Better find a coach who majors in defense, because that’s where UM’s title teams shined brightest

Not sure what you want in the next University of Miami head football coach, well, other than national championships and stuff?

I’m pointing to a solid defensive mind, somebody like Greg Schiano (available) or Butch Davis (available) or Chuck Pagano (available if the Indianapolis Colts finally get fed up enough to fire him) and Charlie Strong (available only if oil is discovered on the UM campus as a significant new source of salary-boosting revenue).

082499  Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano (center) with Mike Boireau(left) and Damione Lewis (right) after practice. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone
Former Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano (center) with Mike Boireau (left) and Damione Lewis (right) after a practice session in 1999. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone

The other guys on the Hurricanes’ supposed wish list might work out, too, if they’re hot recruiters and are able to land a top defensive coordinator on a tight budget, but flavor-of-the-month candidates like Tom Herman of Houston and Justin Fuente of Memphis are all about running up the score on offense.

That won’t cut it all by itself. The primary reason Miami isn’t Miami anymore is a total loss of that old rib-rocking identity on the defensive side of the ball.

The current Canes rank 89th in the nation in scoring defense with an average of 30.1 points allowed per game. It could be worse if Clemson’s Dabo Swinney hadn’t called off the dogs when he guys got to 58 at Sun Life Stadium last month.

This is pitiful, but it’s not new.

In Golden’s first four full seasons at Miami his teams averaged a No. 50 ranking in scoring defense. Now he’s gone but Golden’s defensive coordinator, Mark D’Onofrio, remains. Perhaps you noticed the other day while

101098 ORANGE BOWL FSU vs UM - University of Miami head coach Butch Davis makes a point to offensive tackle Char-ron Dorsey as he comes off the field during the second quarter against FSU in the Orange Bowl Saturday.  PHOTO BY:  RICHARD GRAULICH. 52p x 6.81i color 12c butch11 for dti
Former University of Miami head coach Butch Davis makes a point to offensive tackle Char-ron Dorsey as he comes off the field during the second quarter against FSU in 1998. (Photo by Richard Graulich/Palm Beach Post)

North Carolina was ringing up 59 points on the Canes.

We could look at other defensive statistical categories, like rush defense and pass defense and total defense, but really, what’s more important that keeping the other team off the scoreboard?

You know who used to do that? Miami’s five national championship teams.

Matter of fact, it’s what they did best.

Here’s a chart to show how each Miami title team ranked nationally in scoring defense.


Year                 Avg. Pts Allowed       Nat’l Rank

1983                       11.3                           No. 3

1987                       10.4                           No. 2

1989                          9.3                           No. 1

1991                         9.1                           No. 1

2001                         9.4                            No. 1


Oh, there’s a definite pattern all right, and we don’t need to run through the list of big-name, NFL-bound defenders who made it happen. Smothering defense was a Miami hallmark in the best of times.

You have to go back to Larry Coker’s teams to find a Miami bunch that ranked in the top five nationally in scoring defense. He had three of them in five years.

Of course, Randy Shannon was Coker’s defensive coordinator, and a darn good one. Some of you are probably shouting right now that my whole premise of looking for a defensive-minded coach in 2015 is flawed because of the way that Shannon failed to ignite the Canes when given the opportunity to run the whole show from 2007-10.

OK, but Shannon had never been a head coach, driving all the different agendas that make or break a program.

Butch has, in college and in the NFL. Same for Schiano. Strong got the Texas job, a monumental accomplishment, based on his success as a head coach at Louisville. Pagano, who recruited and coached four NFL first-rounders at Miami while running Butch’s secondary, has a .673 career winning percentage as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

[OK, so FSU didn’t win the ACC this year, but do you realize how rare that is?]

[Learning from the Heat’s Big Three and their ugly 9-8 start five years ago]

[Here’s a story about Yogi Berra and D-Day to mark Veterans Day]

Remember, I’m not saying that Miami’s next boss needs to limit opponents to 10 points per game. College football has changed too much for that with all the pinball offensive machines breaking scoreboards all over the country.

Just get back in there punching with the defensive leaders again, that’s all. Ohio State and Alabama are in the top 10 in scoring defense right now, and so is Florida.

Miami’s biggest downfall in recent years has been falling to the bottom of the barrel in that category. It’s what needs fixing first. It’s what no purely offensive-minded head coaching candidate can be trusted to do.