By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Sports Writer
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Braxton Berrios' story could serve as the ultimate example of what Miami is trying to accomplish this year.
He told people for years that his dream was to play for the Hurricanes. More often than not, they wouldn't believe. In fairness, he doesn't exactly fit the mold of the prototype Miami wide receiver — he stands only at 5-foot-9 and he's not a South Florida native like many great Hurricanes at that position in the past, hailing instead from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Look at him now. After 21 catches last season as a freshman, Berrios is already considered a leader and one of the keys to Miami's success in 2015.
"I know I got the last laugh," Berrios said. "They can turn on the TV and see it. I know I got the last laugh on all those people who laughed in my face."
He's thinking the Hurricanes might get some collective last laughs this season as well.
It's an annual rite in college football. Dozens of preseason publications come out and predict how the year ahead will play out, and it's no secret around Miami that the external expectations for the Hurricanes this season aren't exactly overwhelming. The consensus seems to be that the Hurricanes will basically be a middle-of-the-pack team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and that coach Al Golden's hold on his job is tenuous at best.
Somehow, the Hurricanes have convinced themselves not to care about what's being said on the outside.
"We don't listen to it," Berrios said. "We're not worried about that … we're not. We're going to be good. We know we're going to be good and that's really all that matters to us. We can't stop them from saying anything, we can't sway their opinion. We don't care."
After a freefall ended last season — a four-game losing streak, to be precise — Miami doesn't need much in the way of motivation these days. The Hurricanes finished 6-7, the program's worst mark since 2007 and that came in a year where they were supposed to contend for the ACC's Coastal title. Now, only a few of the preseason predictors see Miami as a legit candidate to win the Coastal.
The Hurricanes disagree. They're also not looking back.
"I'm excited. That's it," Golden said Friday at the team's annual media day luncheon, seeming exasperated over a question about the 2014 season.
Everyone knows that these have not been glory years for Miami.
The Hurricanes haven't won a national title since the 2001 season, are still waiting for their first ACC crown, plus haven't won a bowl game since escaping with a 21-20 win over Nevada on a frigid New Year's Eve night at Boise State in 2006.
And of course, there was that NCAA investigation that started in 2011 over the actions of a rogue former booster who's now serving time in federal prison for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
Golden may be in a make-or-break year, even though he's under contract through the 2019 season. He said Friday that he doesn't let that notion bother him, saying all that matters is getting this team ready for this season.
"We need to get better," Miami athletic director Blake James said. "We need to get better. We need to get better as a program and we need to look at what are we doing to get better and look at all the categories. Some are very easy to quantify. Others aren't. … He's been working on making the changes that are necessary to make us a better program."
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