University of Miami

Miami players and AD defend coach Manny Diaz in light of criticism over poor start

The day after University of Miami athletic director Blake James gave Hurricanes football coach Manny Diaz his full vote of confidence, then reiterated the same sentiments Tuesday, UM players defended their coach in light of heavy fan criticism because of their 3-4 start.

“There’s going to be criticism wherever you go, man,” said starting senior defensive tackle Pat Bethel. “It don’t matter if you’re a meter maid, don’t matter if you’re a doctor, don’t matter if you work on the power line, there’s gonna be criticism regardless. And that’s just the way it is. We gotta put our mind-set and put our tunnel vision on so we can do the job at hand. We can’t be worried about the outside world.”

The Canes (3-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who lost to 18-point underdogs Georgia Tech on Saturday, will travel to Pittsburgh this week for a noon Saturday start against the Panthers (5-2, 2-1).

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Bethel, who has 12 tackles, 3 1/2 tackles for loss, a sack, fumble recovery and blocked kick this season, was asked why he believes Diaz is the right man for the job.

“He just is, man. He’s the guy,’’ Bethel responded. “He’s the guy you gotta be around. He brings the same energy every day. He knows how to run the system. He knows how to coach. He knows exactly what he’s doing. So, we trust him fully, and we’re all in for him.”

Sophomore safety Gurvan Hall concurred with Bethel.

“Oh yeah, he’s still the head of the snake,’’ said Hall, who is second in tackles this season with 44 and has 3 1/2 tackles for loss, two sacks and two pass breakups. “I mean, he coached the defense last year. We all believe in him. We all trust him.

“I don’t think we worry about the fans. We just focus on him and what he do and how he continues to lead us.”

Here’s part of what James said Monday night about Diaz on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline:

“I will say I feel 100 percent as confident in the decision today as I did back when we made it in December. It is frustrating to lose games — I hate losing, but I know Manny hates losing and so do our guys...Manny has the full support of myself and I know of our institution. ...I am very confident in his ability to take this program where we all want it to go, and that is competing for ACC and national championships.”

On Tuesday, during UM basketball media day, James was asked about his decision to hire first-year coach Diaz the same day former coach Mark Richt resigned — without interviewing other candidates.

“Any time you do a search you want to get the best person for the job... so to me there’s no point of going through things just to say you did them,’’ James said. “You go out and get the best person for the job. Manny Diaz was the best person for the job. I felt that way on Dec. 30, I feel that way today and I’m confident I’ll feel that way in the future.’’

Quarterbacks practice

N’Kosi Perry, who started the past two games but separated his left shoulder Saturday in the loss to Georgia Tech, was back at practice Tuesday at Greentee Field during the media’s 20 minutes or so of open viewing. Perry was hurt early in the third quarter Saturday, but only missed part of one series before finishing the game. He was replaced for the rest of the drive by former starter Jarren Williams, who has battled a right shoulder injury since late September.

Williams also practiced Tuesday, with Tate Martell getting third-team reps.

“We’ve been busting our tail in practice,’’ running back Cam’Ron Harris said afterward. “That was a tough loss we had last week. We came out here and dominated practice.”

Also practicing Tuesday was receiver Jeff Thomas, who was suspended for the Georgia Tech game. His status for Saturday’s game has not yet been announced.

Injury updates

Two key starters were missing from practice — senior linebacker Michael Pinckney and junior running back DeeJay Dallas. Both went down with apparent knee injuries in Saturday’s loss.

Pinckney ranks third on the team with 38 tackles and is tied for the team lead with 7 1/2 tackles for loss. He also has three sacks, four quarterback hits and two pass breakups.

Dallas rushed for 617 yards and six touchdowns last season for a 5.7-yard-per-carry average. This season in seven games, Dallas has 73 carries for 486 yards and six touchdowns for a 6.7-yard average.

Senior Zach McCloud, who Diaz said would likely redshirt this season so he could return to play next year, was working with the first team during drills. McCloud has one more game he could play this season and still return next year.

Starting junior cornerback Trajan Bandy, who went down in the third quarter on Saturday, was back at practice.

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Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.