Barry Jackson

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler assess Diaz hire, state of UM program

Orange Bowl: Kirk Herbstreit enjoying watching Alabama dynasty unfold

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit talks about the Alabama Crimson Tide's dominance during Orange Bowl media day on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018.
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ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit talks about the Alabama Crimson Tide's dominance during Orange Bowl media day on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018.

As they prepare to call Monday’s Alabama-Clemson national championship game, ESPN’s lead college announcing team took a few minutes Friday to discuss the state of the UM program.

I asked Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler what they thought of the Manny Diaz hire and whether they could envision UM getting to an Alabama-Clemson level in the coming years. Both gave thoughtful responses:

Herbstreit: “We all miss Miami. It’s been a long time. I also miss the OB. I know they’ve done a nice job with renovations [with Hard Rock Stadium]. That is such an unusual set of circumstances, when you have to ask your students to drive as far as they have to drive to attend their football games and provide a really hostile environment. The OB and that setting, they’ve not quite been the same program since they’ve lost that environment. I know it was an older stadium, and I understand you have to move forward with today’s world but I would love to see them build a campus stadium if that could ever happen. I’m sure politically it can’t.

“I think Manny Diaz is an energy guy. He obviously did a heck of a job with the defense. His reputation as a great defensive mind precedes him. Now he’s got to become a head coach. Now he’s got to stand in front of the whole room. They’ve been playing good enough defense over the last few years to win a lot of games.

“They’ve got to hire a key offensive coordinator. They have got to go find quarterbacks. We were talking about it on “GameDay” the other day — you have to go back to Ken Dorsey and maybe all the way back to Vinny Testavderde when they had elite quarterback that would go on to the NFL and play and do well in the NFL.

“Think about that, with that state and that program with its tradition. Whoever they bring in, you are going to have skill as far as wide receivers and running backs, but they’ve got to go find a difference-maker. I’m sure in that competitive state, whoever they hire in the OC, they are going to have to be able to hire a guy who will win a lot of recruiting battles because people are going to want to go play for him. Manny will get the defense right. He’ll be a great face for the program, but we’re all kind of sitting waiting to see what they can be offensively before they can ever think about trying to win the ACC and get in the playoff.”

Fowler’s thoughts: “It’s hard to envision anybody getting to this level [of Alabama and Clemson]. This is the stuff we’ve never seen in the sport before. Miami’s run was tremendous. Miami fans have incredibly high standards, and anything short of that they don’t put Miami as back.

“Is that realistic? First things first. Let’s temper things a little bit and try to win the ACC. They need to reverse negative momentum. Manny Diaz’s hire has a good chance of doing that. People will want to see what the offense looks like, how he describes it before committing [to play at Miami]. As a most-of-the year resident down there, I’m a little biased. I would like to see the Canes back. It means more home games.

“There are certainly challenges. The facilities are there. The brand is still strong. But the memories of recruits don’t reach back to the days Miami was great. People around South Florida understand that. You’ve got to recruit nationally these days. It will take a little repairing. Dynamic offense is what people will want to see before casting their lot with Miami when they have their choices of all the other top teams.”

RECRUITING DECISIONS LOOMING

We’ll get a sense this weekend about the early impact of Diaz’s hiring in recruiting when South Florida based four-star recruits Kris Bogle of Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons and Miami Southridge’s Tyrique Stevenson announce their college choices Saturday at the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.

Here’s what Rivals’ Adam Gorney and Woddy Wommack said about Stevenson, who’s rated the nation’s No. 6 cornerback in the nation: “Like many of the players announcing in the game, most assume they already know Tyrique Stevenson’s school of choice. Georgia been the leader in the clubhouse since the summer, and nothing has changed to make people think otherwise.

“Nevertheless, Miami fans are holding out hope that Manny Diaz’s appointment as head coach can be enough for the Canes to pull a Hail Mary. Stevenson said he hasn’t spoken to Diaz, but is paying attention to which coaches he elects to retain on the staff. Either way, the door is likely shut, even if Stevenson isn’t ready to admit it.”

Bogle, rated by Rivals as the No. 3 weak-side defensive end in the nation, will choose between UM, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee.

Said Gorney and Wommack: “Bogle has watched closely the Miami coaching situation in recent days and he said the hiring of Manny Diaz after Mark Richt’s surprising retirement helps the Hurricanes “a lot.” Diaz was one of the first coaches to start recruiting the Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons four-star defensive end so Miami has not fallen off one bit since the Richt departure.

Alabama needs to be watched closely though. Bogle said that “you can’t go wrong” with picking the Crimson Tide and he’s especially interested in being tested by the best each day in practice.”

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