Spring Q&A with Randy Shannon

Randy Shannon addressed the media earlier today to discuss his first spring practice session as head coach of the Miami Hurricanes.

Opening Statements

"Thanks to everyone for being here. Another wonderful year of spring football is about to start. A couple of announcements before we begin. These guys will not participate in spring football due to injuries from last year and maintenance work: Jason Fox, George Timmons, Luqman Abdullah, Tyrone Byrd, Romeo Davis, Tervaris Johnson, George Robinson, Darryl Sharpton, Ian Symonette and AJ Trump. Next announcement: Reshad Jones and Rhyan Anderson will not be returning to the football team this season. We are going to assist them in helping them transfer and further their career. Rhyan may graduate after the first summer session and after that he will transfer to another school."

"With this year's spring football basically what we are going to try and get done is build a team chemistry. We are going to have any individuals and we are not going to have a starting lineup. We are going to try to find a nucleus of 11 guys who can play offense, defense, and special teams. I think that the problems that always occur in football as far as not having enough guys because of injury and the limitations with 85 scholarships makes us have to find the best guys offensively and defensively so we can establish a team mentality. We are going to keep the pressure on everybody. There are going to be people moving up and moving down and we will practice guys with other guys all the time. We don't have a depth chart at this particular time."

"Everybody is always concerned with the quarterback situation, but we don't have quarterback situation. I don't know who is going to start right now. We have three walk-ons and two scholarship guys competing for that position. We are going to give them the best chance to win games for us and held accountable in practice. We are not only closing access to Kyle and Kirby, but also the walk-ons because we want those guys to have a team mentality and not have the pressure of saying who has done what. I am trying to build a team mentality. I know it is hard for [the journalists] because you have to write your stories and I apologize I know it is difficult, but just deal with me from this point on. We will let you know who is starting the Tuesday before we play Marshall. We will tell you who will be what at that time. During the season you will have the same access. I am trying to focus on building team chemistry we don't want anybody to worry about individualtization because I have seen that destroy a team. It happens a lot of times when you focus on little things that the big picture is forgotten and the big picture is that we have to win games at the University of Miami."

You won't have depth chart before Tuesday before Marshall?

"That is right. We won't have a depth chart all spring."

Are you also saying you won't let the quarterbacks talk after the spring game?

"No. After spring football when the season starts for two-a-days you can talk to them then. I am trying to build a team chemistry through spring football. As soon as media day starts and two-a-days it can be a free-for-all. You can do whatever you want with the quarterbacks."

What have you noticed in the offseason workouts from the players?

"Let me tell you what has happened with this team. There has been a couple of situations where I did have to get on a couple of the older guys. Because a couple of younger guys were being competitive and stepping up the way we want them to and there has been some older guys that have been stepping up and pushing the younger guys. That is the one thing we are trying to build here. Nobody is in a comfort zone here. There was times where I jumped on guys who will be seniors about the way they participate in a workout and a couple times I have gotten on the younger guys about the way they participate in a workout—and what I mean by participating is just sitting back in the back and letting the older guys go. I need the young guys to push the older guys and I can't have the older guys be in a comfort zone. Anytime I see a younger guy running harder, competing harder, or lifting weights or doing anything better than the older guys I am going to make sure everybody knows that on the team. Because this is the guy I can depend on to win games. The biggest difference between winning and losing comes from building competition and building a winning atmosphere. For example: everybody says Kenny Phillips is probably going to play safety here. I don't know what Kenny is going to play. I know we are going to play the four best defensive backs. Redick, Ponder, and Kenny are our safeties and one of them are going to have to go play a different position. That is why I don't want to name positions right now because you are never going to know what is going to happen. We have to find a chemistry on this team that equals success and the biggest way to do it is raise the competition level. If you are not competing, I make sure everybody on the team knows you aren't competing. It is not embarrassing a kid. It is letting everybody know we can't win with this type of mentality."

How do you build a chemistry between the new coaches and players and get everybody on the same page?

