Welcome New Recruits to the U! No Prima Donnas Here!
I read the following comment on the Sun Sentinel blog this past weekend from “Norm 4” in response to an article spotlighting UM’s latest 3-star commit, Josh Witt:
Not saying this guy [Josh Witt] won’t turn out to be good, but we keep racking up the 3 stars while FSU lands the 5 stars. Not looking good for Miami!! Hell we even got a 2 star project te while south Carolina & USF landed good 4 star te’s from Florida( Rainey & Price). If Golden is this super recruiter, why isn’t he getting top talent from Florida?? Maybe Bush & J Hamilton, that will be it! I’ve seen it all before, that’s how we fell off the map in the 1st place!!
Ugh! Some of these people just don’t get it! I could go on and on about how impressive Al Golden is, but I have to focus! Focus! Here is what I have to say just limiting my thoughts on Al Golden’s apparent recruiting and coaching strategy: anyone who doesn’t see that Al Golden is a genius has never played on a sports team before. And especially they’ve never played on a team loaded with average players who learned how to win big TOGETHER. Equally as important, they have never played on a team.
I learned first hand how just ONE “psychologically distracted player” improperly handled by a coach can sabotage an entire season. I speak from experience. I have played on both types of teams. Regarding the first, I went to a private college prep high school whose basketball team was loaded with short white teenage girls. (That’s right: short, nerdy, white girls and basketball CAN mix!) The new head coach of this team (hired in before my senior season) performed untold miracles in only a few years’ time. After my graduation, he took this team repeatedly to the state championship tourney because he knew how to motivate them, discipline them, and bring out the best of them individually and as a team. Short white nerdy girls on a bball team going to the state tourney every year? Yes, it DID happen. Even though I was not on the winning slope of that team, I remember the big mamas my long skinny butt used to have to guard and box out in the paint. That’s the year I learned how to throw a side-killing elbow! A power I still possess to this day. Piss me off at your own risk But back to the white chics who played on my high school’s basketball teams after I graduated, their winning seasons that came after me and the talent and size they were up against showed me first hand what difference good coaching can make.
Similarly, in college (at our favorite alma mater) I also played on a sport where we were all powerful physical specimens, and the most “powerful” one of us all had difficulty getting her head properly in the game (pc demands I abandon sarcastic humor and write delicately on this). As a result, practice time was poorly managed, morale was low, and we completely underperformed as a result. We went from “hero” to “zero” in just a few weeks’ time. That too, ultimately, was coaching, as coaches had the final say on which players were fulfilling which position. What do women’s high school and college sports have to do with men’s football you ask? The answer is, my friend, that athletes are all human, no matter what gender they are or what sport they play. All athletes, regardless of gender, possess the potential to be a team-sabotaging “prima donna.” Read on.
The term “prima donna” historically describes humans of the female gender who may be described as “prissy”, “self-indulged”, or otherwise “high maintenance.” In men’s football, there is definitely no shortage of hulky male prima donnas. Think Pac Man Jones, Terrell Owens, Vince Young, Brett Favre, and future NFL prima donna if he makes it that far, Storm Johnson. Ultimately, prima donnas only bring down the entire morale of a team if their attitudes are not held in check with the goals and in the context of the strategy of the team. And when the morale is down, losses tally up (see Miami Hurricanes 2010 final season record).
Like any other human characteristic, prima donna traits take root and can be spotted early in the formative years. Prima donna kids are usually are pretty good athletes who don’t have to work very hard initially to get their early fame and recognition. Not all, and perhaps not most, 4- and 5-star recruits turn out to be “prima donnas.” The young football recruits who are 4- and 5-star rated probably deserve to be. Of course they have natural talent, and natural talent stands out more in the early years when bodies are still developing, coaching skills are less refined and high school practice is less demanding. But everything changes at the next level of college. Bodies stop growing up and start growing out. Practice is more demanding, and there’s a hell of a lot more of it. Coaches are more skilled to teach finer points of skill and play. For any kids coming out of high school who are highly rated AND who also happen to be entitled and not up to learning anything new or working very hard (prima donnas), their 4- and 5-stars have no meaning in the end. They stop being teachable. They don’t live up to their potential. They’re a “bust,” forgotten forever except by the high schools and their mamas who love them. In the end, high school recruiting “stars” matter but they don’t necessarily have the final say. It’s those human character “intangibles” coaches talk about that can really make all the difference in overall player and team performance. (Team performance = #WINNING btw).
