University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes’ hire of Manny Diaz has defensive recruits fired up about future

Hurricanes AD Blake James discusses Mark Richt’s retirement

Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt surprisingly announced his retirement days after a Pinstripe Bowl loss to the Wisconsin Badgers. Athletic director Blake James held a press conference to discuss the news.
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Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt surprisingly announced his retirement days after a Pinstripe Bowl loss to the Wisconsin Badgers. Athletic director Blake James held a press conference to discuss the news.

Jason Blissett can admit it now: He was panicked throughout most of Sunday.

When Blissett got the text message from one of the Miami Hurricanes’ recruiting staff members telling to tell him coach Mark Richt was retiring, Blissett didn’t really know what to do. Even after defensive coordinator Manny Diaz took the job as the coach of the Temple Owls, Blissett signed his National Letter of Intent with the Hurricanes because he had faith in Richt. For a few hours Sunday, the four-star defensive tackle worried he had made a mistake.

Then he got another text later in the night. Shock replaced panic. Diaz was coming back to Coral Gables as Miami’s coach.

“I was actually expecting the worst,” Blissett said Monday. “I thought somebody different was going to come in and I didn’t know who to expect, and I also didn’t realize how much turnover there is in the business. So I didn’t know you could leave for a head coaching job and come right back to the school you just left for another head coaching job. I didn’t know it worked like that.”

It’s been less than 24 hours since the Hurricanes announced Diaz as their 25th coach and rave reviews have piled in from current, former and, maybe most importantly, future players about the hire. Of Miami’s six blue-chip Class of 2019 commitments, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings, five are defensive players and all five signed Letters of Intent on Dec. 19.

Through social media, text messages and phone calls, potential future Hurricanes have expressed their excitement with the hire.

Blissett said he even heard from Diaz on Monday, just a few hours after the coach officially accepted the job. Blissett admitted he was uncertain about his long-term future with the Hurricanes in the wake of Richt’s retirement. Now he’s under the impression Miami will have its entire defensive staff from 2018 back intact for his freshman season.

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“I actually spoke to him this morning,” said the defensive lineman from Poly Prep Country Day in Brooklyn. “He’s excited to have me, he’s excited to coach me. He’s just excited to do great things together.”

Jahfari Harvey, the only defensive prospect slated to early enroll next month, never wavered from his commitment. Even before Diaz’s hire was announced, the four-star defensive end from Vero Beach said in a text message he still planned to early enroll.

“I’m all set to be there in January,” he said.

The defensive lineman then shared an emoji-fueled message on Twitter after the hire was announced.

As for the one offensive blue-chip prospect in the recruiting class, Jeremiah Payton is excited about stability. The four-star wide receiver from Neptune Beach Fletcher said he still planned to early enroll after Richt’s retirement. Now he’s glad to have a coach he’s familiar with, although he did hope Diaz would keep some of the offensive staff intact.

“I’m still enrolling,” the receiver said in a text.

The more important influence, however, could be on how Miami closes out the 2019 cycle. Most of the Hurricanes’ top remaining targets are on the defensive side of the ball with five-star Palm Beach Central cornerback, four-star Cardinal Gibbons defensive end Khris Bogle, and four-star cornerbacks Tyrique Stevenson from Southridge and Kaiir Elam from Benjamin still in play.

Stevenson and Bogle are both just days away from announcing their decisions, as both are set to make public commitments Saturday at the All-American Bowl, formerly the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Stevenson as one of the first recruits to post about his excitement on social media Sunday.

While Stevenson planned to sign with either Miami or the Georgia Bulldogs on Dec. 21, there’s no clear indication of whether he did and which hat he’ll place atop his head in San Antonio.

“It shocked me,” Stevenson told 247Sports.com at check in for the All-American Bowl on Monday. “It’s a real eye-opener.”

Bogle will also make his decision public at the Alamodome, although he won’t sign until the traditional national signing day. The defensive lineman has said multiple times in recent weeks his mind was not yet made up. Maybe Diaz will influence his decision.

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