UM’s Manny Diaz first practice as head football coach
The word “swag” was mentioned multiple times Tuesday at the inaugural Miami Hurricanes spring practice of 2019 — the first official practice conducted by new head coach Manny Diaz.
Both times the s-word was used in describing Ohio State quarterback transfer Tate Martell, who slung footballs along with fellow scholarship quarterbacks N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility, where players were oblivious of the downpour outside.
Several hours later, Martell, the 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year when he played at national champion Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High, heard the news that the NCAA had approved his waiver request that will allow him to play immediately in 2019 instead of sitting out the customary NCAA-mandated season for nongraduate transfers.
“Tate, he’s a character, dude,’’ said ever-enthusiastic tight end Brevin Jordan, a soon-to-be sophomore who also favors the word ‘elite’ and played with Martell at Bishop Gorman. “He’s a 5-11, little white dude with tattoos, running around with high energy. Cocky. Just loves the swag. His swag is so Miami.
“Tate, he’s going to fit in. He’s elite. Elite. Just simple as that. Elite.’’
But be assured that Martell wasn’t the only quarterback lavished with praise by players and coaches Tuesday, despite footballs being misfired regularly to start practice, and other throws being dropped by perhaps jittery receivers trying to impress on opening day after no on-field practices since that dreadful 35-3 loss in the Pinstripe Bowl.
UM’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Enos was effusive about the 6-2, 210-pound Williams, who played sparingly in one game last season but as a vaunted, four-star All-American at Lawrenceville (Georgia) Central Gwinnett High, is one signal caller fans are eagerly hoping will emerge as a star.
“Jarren looked good today,’’ Enos said of Williams, who was followed by Perry, Martell and three walk-on quarterbacks in a rotation during tight end and wide receiver drills. “I was really impressed with him. He threw a really good ball, he’s got very good mechanics, he’s got good feet. I think he’s done a really good job at working.
“I’ve noticed him in the building a lot in his off time, doing different things — with all the guys, but Jarren in particular.”
Enos was also asked about Perry, who started six games last year.
“N’Kosi did a really good job again today, too. We’re doing so many different things underneath center right now where it’s a little bit foreign to some of them. Again, I’ve challenged them to do a lot of that work on their own, which they have, but certainly the footwork and all those things will get better as we continue to go.”
At times Tuesday, two quarterbacks would stand side-by-side and pass to different receivers simultaneously. Some throws landed flush in their targets’ arms. Others, such as two by Martell, slammed into the padded wall that reporters lined during about 35 minutes of viewing on a day that Diaz allowed extra media time.
“Very competitive young man, very good intellect, highly energetic,’’ Enos said of Martell. “Extremely, extremely good athlete. He’s got great lower-body explosiveness, really good short-area quickness and showed a very live arm today, so that was good to see, but I’ve been very impressed with Tate. He’s handled himself very well and I think as a transfer coming in, as a brand-new guy, he’s done a very good job.”
Rising junior running back DeeJay Dallas called Martell “a cool dude.”
“That’s my dog,’’ Dallas said. “Don’t mess with Tate. That’s my boy. He comes to work and he’s prepared and he plays the game with passion. …He’s a character. Him and Brevin are cut from the same cloth – you know, that Vegas swag as they say.’’
Enos, who could be heard chastising his offensive players and making several do pushups, acknowledged that this was only Day One, and that “playing the position isn’t just about the physical qualities.’’
“It’s about a lot of the intangible things,’’ he said. “I liked their demeanor. I liked their attitudes. I thought they did a good job of trying to stay composed with a lot of chaos and things going on, as you would expect on the first day. I see some guys with live arms.’’
All three quarterbacks had their good and bad moments Tuesday, as music blared inside the practice facility and players did various drills that differed from the ones used by former coach Mark Richt.
“It was fun to watch,’’ Diaz said. “It was good to see. It was great to get on the field and, it’s like you sort of push the ship into the water and now we’re going somewhere.”
A few players reiterated that this truly is “The New Miami,” Diaz’s by-now famous slogan.
“It’s fun, dude,’’ Jordan said. “The energy feels so much different. “The whole vibe of this team. We walk into the locker room excited, excited to be here, excited to be Miami. Coach Diaz, when he says ‘The New Miami,’ he means it. It’s true. It feels different.”
Added senior linebacker Michael Pinckney: “The New Miami, we just want to have fun. I feel like we got out of having fun and we got away from ourselves. But the standard is something Coach Diaz is trying to set again, that the defense held ourselves to. We’re trying to make that a whole team thing.”
“We’re just trying to preach excellence, toughness, things like that.’’
▪ Diaz said the limited participants this spring include running back Lorenzo Lingard (knee), tight end Brian Polendey (knee) and striker/linebacker Zach McCloud (hand).
▪ Of the three walk-on quarterbacks, transfer Carson Proctor was most impressive. Proctor played at Arkansas when Enos was the Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator.
▪ Redshirt senior safety Robert Knowles appeared to hurt his left hip defending running back Cam Davis. He was examined by medical staff, then returned to practice.