The Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association had released its All-ACC Football Teams earlier this week, and University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz couldn’t believe what he saw – or more accurately, didn’t see.
Though the Hurricanes are among the leaders in several national defensive categories, no UM players made it on the first team, and other than punter Justin Vogel, only one – senior cornerback Corn Elder – made it on the second team.
Third team? Nada. Honorable mentions? Safety Rayshawn Jenkins and linebacker Shaquille Quarterman.
“Maybe just everybody tripped on the way to the end zone when they played us,’’ Diaz said on WQAM-560’s Hochman, Crowder and Krantz show Wednesday evening.
After the All-ACC list came out, UM posted a slick-looking graphic on Twitter of Quarterman pummeling ACC Rookie of the Year Deondre Francois, comparing UM’s 2015 NCAA defensive rankings to the current ones, with the caption: “We’ll just leave this right here…’’
UM finished 69th in total defense last season, for instance, compared to its current No. 26. The Canes were 86th in yards-per-play, compared to their current No. 13. They went from 77th in scoring defense to 14th, from 105th in tackles for loss to sixth, from 70th to 22nd in sacks and are now 17th in defensive touchdowns (none last year).
“I want to stick up for my guys,’’ Diaz, who was nominated for the Broyles Award (nation’s top assistant coach), told WQAM. “The players, they gave everything they had for us this year and they really bought into what Coach [Mark] Richt brought to this program.
“As we all know, the lists, you can tear them apart. They don’t mean anything. But you still want the guys to get the recognition that we feel like they deserve. Certainly we played halfway decent defense this year and somebody had to be doing something right.’’
After Diaz’s tweet explaining how incredulous he was – “13th in nation in Yards/Play, 14th in scoring D & only 1 guy on 1st/2nd/3rd team All-ACC? Only 2 Hnr Ment? Come on people, pay attention” – Richt and safeties coach Ephraim Banda posted their own Twitter versions.
“It is hard for me to believe that we have one of the best defenses in America and only can get one guy as a second team all ACC performer,’’ Richt wrote.
Diaz lauded defensive tackles Kendrick Norton and R.J. McIntosh, saying that for them to not “even get the participation ribbon was curious.
“We feel like in the back end Corn Elder had as good of a year as any cornerback in the conference.’’
Norton and McIntosh combined for 79 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. McIntosh has two blocked kicks and Norton a forced fumble.
Elder, widely known as a lock-down corner, was rarely thrown at as the season progressed. He finished with one interception, 69 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble and recovery and 12 pass breakups.
“The hardest thing with defense with these end of the year awards is they want to award guys with stats, and we’re a defense where we have a lot of guys that share the tackles,’’ Diaz said. “We have a lot of guys that share the playmaking abilities.
“There may be some poorer defenses where one guy had got to tackle everybody because they’re out there with 10 not as good players.
“When we get back together we’ll continue to kind of glue this to that big chip we carry around on our shoulder and understand that we have to keep trying to earn the respect of the nation.’’
Diaz added that the league’s All-ACC teams voted by the coaches “may be more accurate [from] those guys that actually watched the film, the things under the hood of the game.
“Look, we wouldn’t have had a parade if we would have had 10 guys on the list, either. It was an occasion for us to stick up for our players because we felt like they deserved more.’’