University of Miami

How the Hurricanes plan to be 'ready to roll' for their season opener against LSU

Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz speaks to journalists on National Signing Day at the University of Miami’s Schwartz Center in February.
Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz speaks to journalists on National Signing Day at the University of Miami’s Schwartz Center in February. mocner@miamiherald.com

The Miami Hurricanes' marquee season opener against LSU continues to inch closer and closer.

The countdown is at 68 days until the Sept. 2 matchup between the Hurricanes and the Tigers takes place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the home of the Dallas Cowboys commonly known as Jerry's World.

If the Hurricanes want to start 2018 on a high note and build off last year's successful run that ended in an Orange Bowl berth, a win on opening night is needed.

"We don't get four exhibition games or preseason games to find our way," UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Tuesday on WQAM's Joe Rose Show. "We've got to be ready to roll Day 1. I think that's just the nature of college ball."

And with Miami coming that much closer to its first season opener against a Power 5 opponent since 2014, game planning is becoming all the more crucial.

That's easier said than done in some cases, though.

While the Hurricanes have game film on LSU, not all of it will be useful, especially for Diaz's defensive preparations. After all, the Tigers have a new offensive coordinator in Steve Ensminger, a new quarterback in Ohio State graduate transfer Joe Burrow and are replacing their top two skill position players. Leading rusher Darrius Guice and receiver DJ Chark are both in the NFL.

"You're piecing a lot of information together from a lot of different sources," Diaz said.

Consider it a director's cut of top game video. Diaz has to weigh the importance of finding highlights of the returning players, highlights of the offensive scheme LSU will likely run under Ensminger (who called plays late in the 2016 season after Les Miles was fired) and find out the strengths and weaknesses of their new quarterback.

Three areas of game footage to sift through. Very little overlap.

"It's funny," Diaz said. "You can tell guys 'Hey, watch this film from two years ago, but none of the players.' You can say 'Hey, watch the film from this year, but only these players and don't watch the schemes or the plays.' And then 'Oh, by the way, watch this guy in red and gray who will be throwing the ball.'"

UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz: “Play your best when your best is required.”

While Diaz and the rest of the Miami staff comb over game footage, Diaz wants his players focusing on themselves for the time being. There are new players stepping into bigger roles this season, primarily along the defensive line. He was pleased with the defense's production this spring. Now, the goal is for it to translate onto the field under the lights.

"Game openers, season openers usually have a lot more to do with you and making sure that you're sound and your guys can get lined up," Diaz said. "Special teams are always important in opening games like this and obviously turnovers. You're trying to make sure that you're ready to go in terms of your techniques and fundamentals because there's no way you can completely predict exactly what your opposition will do."

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