PONTE VEDRA BEACH — University of Miami linebacker Jon Beason trudged back to his locker room, an embarrassing 40-3 Peach Bowl loss to LSU in the books. It didn't take him long to find out the effects of such a thrashing. It was written all over his cell phone.
While the game played on, former Miami linebackers D.J. Williams and Jon Vilma sent text messages to Beason's phone. Words of encouragement they weren't.
"They said things like 'I can't watch this,'" Beason told reporters at Sunday's ACC Media Days, "and 'You guys quit. You guys are Hurricanes. We don't do that.'"
Following a whirlwind offseason that ushered in several new assistant coaches, the Hurricanes say they'll return to their mission of matching their own lofty expectations.
"At Miami, you don't play just for conference championships," Beason said. "You play for national championships. It's on us."
Miami wasn't even playing for a conference championship last season. The Hurricanes stumbled in the season opener against Florida State and a late season upset at Georgia Tech's hands knocked them out of contention.
Those losses, plus the Peach Bowl blowout, brought sweeping changes to the program. Head coach Larry Coker dismissed several assistants. In the end, Miami hired six new assistant coaches, including new offensive coordinator Rich Olson, a Miami assistant from 1992-94.
That gave returning starting quarterback Kyle Wright and the rest of the offense the task of learning a new system.
"It's putting in a lot of different things," Wright said of his spring. "It's kind of shocking, especially for some of the younger guys coming in. For me, it wasn't that different. A lot of formations are the same, but towards the end of the spring, the guys were really getting the hang of it."
The turmoil wasn't exclusive to the coaching staff. The Hurricanes recently lost linebacker Willie Williams, considered the nation's top linebacker prospect out of high school, after he asked to be released from his scholarship. Then reserve safety Willie Cooper was shot in the buttocks during a confrontation at his house with an unknown assailant, as teammate Brandon Merriweather returned fire with his own legally-registered handgun.
Beason said that, even with the off-the-field issues, the team must stay focused on the variables it can control."Someone robs you, that's out of your control," Beason said. "Willie leaves, that's out of your control. The coaches leave, that's out of your control. We just want to play football."
At the front of Miami's mind is its opening-game rematch with the Seminoles, this time in the Orange Bowl. Wright said his team knows what this game means – the winner stays in the ACC and national title hunt and the loser has a steeper mountain to climb. Wright said Miami will be ready to exact revenge.
"We're going to come out and we're going to be sharp," Wright said. "They haven't seen our offense, so we have a slight edge there because they don't know what to look for.
"But, to me, teams can know what we're doing," he added. "We have the type of players that, if we go out and execute, you won't be able to beat us."