Jon Feliciano is excited about the future of his current team, the Oakland Raiders. He’s pumped up about his college team, the Hurricanes, who hired Mark Richt and have a quarterback, Brad Kaaya, he thinks will be a first-round NFL draft pick.
He’s also pretty happy he’s not playing for Al Golden.
In an interview Thursday on WQAM’s Big O Show, Feliciano, who played in six games as a rookie for the Raiders (three starts), spoke for several of his former teammates, accusing Golden of harming their NFL draft status and college careers.
His comments were spurred by a recent Detroit Free Press interview with Golden, who was fired last Oct. 24 and now coaches tight ends for the Detroit Lions. In the interview, Golden said the Detroit job rejuvenated him, after a decade as a college head coach and four-plus years in Miami.
“I felt like I was burnt out,” Golden said. “I needed this.”
Feliciano’s initial response to the article:
That got him a booking with host Orlando Alzugaray, who regularly ripped Golden during the latter part of his tenure. Alzugaray asked Feliciano, a Davie native who trains at UM in the offseason, what nerve Golden’s comments struck.
“I’m in a group text with a few of my other teammates from Miami, and everyone that texted just felt disrespected, and felt like he was trying to put the blame on someone else,” Feliciano said, adding that he wasn’t going to come on the show but was encouraged by other teammates who “aren’t in the position I’m in, to comfortably speak about this, [who might] harm themselves in a way being honest can.”
In the interview, which can be listened to in full here, Feliciano accused Golden of trying to cajole left tackle Ereck Flowers “to stay [in school, rather than declare for the 2015 draft] by saying he wasn’t a first-round pick.” Flowers went ninth overall to the New York Giants. He also said in 2013 UM refused to allow quarterback Stephen Morris to get an MRI until after the season, “because we really needed Stephen at that point.”
Pressing, Alzugaray, asked Feliciano if UM “held out finding the truth so the kid could play injured.” Feliciano said, “Yeah. We didn’t find out the extent of Stephen’s injury until the combine. By that time it’s, OK, that’s a red flag, he has a ruptured Achilles’.”
Golden, who did not respond to a text message sent Thursday afternoon, has repeatedly refused to discuss his tenure at UM. Reached by phone, Morris’ father, Colin, said he did not recall the situation Feliciano described.
“I can’t support that,” Morris said, when told of Feliciano’s comments. “I know Stephen played because he wanted to play. I don’t know anything about anyone saying, ‘We don’t want you to have an MRI now.’ … This is the first I’ve ever heard of that. But then again, I wasn’t at the campus when Stephen was talking to all of his trainers. All I know is Stephen has never complained about any medical care he received or did not receive at Miami.”
Morris, who was undrafted, is competing for the Indianapolis Colts’ backup job, behind Andrew Luck. “He loves the coaching,” Colin Morris said. “He loves the camaraderie.”
Feliciano, who also cited the example of former teammate Anthony Chickillo, who has multiple times expressed his frustration with his UM career, said he was most irritated by the story of UM quarterback Ryan Williams, a two-year backup to Morris who was ready to start when he tore his ACL in April 2014. Williams said he was ready for action in September, but UM wouldn’t clear him until November. He threw one pass his senior season and was not drafted.
“That was the most messed-up situation I’ve seen,” said Feliciano, who repeatedly said he was not speaking ill of Kaaya. “We know Brad Kaaya is the best quarterback we’ve had probably in a while. Me and Brad talked about this before. I’m not taking no shots at Brad Kaaya. Brad Kaaya is the truth. He’s going to be a first-round draft pick. He might be top-five, top-10.
“But when you have a guy, Ryan Williams, who starts at Memphis, breaks a bunch of records, transfers to Miami, has to sit behind Stephen for two or three years, pays his dues, does everything right, he starts, he’s doing great, tears his ACL on a waggle play, it was a crazy thing, he works his butt off to be ready for camp.
“He’s 100 percent. He’s ready. They’re saying he’s not ready. I’m playing basketball with him. We’re out there running. He’s doing everything. They’re trying to say he’s not ready, we’re not going to clear him. He doesn’t get cleared. It’s supposed to be his team. He’s a senior.
“We’ve been working with him all summer, all the year before. … No one knows how good Ryan Williams is. He never got the chance to play. He’s one of my good friends and I felt real bad for him, the way they handled his situation. Telling him, you know, ‘This is still your team, whenever you get back from your ACL, this is still your team.’ Come to find out, oh, he’s back: ‘Sorry, we’re going with Brad.’
Feliciano said upperclassmen felt the coaching staff made a decision with a built-in excuse — if we fail, we’re failing in part because we have to play a freshman quarterback.
“Coach Golden has a degree in psychology,” Feliciano said. “He definitely used that.”
Asked if players ever tried to talk to Golden to get him to change his on-field schemes and ways of operating, Feliciano laughed before the question was finished.
“Good luck with that,” he said.
In 2014, UM went 6-7 after some of those upperclassmen checked out for the year. After the season, seven players were drafted, including Feliciano, a fourth-round pick. Six signed free agent contracts, including Williams, who is now with the Green Bay Packers.
Five months later, Golden was fired.