University of Miami

UM ‘D’ has been ‘a little feisty’ this week. Just wait until Saturday’s scrimmage

UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, left, goes through defensive drills during practice at the Greentree Practice Field on the Coral Gables University of Miami campus, Monday, August 6, 2018.
UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, left, goes through defensive drills during practice at the Greentree Practice Field on the Coral Gables University of Miami campus, Monday, August 6, 2018. CJUSTE@MIAMIHERALD.COM

University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz looked particularly invigorated Monday, the third day of Miami Hurricanes fall camp. And that’s saying a lot because Diaz is never exactly lethargic.

His players?

Supercharged.

Coach Mark Richt mentioned this week that fall practice session No. 7 would be the Hurricanes’ first scrimmage. Diaz confirmed Monday that the scrimmage — full pads, of course— would be Saturday. On Monday, the Canes wore shoulder pads for the first time, getting closer to that glorious full contact.

“Guys have waited since April to hit,’’ Diaz said at Greentree Field. “We looked eager. I’ll say, [for] both sides of the ball … our two days in helmets were highly competitive. Sometimes those can turn into glorified walk-throughs. Highly competitive and today was the same way. A lot of big hits and a lot of guys really playing with an edge about them, both sides of the ball, which is good. We’ve got a thing now — like we mentioned in the spring — this team has an edge about it. It’s been a little feisty out here, and as coaches, I think we think that’s a good thing.”

Diaz was asked how long it takes to decide which freshmen will be in the rotation. He said, as has been evident in media viewing, that coaches put the youngest newcomers behind the others the first week. That will change, at least at some point, come Saturday.

University of Miami defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz speaks after the team's practice at Greentree Fields in Coral Gables, Fla. on Monday, August 6, 2018.

“What we do is, the first week, all the freshmen go with the third group,’’ he explained. “That way, there’s kind of no status or whatever. That way all of the recruiting stars fall right to the ground.

“Also though, we can limit some of the calls — make some things easier — so they can show us they can play without having to do so much thinking, not make it so complicated jumping around from this defense to that defense.

“We’ll scrimmage on Saturday, and after Saturday we’ll start to break up the depth chart. We’ll start to move some guys and maybe some of the young guys can go. But you can’t really make an assessment until you get to that scrimmage day, because it’s just different with a scrimmage.

“All of a sudden, guys start going crazy. And with our first game being in such an intense environment, it’s not just, ‘can you play?’ But, ‘can you play on that stage? At that level?’ That’s not a talent question, it’s really a [question] of poise, mental toughness and not thinking you know what to do. You have to know what to know what to do in the opener [against LSU in Arlington, Texas].”

Other Diaz notables from Monday:

On if there’s a desire to play younger players more in scrimmages because veterans have more experience:

“It depends. I think, much like an NFL preseason, sometimes different scrimmages have different meanings, in terms of guys getting in. At the same time, you have to get the whole football team sharp to go. We don’t get to jump into the shallow end of the pool this year. We’re going right into where the lifeguard sits, in the deep end. We have to be ready to go.”

On, which younger players have impressed him this week:

“They all have,’’ he said. “That’s the neat thing about it. You see [defensive tackle] Jade [Silvera] back there with a tackle for loss, [defensive tackle] Jordan Miller back there making plays in the backfield. We already know what to expect from [defensive end Greg] Rousseau. He’s kind of picked up where he left off in the spring.

“On the back end, you see [cornerback] Al Blades have a really good day the first day, and certainly [cornberback Gilbert] Frierson and [cornerback DJ] Ivey. [Safety] Gurvan Hall [after injury] is back in the mix and doing Gurvan Hall things.

“The problem is this: We know they’re all talented. They can flash, but you don’t win all your games with guys flashing. You win all your games with guys doing their job on every play. We’re happy they’re all here. We’d recruit them all again. But now comes the hard part.

“Greatness is being consistently good. ...Greatness comes from being that guy every time. And a great team comes from being consistently good. Sometimes that means, [like] last October, putting teams away that we should have put away much earlier. That’s that idea of being consistently the same team, week in and week out, that we’re really trying to strive for.

“I think that’s why we have that edge.”

Diaz said the first-team cornerbacks who remain the most consistent are senior Michael Jackson and sophomore Trajan Bandy. Behind them for now are Jhavonte Dean, Frierson and Ivey, not necessarily in that order, depending on the day. “They all have their different pluses and minuses.’’

The coach also mentioned that Blades might play some nickel. But then again, Diaz indicated, “he may end up being our third or fourth-best corner.

“For the first two weeks we just let everybody play and then we’ve got two weeks to get ready for the game.’’

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