When we talk to former Canes football players, it’s clear how much they care. That’s why Bryant McKinnie waited awhile to talk to Art Kehoe this spring, simply to offer mentoring to the offensive linemen. That’s why Bennie Blades sought out Ray-Ray Armstrong to challenge him “to be the next Jim Thorpe.”
That’s why 150 ex-Canes — at Al Golden’s urging — came to the spring game; why Ed Reed speaks often with Vaughn Telemaque; why Vince Wilfork makes himself available to Marcus Forston, and on and on.
But caring also means identifying problems that need to change. Ryan Hill, who cares deeply, is willing to do that.
After playing in the Sun Bowl (his final game at UM), Hill raised eyebrows by saying, “We have a lot of guys … that act like little boys.” The cornerback, who went undrafted, elaborated recently. He said he has been back to campus since leaving and that Golden still has work to do to get things right.
“When I made that comment,” he said, “what I meant is some guys are really immature.”
How many? More than a dozen, Hill said.
“In my early years at UM, there were guys who were freshmen who acted like adults — Jon Beason, Teraz McCray, Greg Olsen,” Hill said. “When I was a senior last year, some sophomores and juniors acted like freshmen. Guys would do silly stuff like pulling their pants down, wearing crazy stuff.
“Guys would come late to meetings. They would schedule appointments and not show up or listen to iPods in class. I was always told by academic advisors to talk to [teammates]. Some kids got worse after they got here. People were purposely doing stuff to mock Randy Shannon or do their own thing.
“Coach Shannon tried to make sure guys went to class and presented themselves well. But as soon as he turned his back, they would do what they wanted. There are a lot of guys who didn’t produce, and how they act off the field has a lot to do with it. That has to change.”
The low point was the Sun Bowl.
“I don’t want to name names, but there were a couple of receivers having a snowball fight on the sideline when we’re down 21-0,” Hill said. “ Brandon Harris and I got upset. We were already upset because we’re losing, and now we’ve got to go over and break up a fight. These guys have to grow up. I hope Coach Golden is instilling that. Without growing up, you will never be successful.”
Hill said some players who weren’t atop the depth chart stopped working hard — something that must change. “There were always guys pouting, because they’re not playing as much as they want,” Hill said. “That’s Pop Warner stuff. You can’t have that.”
That brought us to another topic: marijuana. Several players reportedly will be suspended for a game for using marijuana, though Golden has not confirmed that. Hill isn’t surprised.
“Coach Shannon put fear in guys not to do pot during the season. But I know there were a couple guys that beat the system,” Hill said. “Nobody got caught. Now coach Golden has a problem on his hands, and he has to figure out how to handle it. I’m sure there are guys still using, though there’s no way to know for sure. You have to have a zero tolerance rule, make an example out of somebody. It’s a problem across the country.”
He said UM tests randomly for drugs once a week — “I might have gotten tested once every three weeks” — and the NCAA tests once a year.
Hill doesn’t want Golden to be burdened with the same immaturity issues that hurt Shannon’s team. “Coach Golden is doing everything he’s supposed to,” Hill said. “But football is where he will be judged.”
Golden doesn’t want to discuss marijuana. But speaking in general, he said, “When there’s transition, there are kids that rebel.”
• Guard Brandon Washington said this spring that one problem last season that must change is that “you’ve got guys walking around talking about what they did in high school, what they did in Optimist ball. It’s like: ‘OK, you did that in high school. Do that now. We need you now.’ ”