University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz on negative plays
While the University of Miami offense has struggled mightily this season, its defense has been stellar throughout.
But defensive coordinator Manny Diaz still hasn’t gotten his due.
Diaz, nominated for the prestigious Broyles Award for the third year in a row, failed to make the 15-man semifinalist list announced Tuesday.
The Broyles Award goes to the nation’s top assistant coach — defense or offense — at season’s end.
The Hurricanes are now No. 3 in total defense (274.5 yards allowed per game), behind No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Clemson.
They have been No. 1 in tackles for loss (10.2-per-game average) pretty much wire to wire.
They are No. 2 in third-down conversion percentage defense, No. 2 in passing yards allowed, No. 12 in turnovers gained, No. 20 in sacks, No. 32 in rushing defense and No. 19 in scoring defense.
The semifinalist list includes seven defensive coordinators, and six of their defenses are ranked lower than Miami in total defense, among several categories. Those programs are Mississippi State (No. 4), UAB (5), Army (11), Cal (18), LSU (25) and Washington State (26). Only Michigan has a better overall defense statistically among the semifinalists.
The Canes (6-5, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) meet Pittsburgh (7-4, 6-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the regular-season finale at Hard Rock Stadium.
Diaz was a Broyles semifinalist last season. According to UM, Hurricanes rank No. 1 in the FBS in Football Outsiders’ “Havoc Rate,’’ at 24.3 percent, which is calculated by adding total tackles for loss, passes defended and forced fumbles and dividing it by total plays.
On Tuesday after practice, Canes seniors gushed about Diaz, before the semifinalists were revealed.
The 53 nominees in this year’s class were selected from about 1,500 assistant coaches representing all FBS programs. The selection process includes the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), a college football hall of fame selection committee and current college head coaches.
“His passion, the love he gives us, the care that he shows us, it makes us want to go out there and play for him, run through a wall for him,’’ safety Jaquan Johnson said.
“Coach Diaz does everything well,’’ cornerback Michael Jackson said. “I’m not a real big speech guy, but the things he says before the game, it makes you think like, ‘Where did he come up with this?’
“He’s guaranteed the best D coordinator I’ve ever had because he knows how players think and he knows what they’re good at. Like, this year we’re good at playing man, so going into the season he said we’re going to play straight man.
“[Other] coaches said that before and you end up playing zone all season, but we played straight man, so he’s going to keep it 100 with you the whole time.”
Defensive tackle Gerald Willis, 13th in the nation in tackles for loss, with 17, said Diaz was “awesome.’’
“Like I’ve said, he and [defensive line] coach [Jess] Simpson and Coach [Mark] Richt, they’ve changed my life in many ways. I’m just so grateful and so thankful that Manny Diaz was my defensive coordinator.”
When asked by the Miami Herald on Tuesday afternoon, before the announcement, how he felt about being nominated for the Broyles, Diaz deferred his credit to the entire defensive coaching staff.
“One major reason we have success on defense is that we have an amazing defensive staff,’’ Diaz said. “A lot of us have worked together for a long time and are very tight. We all understand how the defense is supposed to work. We’re all on the same page. The kids get consistency from every one of us.
“All that sounds obvious, but I’ve been in situations where that wasn’t the case. In any organization, having that amazing synergy and that amazing chemistry — we have a great time together, and the kids see that. That helps foster sometimes that glue that makes you play a little better than the sum of your parts.
“I think that comes from the staff.’’