University of Miami

Florida’s top-ranked uncommitted prospect thinks Manny Diaz can be an upgrade at Miami

Kaiir Elam waited to make a final decision after he took his official visit with the Miami Hurricanes just before the early signing period. The four-star cornerback from Benjamin spent the first weekend of December in Coral Gables, then decided he’d wait until the new year to take his last four official visits and sign his National Letter of Intent in February.

Now he has a new Miami to learn about. Coach Mark Richt announced his shocking retirement later in the month and the Hurricanes quickly moved to hire Manny Diaz as coach.

Elam thinks it was a good move by Miami.

“I’m a big fan of Miami. The coaching change, I think that was a good move,” Elam said after helping Team Ballaholics to a 28-27 win against Team Flash in the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday in Orlando. “I like Coach Richt, as well, so did my mom. But Coach Diaz, I feel like he’ll do the same thing, but maybe a little bit better.”

While he might not get another chance for an up-close look at how Diaz could turn things around, Elam still has the Hurricanes somewhere in the mix as he prepares to make his college choice because Diaz is keeping the defensive staff intact.

Miami hasn’t always been at the forefront of Elam’s recruitment. The level of communication between the two parties has varied throughout the process as other teams, like the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs, have more consistently recruited the elite defensive back.

The Hurricanes have managed to climb into the mix, though, because of how impressive their defense was last season, allowing the fewest passing yards per game of any team across the country. With cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph and the rest of the defensive staff remaining intact, Elam sees an appealing culture Diaz established on his specialized side of the ball.

“He’s a winner,” Elam said. “You can see what he did on the defense and hopefully he transitions it to the whole offensive end and they can win games.”

Elam would be a boon for Diaz’s first recruiting class. The corner is the No. 8 player in Florida, according to the composite rankings, and the top remaining uncommitted player in the state for the Class of 2019. In the All-America Game at Camping World Stadium, Elam logged one tackle, and helped hold Flash to 135 yards and three interceptions on 14-of-28 passing. He would be Miami’s top-ranked commitment if he opted to stay in South Florida for college.

The Hurricanes probably have an uphill battle, though, after Elam used his official visit last month. Florida and Georgia are still major suitors, as are the Ohio State Buckeyes and Oregon Ducks. Elam is scheduled to officially visit Oregon the weekend of Jan. 25 and is still working on figuring out the rest of his dates. He did not, however, rule out potentially taking an unofficial visit down to Coral Gables if the opportunity presents itself and he feels it’ll help him better understand the new situation at Miami.

After all, everything which has taken place with the Hurricanes in the past two week has been a shock. From Richt’s retirement to Diaz’s surprising return just 18 days after he took over as the Temple Owls’ coach.

“I didn’t know I could get out of his contract, so easily. That was a surprise. I was really surprised,” Elam said. “He just tells me, like, If you want to be a Cane, you can be a Cane, but he don’t really rush me or anything like that.”

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