University of Miami

Manny Diaz at first Paradise Camp as coach: ‘Hurricanes belong to our football alumni’

Miami Hurricanes Head Coach Manny Diaz speaks about the future of Paradise Camp

Head Coach Manny Diaz speaks to the media about his vision for the program and Paradise Camp at Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility in Coral Gables, Florida Saturday June 22, 2019.
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Head Coach Manny Diaz speaks to the media about his vision for the program and Paradise Camp at Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility in Coral Gables, Florida Saturday June 22, 2019.

As Manny Diaz puts it, Paradise Camp is the Miami Hurricanes’ bridge between three generations. It starts with the prospective recruits, about 100 of which were invited to the camp and competed inside the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility on Saturday at Miami’s signature summer recruiting event.

Then there are the current players and about a dozen of them set up throughout the Indoor Practice Facility to put some of their future teammates through drills and serve as de facto hype men.

At the top, there are the former players, some of them current Pro Bowlers and some Hall of Famers, and literally dozens flock back to Coral Gables each year to coach and speak at the recruiting camp. They range from those who just finished their careers as Hurricanes, like Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine, to those whose careers are long over, like Warren Sapp and Gino Torretta.

“This is about guys giving back. This is about guys pouring into this program, and that’s why I’ll say over and over again that the Miami Hurricanes belong to our football alumni,” Diaz said. “We’ve got in my mind the premier college football alumni, we’ve got our current team and don’t think for a second that they don’t benefit from being around all of our alumni, and then you’ve got as good of a collection of recruits that’s probably assembled anywhere in America today, so you’ve got three generations of college football — the future the present and the past — all here at once.”

The camp began with the future. After the current and former players introduced themselves, Diaz handed off the microphone to Michael Irvin and the Hall of Fame wide receiver delivered one of the impassioned speeches he’s known for.

“If you don’t want to win championships, you don’t want to do something special in life,” Irvin said, “then get out the door right now.”

Once he was done, it was all about the future. Current and former players took recruits into the meeting rooms to answer questions, then took them out to the fields to work with the biggest collection of high school talent the Hurricanes will have on campus all year.

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Columbus defensive lineman kicks of Paradise Camp with commitment

The good news started for Miami before Paradise Camp was even officially underway.

The Hurricanes opened up the marquee recruiting weekend with an event Friday and came away with a commitment from Columbus defensive lineman Elijah Roberts, one of the best defensive players in the Miami metropolitan area.

A three-star defensive end in the composite rankings for the Class of 2020, Roberts orally pledged to the Hurricanes on Friday and announced his commitment on Twitter.

“My mom and dad are my biggest supporters. I couldn’t do this without them. Love you both,” Roberts wrote in the Twitter message announced his commitment to his hometown school. “That being said, I am re-committing to the University of Miami!”

Roberts is a four-star prospect in 247Sports’ own rankings and picked the Hurricanes from a top five which also included the Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Florida Gators and South Carolina Gamecocks. Roberts spent last weekend in South Carolina for his first official visit before making a decision on an unofficial visit with the Hurricanes.

The 6-foot-3, 267-pound defensive lineman becomes the 17th member of Miami’s 2020 recruiting class, which ranks No. 7 nationally and No. 2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The senior is the third defensive end in the class and fourth defensive lineman. He’s also the Hurricanes’ sixth commitment from Miami-Dade County. He spent about four months committed to the Hurricanes last year before he decommitted in the fall. Still, he always viewed Miami as his dream school. The draw of the hometown team was ultimately irresistible.

“I just wanted to have my options and explore all my options,” Roberts said last month. “When I committed, I hadn’t taken any visits. I know they want me, though.”

Hurricanes bolster top-ranked Class of 2021

The first commitment of Saturday came through an addition to the Hurricanes’ top-ranked Class of 2021. Cortez Mckenzie, an unranked outside linebacker from St. Petersburg Lakewood, ushered in the actual day of Paradise Camp by orally committing to Miami about an hour before the camp kicked off, adding an 11th player to a class which ranks No. 1 in the 247Sports rankings.

McKenzie announced his pledge Saturday on Twitter.

“First off I want to thank god for blessing me with this talent I have to play the game of football,” McKenzie wrote. “I’ve decided I am committing to the University of Miami.”

Mckenzie is still a relatively unknown prospect, although he is the teammate of three-star defensive end Tre’Von Riggins, who is committed to the Hurricanes’ 2020 class. The junior currently only claims one other offer from the Western Michigan Broncos.

Although he’s still young, Mckenzie does come with some early red flags. The linebacker was suspended six games in 2018 for his involvement in a brawl at a Lakewood game. The 6-foot, 195-pound athlete finished his junior year with 25 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, six sacks and a forced fumble in four games, playing outside linebacker and strong safety.