University of Miami

Coach Manny Diaz hires Miami Hurricanes’ new defensive coordinator, report says

Manny Diaz said at his introductory press conference Wednesday in Coral Gables he’d make one more hire on the defensive side of the ball and announce it “quickly.” Now the hire is in place.

Blake Baker has been hired by the Miami Hurricanes as their new defensive coordinator, reported Wednesday. Baker is currently the defensive coordinator and safeties coach of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and has held the position since 2015 when he succeeded Diaz in the role.

The assistant coach will be another familiar face for Diaz on the side of the ball he specializes. Baker was the safeties coach under Diaz in 2014, the one season Diaz spent as Louisiana Tech’s defensive coordinator between stints as defensive coordinator for the Texas Longhorns and Mississippi State Bulldogs. Baker was also part of Diaz’s Texas staff as a graduate assistant in 2011 and 2012. Jonathan Patke, currently Miami’s linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator, was also on staff at Louisiana Tech with Diaz and Baker in 2014.

Ephraim Banda, who is currently the other co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, also had a previous working relationship with Diaz, working on Diaz’s staff at Mississippi State, and on the same Longhorns staff as Diaz and Baker.

Baker’s hire will certainly shake up roles on Diaz’s staff, as the coach alluded to in a conversation with beat writers Wednesday at the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence. Patke and Banda were promoted to co-defensive coordinators by former coach Mark Richt last month when Diaz briefly became coach of the Temple Owls. It’s not immediately clear how their roles will change with Baker in the fold.

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“I’d rather, when the entire defensive staff is set, explain everybody’s roles,” Diaz said. “There will be some slight changes in terms of what happened a couple weeks ago, but it’s very important that my trust in what those guys can be and having multiple guys that you can raise that can become coordinators is going to be very valuable to this program.”

Baker, 36, is something of a rising star in the coaching world. Louisiana Tech finished 2018 ranked No. 27 in the nation in total defense. Under Baker’s coaching, star defensive end Jaylon Ferguson became the all-time sacks leader and finished the season with 17.5.

Diaz said Wednesday he plans to retain the rest of the defensive staff, which includes defensive line coach Jess Simpson and cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph. Baker’s hire will leave Diaz with five more openings on his staff after he fired the entire offensive coaching staff Monday.

Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.