Barry Jackson

Here’s what was ‘weird’ and ‘awkward’ with the Miami Hurricanes football practice Tuesday

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday, on a day Mark Richt announced that his remaining staff opening will be used on a defensive coach:

Six days after being named Temple’s coach, Manny Diaz admitted it was “weird” and “awkward” to return to the UM practice field Tuesday to serve a final 11 days as defensive coordinator, culminating in the Dec. 27 Pinstripe Bowl against Wisconsin at Yankee Stadium.

“You have to get through that,” he said of the awkwardness. But “guys were really focused at the task at hand.”

Asked if UM tried to talk him into staying before he took the Temple job, Diaz said yes.

“Mark and I and [athletic director] Blake James and I had very honest conversations,” he said. “Our relationships extend far beyond professionally. At the same time, everybody understands people have individual goals....

“As an assistant coach, you’re always preparing yourself for that opportunity. But you have to make sure you’re going to a place you will have an opportunity to win. You see four straight coaches go through there and all have success. Temple has the best record in the American Conference in the past four years. These jobs are hard to get, especially as a defensive coach.”

Even though Diaz wanted to take Ephraim Banda and Jonathan Patke with him to Temple, Diaz said UM made the right move by making them co-defensive coordinators.

“There’s a culture that’s here,” he said. “Everything in this game is about the players. It’s what’s best for them. And what’s best for them is not have them come and realize the world has changed and there’s a different way of doing things or a different scheme. They can all rest easy because they know what works and they know [this staff] knows the formula that works for Miami.”

And as Diaz told WQAM’s Joe Rose on Tuesday, going outside for a coordinator “would be super disruptive to the guys in the locker room and that would create a problem. Those are super coaches. They’re for the kids. To create any disruption with that would be silly. To see those guys get their chances is a source of pride for me.”

Why return to UM to coach for 11 more days?

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“I felt my duty to the young men at UM was not complete,” Diaz said.

“Once the contact period [for recruiting] ended on Sunday, where there is nothing that could happen in Philadelphia, they allowed me the opportunity to come back here yesterday and today. I will go up tomorrow for signing day and be back here tomorrow afternoon.”

Will he get emotional at the end of the Pinstripe Bowl? “If I thought about it, I would get out of whack,” he said.

Diaz has said the turnover chain, in its current form, won’t come with him to Temple: “The chain works because it is Miami. That’s why it has to stay in Miami.”

Even with UM players needing to get motivated after a 7-5 season, “I think one thing that really helps is playing Wisconsin again [after losing in last year’s Orange Bowl],” Diaz said. “As they watch that game a year ago, there’s a sense in our room that’s not who we are. We’re just a lot better on defense than we were a year ago.”

Asked the outlook of UM’s program, Diaz expressed optimism but said “how do we make sure this never happens again at Miami. There are lessons that are learned in terms of what happened so going forward we can make sure it never looks like this again.”

Like that? “There are a lot of things that happened and that’s a question that at this point would be better asked of somebody else,” Diaz said.

Per a source, UM wants to get in the mix for Georgia quarterback Justin Fields — the No. 1 quarterback in the 2018 class who’s exploring a transfer. But ESPN says Ohio State is the front-runner, with FSU and Oklahoma also in the mix.

Fields, the No. 1 recruit in the 2018 ESPN 300, is looking into whether to transfer to another school in January, instead of potentially spending the next two seasons behind starter Jake Fromm. Unless Fields obtains an NCAA hardship waiver, he would be required to sit out the 2019 season if he transfers.

There’s optimism internally that UM will land Georgia five-star receiver Jadon Haselwood and Miami Southridge four-star corner Tyrique Stevenson. We’ll see.

Both would raise this class significantly higher than its current 40th Rivals ranking…. Two star New York based offensive tackle Adam ElGammal decommitted from Cincinnati and continues to consider UM…. Here was my Monday look at UM targets expected to make decisions on Wednesday.

Please check back tonight for another recruiting piece on the eve of the start of the early signing period.

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