It’s finally official.
University of Miami coach Manny Diaz on Monday announced the hiring of defensive coordinator Blake Baker out of Louisiana Tech — after reports of the hire were leaked last week.
The Hurricanes’ defensive staff is now in place, and includes co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Ephraim Banda, outside linebackers coach Jonathan Patke (who will double as special teams coordinator), cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph and defensive line coach Jess Simpson, who retains the title of associate head coach.
Baker will run the defensive operations and call the defensive plays. He also will serve as inside linebackers coach.
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Patke will no longer be the co-defensive coordinator, a title given to him by former coach Mark Richt after Diaz temporarily left UM last month to become the Temple head coach.
Baker, 36, runs an aggressive defense and has been the defensive coordinator and safeties coach of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs since 2015 when he succeeded Diaz in the role — and learned much of what he knows from Diaz, who was the UM defensive coordinator the past three seasons.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Blake to The U,” Diaz said in a written release. “He built and orchestrated a fast, tenacious defense at Louisiana Tech that consistently made big plays. I have watched him grow and develop as a coach throughout his career and I’m confident he will help our defense continue to excel.
“I’m excited as we move forward with this defensive staff room. We have a collection of smart, energetic coaches who I trust and respect, and who I know will ensure that we hold Miami defense to a high standard each and every day.”
Baker’s 2018 Bulldogs squad (8-5, 5-3 Conference USA) finished 27th in the nation in total defense (341.3 yards allowed per game), 29th in passing yards allowed (191.6) 50th in rushing defense (149.7), fourth in sacks, 12th in tackles for loss, 33rd in turnovers gained and 33rd in third-down conversion defense.
Louisiana Tech star defensive end Jaylon Ferguson set the NCAA career sack record with his 45th against Hawaii on Dec. 23 in the Hawaii Bowl. Ferguson had 17.5 sacks this past season.
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.
Patke was also on the Louisiana Tech staff with Diaz and Baker in 2014.
Banda also had a previous working relationship with Baker when they worked on Diaz’s staff at Mississippi State and Texas.
“I couldn’t be more excited,’’ Baker said. “Obviously the opportunity to get back together with Coach Diaz, Coach Banda and Coach Patke, guys I’ve worked with in the past, was important, but also the chance to uphold the winning tradition they’ve had, both since they’ve been here and also historically.
“One thing about the University of Miami, it has forever been known for its defense. I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to lead this unit.”
Last week, Diaz did not want to reveal his plans for any reorganization of the defensive staff.
“I’d rather, when the entire defensive staff is set,’’ he said, “explain everybody’s roles. 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.’’
UM’s defense was one of the best in the nation this past season. The Hurricanes finished No. 1 nationally in tackles for loss (10.5 a game), third-down conversion percentage defense (25.3 percent) and passing yards allowed (135.6 yards a game).
The Canes (7-6, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) were No. 5 in total defense (278.9 yards allowed), No. 10 in sacks and No. 16 in turnovers gained. Their weakest major defensive category was rushing defense, which worsened to No. 42 (143.3 rushing yards allowed a game) after the Pinstripe Bowl.
UM has yet to announce its new offensive coaching staff, which is expected to be completed by the end of the week.
As for special teams, though UM finished third nationally in punt returns this past season (19.8 yards a return) and 27th in kickoff returns (23.2 yards), the Canes were 104th in kickoff return defense, 116th in net punting and 92nd in punt return defense.