"It is easy. The biggest thing that we have been doing is we mix our players up. We don't have an offensive side and a defensive side. Here in the media room it used to be just all offense and all defense. Now we have offense, defense, and special teams all together. When we are in the locker room you have offensive players and defensive players sitting side by side together. That is the biggest thing because you can get in a comfort zone. What I mean by a comfort zone is defense likes to hang our defense. Defensive line likes to hang around defensive line. You don't get to know what happens with other areas because you don't mingle with them guys. The more you mingle with different guys. The more you will lay it on the line for guys you don't know. If I am a defensive player and I am sitting by an offensive lineman and a kicker, I am going to lay it on the line because they are sitting by me. That is the biggest thing we have done in changing and making sure everybody knows that we all work hard. You are next to me and you are next to me and we are going to talk all the time, but when it comes time to lay it on the line I can't let you down and I can't let you down on different sides of the ball."

Are Kyle and Kirby going to split reps?

"All the quarterbacks are going to split reps."

Completely even?

"Completely even. I really don't know. Seriously. Everybody says it should be Kyle or Kirby. I remember being at the University of Miami when I was a player and we had all these kickers on the team and they were missing chip shots left and right. Jimmy Johnson said hey little kid if you make this field goal you are the starting kicker. That kid was Carlos Huerta. He was the walk-on. You never know who is going to have an opportunity to win and play for you. That is why you give everybody opportunities to play."

So a player like Matt Perrelli is going to get as many opportunities to play?

"He is going to get opportunities. There is going to be a rotation and we are going to have guys competing. We need somebody that is going to give us the best chance to go out and win games."

What intangibles are you looking for from the quarterbacks?

"You know what I am looking for? Not just from the quarterbacks but from the whole team. I need guys on this team who are going to be winners and leaders. Not just at quarterback. I need team guys. We need guys that are going to be team oriented. If the quarterback is doing great, the offensive line must be doing great. It has got to go hand in hand. We aren't looking for the quarterbacks to be the front-runners of the team. We are looking for the whole team to be front runners. When Steve Walsh started his first year he had a surrounding cast around him. Was he a leader at that time? No. He had a great surrounding cast around him. We want a bunch of winners and guys that surround each other with the same goals."

What do you have in the kicking game right now?

"We worked a lot with Bosher last year and this offseason of doing some punting. We know he can kick off, but we worked on him punting. We have a couple of walk-on guys that have to step up to see if they can compete for Bosher's job. If Bosher can do both, he will do both, but if somebody takes the job from him we will take that. We are going to put those guys in positions when they are not expecting to kick the ball. We may be in the middle of practice having a scrimmage. I may say field goal PAT. I want to see if that guy can come off the sideline and kick it under pressure when everybody is watching rather than have them in a comfort zone and do four or five kicks at the beginning of practice."

How many kickers do you have?

"We have four or five kickers."

We have heard stories of you making it tougher with grades and living on campus…

"It is not tougher. The rules are making guys accountable for what they need to get done. Why should a guy live off campus if he has a 1.9 GPA. Are we doing a disservice to him? Because we are an academic institution. We have got to make sure we give guys every opportunity to succeed academically. Lets face it once football is over, its over. It is not a tough rule."

The GPA is a 2.5 minimum to live off campus?

"Yes. And you have to be on campus two years minimum. Freshmen and sophomores must live on campus."

If you are a junior or senior with a 2.4…

"You are on campus."

And study hall?

"Study hall has not changed. There has always been mandatory study hall depending on your GPA for upperclassmen. Academics do a great job here. If they feel like a kid needs structured study hall, they will make it structured. What structured study hall is if I don't think you are doing well and I don't think you can study on your own and come to study hall on your own, I am going to give you every time. If you are out of class at 11 o'clock then you are in study hall. That is what I mean by structured."

Have you made a no gun policy?

"There is a zero tolerance firearm policy at the University of Miami. If you get caught with a firearm, they you are dismissed from the football team. When you have a firearm, there is a 50-50 chance you are going to get hurt. I don't want to put us in those situations where there is a 50-50 chance. I want to make it 100 percent chance you are not going to hurt anybody and nobody is going to get hurt. It is to protect them and make sure they do the right thing."

