Quick hits from UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after Wednesday’s practice:
***Quote of the day: I’ve kind of kicked the anthill at inside linebacker a little bit and I want those guys sort of scrambling around (different) positions and may the best man win.’’
*** He’s impressed with Shaq Quarterman’s self-imposed weight loss of 15 pounds to go from his playing weight of 250 last season to 235 now. “I think that was a self evaluation. When he watched himself last year, I think he felt at times he was sluggish.”
***On the depth at defensive tackle without Gerald Willis, who has taken a leave of absence: “If you’re sitting around bemoaning who your fifth defensive tackle is, that’s kind of something that people stop having sympathy with you for.’’
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***Diaz is clearly putting his best linemen on the field in most situations. On third downs, for example, he’s going for his “best third-down pass defenders...That could be four defensive ends, that could be six cornerbacks, that could be three outside linebackers.’’
***On team speed: “We’re getting there. I feel like we’re getting there. I’m not ready to stamp us winners of that championship yet.’’
***Diaz said linebacker Jamie Gordinier, back from major knee surgery, is looking good at practice. “The neat thing about Jamie is he feels really confident in his leg. Just the first couple days, even though there’s no contact out there, just moving and cutting, doesn’t show any hesitation. ... It helps us having him back. He’s a guy that’s very intelligent, answers all the questions in the meeting room and can play multiple positions.
***Mike Smith “has made massive improvements as a linebacker,’’ Diaz said of the backup man in the middle who is also training at weakside. “I want him to be in that competition at both of our inside linebacker spots and see.” Smith will also be learning the offense for when he is needed at fullack, but linebacker is his primary position.
Diaz said he’s working Smith, Bradley Jennings, Darrion Owens and Gordinier at Middle and weakside.
***Jhavonte Dean and Dee Delaney, UM’s new but veteran transfer cornerbacks, “have the talent we expected,’’ Diaz said. “Now what they’re learning in a crash course is how we operate and how we work.’’ Diaz said “it takes more than just being tall and fast’’ to understand the standard of major college football.
***On the next step he wants to see for UM defense: “Win us games.’’
***Diaz said that freshman Amari Carter has impressed at safety (behind Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine). He also praised Robert Knowles, saying he puts him “in the Mike Smith category as a guy that’s really made big leaps from where he was a year ago.’’