The turnover chain is returning for a second season, and UM hopes the sequel is as good as the original.
The chain — five-and-a-half pounds of 10K gold “Cuban Link” bling — has become the enduring image of this UM season, a gaudy motivational prop that is the brainchild of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
Diaz said Wednesday that the chain will return next season, with perhaps a tweak.
Asked whether the chain will be retired after this season, Diaz said: “No, I don’t think so. You got one of the best things in college football. I know our recruits would be disappointed. It may come back in a different version. We don’t know. It’s mysterious. We don’t really know what happens with it. We will see what develops with it. There is an old, white-bearded man that lives up on the mountain that talks to us about the chain midweek.”
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UM forced 30 turnovers, tied with Memphis for second in the country behind Wyoming’s 38.
Asked why the chain would possibly be retired — an idea raised on social media — Diaz saw no reason to do so.
“Sometimes you create a tradition,” Diaz said at a pre-Orange Bowl news conference at a Fort Lauderdale hotel. “It would be like somebody at one point decided to hold up four fingers [going to] the fourth quarter [as UM has done for years]. Everybody else copied it. You could say let’s not do that now because what if we don’t play well in the fourth quarter. That’s a foolish way to look at it.
“We know turnovers are going to be just as important a year from now as [now]. I can only imagine us in the first game getting a turnover, everybody is sort of looking around, like we don’t have the greatest thing in college football. That would be foolish.”
What possible different version of the chain does Diaz have in mind?
“You would have to come back next year and find out,” Diaz cracked.
Players were pleased with Diaz’s news.
“Bring it back! It definitely has to come back,” linebacker Shaquille Quarterman said.
Defensive tackle Richard McIntosh Jr. said the turnover chain should be used forever. “You may have to get a new chain or something,” he said. “It changed the program.”
McINTOSH GETS GRADE
McIntosh said he hasn’t decided whether to turn pro but that the NFL Draft Advisory board told him he should return to UM for his senior season. That advisory board recommendation suggested that he wasn’t projected to be selected in the first two rounds.
But McIntosh said the advisory board’s recommendation would not be an overriding factor in his decision.
Before the early recruiting signing period last week, UM coaches asked McIntosh what he plans to do. He told them he hadn’t decided.
“We will sit down with coach [Mark] Richt after the game,” he said. “His opinion definitely matters. He’s been through this many a time with players. Also [defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski]. Their opinions definitely matter.”
Junior defensive tackle Kendrick Norton also is considering turning pro, and McIntosh said they have discussed the issue a few times.
Asked whether he has lobbied McIntosh, Norton and junior cornerback Michael Jackson to return for their senior seasons, Diaz said: “Yeah. You don’t want to take the focus off the game but you have some time during the course of the month. All we can do is advise them the same way we try to coach them in the game. Give them the numbers, tell them what’s real. The most important thing is build something where guys want to stay, where they have the opportunity to do something really special here.”
Diaz said coaches remain uncertain whether any of the three will return.
▪ Safety Jaquan Johnson said he will return for his senior season, as expected. “It was a no-brainer because I wanted to get my degree,” he said. “I believe me coming back next year will give me a better chance to get drafted higher in the NFL.”
He said the NFL feedback was that he should return, but “coach Richt said he wanted me to come back anyway.”
▪ Diaz, on how his defense has responded to a 38-3 loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship: “When you are 18 to 22, you are probably more resilient than fans and coaches. They are certainly aware we didn’t play our best. There is a sense to right a wrong … and show everybody what this version of the Miami defense is all about.”
Diaz said his players benefited from the recent time off because they “were limping to the finish line, with [Hurricane] Irma and losing a bye. Every week was an emotional game that came down to the end. That took something out of us down the stretch.”