If you move from the Orange Bowl to Dolphin Stadium, will you miss the mystic of playing there?

"You will always miss the Orange Bowl. The Orange Bowl is one of a kind. You ask Griese and all them guys, they miss it. Those are things that I can't control and they are up to the powers that be to decide where we are going to be. I know this year we are playing in the Orange Bowl and that is all I can really worry about."

Are any guys switching positions?

"Yeah that is why I said I can't name a lineup right now. It is not just going to be Derrick Morse trying to play center. There are going to be different guys line up there. We have linebacker and defensive backs that are going to play different positions. We have to find the best chemistry for us to win games."

When you say you are switching positions you mean like a linebacker switching within the linebackers?

"Yes. Within the linebacker group and with defensive backs from corner to safety. I am not moving anyone from offense to defense or vice versa. If numbers go low, that may happen and I will let you guys know."

Ryan Hill is playing where?

"He is a receiver."

Is Richard Gordon going to be a defensive tackle or defensive end?

"I don't know yet. He is going to be on the defensive side of the ball, but we don't know where yet. He is going to start at defensive end and we may move him to tackle later on. He has the capability of being like Baraka Atkins."

What is maintenance work for the players you listed in the beginning that won't be playing?

"Maintenance work is like Tyrone Byrd trying to get back healthy. He will do conditioning. All those guys will not practice unless one of them gets healthy real quick. None of them are out for disciplinary reasons."

Do you expect them all to be back for two-a-days?

"Yeah, all those guys will be back for two-a-days."

Can you talk about coach Barrow and coach McGriff?

"They are good guys and that is the first thing I look for. Cause we want to build chemistry within the coaching staff. Teaching is the easy part of coaching. It is like any other organization. If you don't have chemistry within the organization, you won't be successful. When we go out and interview guys, because my coaching staff is a part of that process too because they have to work with them, we look for X's and O's, but we also want to see how they are just being themselves. We don't want any me guys. We have a bunch of recruiting coordinators on this staff and I think that is a plus because they all know we have to be on the same page and we are all involved and not have any egos about it."

Is Cory Bell on this staff in any way?

"Cory Bell is the assistant director of football operations."

Will Tim Walton handle all the defensive calls next year?

"Yes. As a staff we will all come together for a gameplan. I have gotten a lot of praise because we played great defense, but it always comes from the coaching staff that you have. The one thing we are going to do as a staff is work together offensively and defensively. An defensive coach may say hey what is the best way to attack that protection and the same way vice versa. We are going to be involved in making sure we put together a gameplan as a staff."

What days are open to the public?

"All the scrimmage days. March 24th March 30th and the spring game on April 7th. Those are three scrimmage days and those are the days you want to see the most. You can really see who is doing what so those will be open to the public."

Are wide receiver and defensive tackle areas of concern because of lack of depth?

"No because when we recruited them out of high school they were good players, so we as a coaching staff need to help them be the best they can be. I learned this from Jimmy. If you treat a person as a first rounder he will be a first rounder. You always treat an athlete to what you want them to be. You never let an athlete settle for less. You need to help an athlete get to what he wants to accomplish."

You only have five scholarship wide receivers though.

"To me it makes you build character and toughness and that is what makes you build chemistry. You get to see who is going to fight when things get a little difficult and push those guys to be the best they can be all the time. There is a difference between hurt and pain. If you are hurt you need to see Dr. Uribe. Pain is I'm sore and I want to stop practicing and convince myself I can't do it. Our job as football staff is to help them understand pain and hurt."

With Sharpton out are there enough guys to fill the positions?

"Here is the thing, Glenn Cook can play anything. He could play safety if we needed him to. We need our older guys to learn more and our younger guys to stay simple. Tavares Gooden is an older guy. He has got to learn more. Chavez Grant played nickel last year. Now he is going to have to explore the cornerback position. He is going to have to do two positions. The more you get older the more you experience and learn."

David Lake can be reached at lake@canestime.com

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