University of Miami

Miami star on pumped defense: ‘Nobody does a great job of it like how Coach Diaz does it’

Manny Diaz did make a difference.

Diaz, the University of Miami head coach and former heralded Miami defensive coordinator, unofficially added defensive motivator last week to his many responsibilities.

And it worked, said Canes senior linebacker Michael Pinckney, who, according to defensive coordinator Blake Baker, had his best week of practice going into a spirited performance in UM’s 17-9 victory against Virginia last Friday.

“Coach Diaz, he came back in and he’s been a big factor,’’ said Pinckney, who had six tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, a pass breakup, and two quarterback hurries last week. “He just demanded that level of urgency. It can come from the players, but when you start something, nobody else knows it how you know it, so he knows what we need on the defensive side of the ball and I think he’s emphasized it throughout the week.

“That was one of the things that helped us play a great game.”

So, was it just pure motivation?

”Just motivation,’’ Pinckney said. “Somebody’s just in your ear consistently. Coach Baker does a great job of it, but nobody does a great job of it like how Coach Diaz does it. He’s just constantly in your ear, constantly improving the little, small things that really count.”

500 FSU vs UM DS.jpg
Miami Hurricanes linebacker Michael Pinckney and Manny Diaz celebrate their 28-27 win over Florida last season. Diaz is now the head coach, but was the defensive coordinator back then. David Santiago dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Baker said Monday that the program has always espoused the best-players-need-to-be-the-best-at-practicing adage for a team to have a great defense.

“Mike Pinckney and [ACC defensive back of the week] Trajan Bandy by far had their best weeks of practice,’’ said Baker, who has continued to call the defensive plays for the Hurricanes. “Overall, when you talk about attention to detail and accountability to each other, there are more than just those two. A lot of guys stepped up and played much better.’’

Also excelling in UM’s last victory was 6-5, 306-pound defensive tackle Jonathan Ford, who had four tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble.

“He’s had a lot of opportunities to make a lot of tackles for loss this year, and a lot of it has been [lower] pad level at the point of attack,’’ Baker said of Ford. “That was a huge point of emphasis in practice last week, especially for a taller guy like himself. It was one of those things, you know, where you get what you demand. We demanded low pad level, finishing on the ball carrier.

“Jon has played really well and just missed some opportunities that he capitalized on Friday night.”

On Tuesday, Ford credited his breakout performance to his preparation. He focused on keeping his pad level low, and it carried over to Friday.

“I focused on that the whole week,” Ford said, “so that was like a good step for me.”

The result on the field?

“Unblockable,” Ford said.

Jarren Williams practices

Four days after he missed Miami’s win against the Virginia Cavaliers, Jarren Williams was on the practice field in Coral Gables to prepare for Saturday’s home game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Williams, who has been nursing an injury to his throwing shoulder, still threw substantially fewer passes than fellow quarterback N’Kosi Perry and didn’t take as many deep shots. Perry, who started Friday, took the first snaps in most drills during the 25-minute period open to the media and ran with the first-team offense in a team drill.

Tate Martell, however, was still working with the quarterbacks Tuesday, although he was wearing an orange offense jersey rather than a green quarterback one. Although he has primarily worked with wide receivers since he lost the quarterback competition to Williams, Martell is still listed at quarterback on Miami’s depth chart, and Diaz said Monday the Hurricanes had packages ready for Martell had Perry gotten injured against then-No. 20 Virginia on Friday.

Diaz said Monday that Williams is still the starter, but it would depend on “if he’s healthy and if he’s ready.”

“Both quarterbacks practiced today,” offensive lineman Corey Gaynor said. “We’re comfortable with any quarterback that they put in there.”

Bubba Bolden earns praise

Both Diaz and Baker on Monday praised safety Bubba Bolden’s play against Virginia.

The redshirt sophomore had two tackles and a pass breakup against the Cavaliers.

“Bubba’s learning what to do more and now getting the game reps and doing it,” Diaz said. “And I thought he played very well when he was out there. As I’ve mentioned before, he brings us a lot of athleticism — a guy that’s been in games and understands it. And in a game like Friday night where, [somewhat] due to our own mistakes defensively we had to play a lot of snaps, to be able to roll in some guys...

“There are some spots on defense, we’re not very deep. So to be able to add his depth in the secondary was crucial. n this day and age, it’s hard to finish a game with all your DBs. You just don’t ever know what’s going to happen, so Bubba has been a big shot in the arm for our defense.”

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