, though he also said he tries to give players an appropriate amount of space to make those decisions. ... WR Rashawn Scott, CB Ray Lewis Jr. and QB Kevin Olsen were suspended for the Russell Athletic Bowl for conduct detrimental to the team, Golden said.

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