His defense is looking more and more like the ones that terrorized offenses back when the Miami Hurricanes were winning national championships.
They’re not there yet, University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will tell you, but they’re gaining ground every week.
Diaz, the son of the former Miami mayor and mastermind behind creating a way to motivate his players, was nominated Wednesday for the second year in a row for the Broyles Award that goes to the nation’s top assistant college football coach. He is one of 56 assistant coaches that were nominated from a pool of about 1,500 assistants representing 129 Football Bowl Subdivision programs.
Diaz is probably so busy preparing his seventh-ranked Hurricanes (8-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) for No. 3 Notre Dame (8-1) at 8 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium that a trophy is the last thing on his mind. But what he’s accomplished can hardly be ignored.
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Diaz’s players are currently ranked 12th nationally in scoring defense, allowing an average of 17.6 points a game. They’re seventh in passes intercepted (13), third in team passing efficiency defense, fifth in team sacks, 19th in turnovers gained (20) and No. 1 in team tackles for loss.
Under Diaz, Miami held opponents to 4.75 yards per play last season, ninth best in the nation, and ranked in the top 25 in scoring defense, sacks, tackles for loss and total defense. This season, UM is holding opponents to 4.4 yards a play, 10th nationally.
Diaz encourages his players, about whom he at times has staunchly defended, to be “violent,’’ as long as it’s on the football field and within the rules.
On Oct. 26, Diaz made an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter and was asked about growing up in Miami and how he has engrained into his players what the standard used to be for the program that has won five national championships and what that program is still trying to fulfill.
“We put it right in front of their face,’’ Diaz said. “Right when we got here as a coaching staff we said the Miami Hurricane defense is a standard that we all, as coaches and players…can look at as a burden’’ or “as a bar that you want to set yourselves towards. I will say this, to our guys’ credit, they have really risen to the occasion in terms of what we have asked them to do – playing fast, playing violent, playing physical. All the things, that really, when you think about Miami in the 80s, 90s, early 2000s, what a Miami Hurricane defense looked like, that’s what we try to accomplish every day in practice and every Saturday.”
Before the Broyles nominees were announced Wednesday, Diaz discussed Notre Dame’s offense, calling its vaunted offensive line “excellent’’ and saying “they were the best we played a year ago.”
“They have really committed themselves to pounding the rock this year,’’ he said, “and for good reason, because they have great running backs. The [Josh] Adams kid is not a good player, he’s a great player.’’
Adams 1,191 rushing yards is ninth nationally, with his 8.69 yards per carry third best in the country.
The Fighting Irish also have a defensive coordinator up for the Broyles Award — Mike Elko.
Going into this week, Notre Dame’s scoring defense was 17th in the nation, allowing 18.4 yards per game. The Irish are eighth in fumbles recovered (10) and 15th in turnovers gained (15).
An 18-member selection committee that include former head coaches, along with Football Writers Association of America representatives, will select 15 semifinaists and five finalists before the winner is announced on Dec. 5.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables won it last year.