This summer we have read about Al Golden’s evaluation of high school talent and the “intangibles” of potential high school recruits pouring into Al Golden’s football camps for a chance to fit in with the big dogs. I had the luck to meet one such high school incoming senior this week who attended Golden’s most recent camp. This young man’s words? “Al Golden doesn’t play. He means business. He’s turning things around. He is OR-GAN-IZED. Leonard Hankerson is cool and worked with me a bit. I ran some drills with Stephen Morris. And Allen Bailey is a BEAST! He’s not even human!” Ah….such sweet words to my ears. I couldn’t help but to ask if they offered him a scholarship? Was I sitting in the room with future UM greatness? Would I be able to say I knew him when? Eh…..probably not. (Besides the fact that he happened to be wearing a Gator shirt signed by Jenoris Jenkins who I PROMPTLY pointed out was a 3 time pot-smoking loser and this kid would never amount to greatness until that shirt was burned at the stake. I also wonder if he happened to have purchased that shirt at a pawn shop…?)
But this young college hopeful did say that UM wanted to wait on offering him a scholarship to see how he did during his senior season. He said he was fine with that and now he KNOWS what is expected of him at the next level. (Translation: he KNOWS that no prima donnas would ever wear Orange and Green under Al Golden’s watch. Ever. Never. Ever.) The question for him, and for every recruit, is whether he is willing to put in the work and sacrifice required at the next level? That’s one purpose of what these camps are for (aka Al Golden’s strategy): to give the coaching staff an opportunity not only to see talent but also to see the intangibles of heart, effort, and ability to perform under pressure. From this point forward Golden can hand pick the ones he wants. These are the ones he sees who have talent AND are willing to go full on b-t-w for 8 straight hours in the sweltering Miami summer heat and say, “Thank you Sir may I have another?”
To the ones who are willing, you got a chance. Welcome to the [No prima donnas here] U! And regarding the players Al Golden inherited, all the ones who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) perform under pressure are now gone. Similarly, guys who can’t hack it in the camps won’t get offered a scholarship either. Skills can be taught to 2-stars who have heart and effort and 3-star bodies can get into shape, but none of that matters with a kid who has no heart, cracks under pressure, and thinks there’s an “i” in the spelling of “team”. (Prima donna, btw, IS spelled with an “i”).
Looking at the players who have made it through spring season UTOUGH (“No prima donnas here!”) boot camp, I think we have learned there is definitely a new sheriff in town. There is no doubt in my mind the team has toughened up and tightened up. Prima donnas and slackers and alleged rapists and rumored pot smokers have all been weeded out. (We still have YEBO the rapper but even he can make a run for it at qb at this point.) As a result of UTOUGH, I expect UM’s winning percentage will increase this year, the quality of our play will be much improved, and morale and excitement over UM football will shoot up even more. Unfortunately there are still too many unknowns at important positions (qb, kicker, cb) to get super confident and excited right now about the final season record. Nonetheless, we will see that U SWAG return not necessarily because we will be winning EVERY game but because we will have the discipline not to make as many dumb mistakes, we will have the physical stamina to complete the games, and we will see more playmakers making more plays. All of those things working together are contagious for a team’s morale. Morale + talent + heart + guts + physicality + putting “team” before “I” is what wins games. Winning games puts fans in the stadium and games on TV. National media exposure and fan excitement brings even more quality recruits to want to play for the U. It’s a domino effect and it all starts this year. GO CANES!!!
The other great thing about Al Golden recruiting and coaching strategy is he doesn’t give a rip what other teams and coaches at FSWho and UFelony are doing. He’s got his game plan and he is working to execute HIS plan, a plan that worked at lowly Temple and so far is bringing life to a not-so-long-ago-down-and-out U. If a player or a coach doesn’t want to follow Golden’s program, Big Al has no problem giving a suggestion (otherwise known as a “subtle command”) for all prima donnas to go find themselves another program. He doesn’t have the time or the patience for that kind of coddling BS. Maybe that’s what is attractive about 2 and 3 star recruits. They KNOW they are not in a position to demand to be coddled. The camps give Al the opportunity to weed out which of these kids have those intangibles of being hungry and willing to work to get to the top from the ones who lazy and are gonna stay a 2 star forever. And 4- and 5-star camp attendees? They have to pay their dues too. (No prima donnas here!) UTOUGH works as well in the camps as it does in the spring season. What a simple and effective recruiting and coaching strategy: put on the pressure and see who’s gonna crack, who’s gonna cry, and who’s gonna crank. Time will tell, but I believe UM struck “gold” when they hired Al Golden. It’s only a matter of time before the prima donna naysayers of college football nation lose their “4 and 5 star recruit only” blinders to see it.