University of Miami

Manny Diaz can’t take it anymore: ‘I’m going to change my role in coaching the defense’

That didn’t take long.

With the Miami Hurricanes reeling after starting the football season 2-3, coach Manny Diaz — UM’s highly successful former defensive coordinator — proclaimed on Monday that he has informed the team he is changing his role on defense.

What role that is, exactly, Diaz refused to say. But first-year defensive coordinator Blake Baker said Monday that Diaz will now be at most or all of the practices with the defense.

“Yeah, that’s more of the plan, where he has been more on the offensive side of the field [previously],’’ Baker said. “To me, the fact that he can be around more often and really be the glue to put this thing back together and help out in any [way] he sees fit, it’s a huge benefit. Who wouldn’t want your mentor to come in and help you? So, I’m excited about it. A lot of people will spin it in a negative light. He and I have had great conversations about it. I think it’s the right thing to do and I’m all on board.”

Diaz made it clear at a Monday afternoon news conference and before that in a WQAM radio interview that the poor play on crucial defensive plays will no longer be tolerated.

He told WQAM and reiterated it later that he has “great trust and faith in our defensive staff’’ and “our staff knows what they’re doing’’ and that this has nothing to do with play-calling during games. “...Blake’s got the same job he has. I’ve told him coach the exact same way he’s coaching. There’s just another voice now.

“There is a culture that was created here back in 2016 that for some reason we just have not been able to recreate,’’ Diaz told reporters. “It is not a coaching issue. It’s not a scheme issue. This has nothing to do with Blake Baker or anyone on our defensive staff. This is simply just there is a lack of connection between the players on our defensive side of the ball.

“We don’t look like we trust each other. We don’t play with the techniques that were coached during the week, and ultimately they need the utmost accountability. That comes from the head coach, which comes from me. That process began last night. We sat and we watched every snap of the game as an entire defense. We talked through all of our mistakes. We owned all of our mistakes collectively as a group and that will be what continues now going forward. We need to get our defense playing like the Miami Hurricanes again because it didn’t look like that on Saturday.

“I’m jumping right in the middle of it. I’m going to make sure we’re all accountable to just do what we’re supposed to be.”

The play of the defense, Diaz said, has been “completely unacceptable.’’

UM (2-3, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) is coming off a 42-35 home loss to Virginia Tech and meets ACC Coastal Division leader No. 20 Virginia (4-1, 2-0) at 8 p.m. Friday at Hard Rock Stadium.

The Canes ended last season fourth nationally in total defense (278.9 yards allowed per game), first in passing yards allowed (135.6), first in team tackles for loss (10.5 a game), first in third-down conversion percentage, ninth in team sacks and 16th in turnovers gained.

Miami is now 49th in passing yards allowed (204.6), but has been badly hurt by big passes that helped to plunge the dagger at the end of games. The Canes are seventh in rushing defense, but allowed first-time starter Hendon Hooker to run for 76 yards and a 12-yard touchdown on them in the Hokies’ victory. The defensive pressure on the quarterback has not seemed nearly as intense as last season, and with elusive UVA quarterback Bryce Perkins unafraid to run, the challenge becomes that much greater Friday.

Quarterback change?

On the quarterback front, Diaz indicated redshirt freshman Jarren Williams, who threw three interceptions in the first quarter Saturday, is going into the week as the starter, but opened the door for backup redshirt sophomore N’Kosi Perry, depending on what happens leading up to the Virginia game.

Perry replaced Williams at 3:19 of the first quarter and completed 28 of 47 passes for four touchdowns and a career-high 422 yards, with one interception.

“Jarren’s our guy,’’ Diaz told WQAM’s Zach Krantz. “We talked about how important it is to have a guy, right? “However, this is an important week for Jarren to see how he responds. Jarren could have gone back in the game on Saturday but we thought N’Kosi went in there and gave us a spark and obviously gave us a chance to win.

“I have been saying since August that we felt like coming out of camp that all three quarterbacks would give us a chance to win. I think what everyone is seeing on that side of the ball is the way this offense is structured, if the quarterback gets the ball to where the ball is supposed to go, there are plays already made. And we saw that.

“...The team has always known that we can win with any of these guys at quarterback so we still believe in Jarren, but now everyone will be watching to see how Jarren shakes off what happened last week at quarterback. Shake it off. Lets get back in, lets go.”

UM offensive coordinator Dan Enos also was asked Monday where the quarterback race stands.

“Coach Diaz will ultimately make that decision on what he wants to do,’’ Enos said, “but I think the big thing Coach and I talked about is he wants to see how Jarren responds. This is kind of the first adversity he’s faced. I don’t know if there’s an exact formula on how these things work out. But we’ll get a feel for how these two guys prepare this week and how they practice. And then Coach will make a decision on what he thinks is best for everybody in our organization.”

Krantz ended the radio interview by asking one more time “Is it still the plan that Jarren Williams will start?”

Diaz’s response: “Yeah. Jarren will go into practice tomorrow as our guy and like I said, we will watch him and see how he responds. ...The team knows we can win with Jarren. Everyone has seen what Jarren can do. That’s why we have total confidence in him.

“But they also know N’Kosi can come in there and make things happen as well.”

Kicking game addressed

More news: Diaz revealed that walk-on backup kicker Camden Price missed last game and will be unavailable for the Virginia game as well, but did not reveal why. He acknowledged the poor kicking of scholarship player Bubba Baxa and said “all we can do is create as much competition as possible... It will affect some of our red zone fourth down decisions on field goals we’re going to kick.’’

Baxa missed an extra point against Virginia Tech that would have given UM a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Diaz lamented the miss, and said it “took the winds out of our sails’’ and immediately tempered UM’s enthusiasm.

Baxa has a strong leg for kickoffs, but has now missed two extra points this season (15 of 17) and has missed field-goal attempts of 26, 27, 30 and 49 yards. He has hit field goals of 21, 22, 36, 42 and 50 yards. He ranks 97th of 130 FBS kickers nationally in field goal percentage.

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