New UM coach Manny Diaz made clear Wednesday that he will fix the quarterback position, noting “the 800-pound gorilla in the room is you have to play better at quarterback.”
Expect UM to be very aggressive in the transfer market. Four who reportedly plan to transfer or have explored transferring:
▪ Georgia’s Justin Fields. Reports circulated in December that he was considering transferring, but there’s no indication if he actually will. UM has strong interest. He was rated the No. 2 overall prospect and No. 1 dual-threat quarterback out of the prep ranks in 2018. Ohio State is considered a strong contender.
▪ Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson. UM has interest. A grad transfer who has one year of eligibility remaining, Jackson threw for 3,131 yards, 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in leading Buffalo to a 10-4 record this season. He has size (6-7) and a strong arm, but has completed just 55.8 percent of his passes in his career and doesn’t have a lot of experience against top competition.
▪ SMU’s Ben Hicks. He started 33 games in three seasons as the Mustangs’ top quarterback and is SMU’s career leader in several passing categories, including attempts, completions, touchdowns and passing yards.
He threw 19 touchdowns, seven interceptions and completed 55.9 percent of his passes this past season. Dallas media reported in mid-December that he plans to leave SMU as a grad transfer and he has one year of eligibility left.
▪ Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush. A grad transfer who lost his job to Ian Book, Wimbush had mediocre numbers in limited playing time this season (54 for 102 for 719 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions).
Two seasons ago, he completed 136 of his 275 passing attempts for 1,870 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.
A bunch of others reportedly have been rumored as possible transfers but none are confirmed, including Texas’ Shane Buechle, Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, Michigan’s Brandon Peters and Maryland’s Max Bortenschlager.
Hurts and Buechle, among others, likely would be pursued by UM if they decide to transfer.
Though Diaz said N’Kosi Perry, Jarren Williams and Cade Weldon will be given a fresh slate, he added: “We’ve got to create competition because competition is the best coach there is, so whether that’s exploring a transfer, a grad transfer — whatever it is — we’ve got to get the quarterback position up and running, and we’ll look anywhere we can, whether it’s on campus or off campus, to find the answers to that.”
▪ We’re told former UM offensive coordinator James Coley, now quarterbacks coach at Georgia, would love to return to Miami as offensive coordinator, but Diaz hadn’t called him as of Tuesday.
Same with Lamar Thomas, who would love to return as receivers coach.
So would new Louisville quarterback coach Frank Ponce, whom Diaz had interest in interviewing when he was set to be Temple’s coach. Ponce is former co-offensive coordinator at Applachian State and former receivers coach at FIU.
▪ Hiring Larry Fedora or Major Applewhite as offensive coordinator would come with the added advantage of having an experienced head coach for Diaz to lean on, since he has never been in this position. Fedora was fired as North Carolina’s coach in November. Applewhite was recently fired as Houston’s coach.
“If that came along with the package that would be a bonus, but that’s not criteria No. 1,” Diaz said.
▪ There was player unhappiness with strength and conditioning coach Gus Felder, who was dropped. A change there will be greeted favorably. One former player complained about showing up very early in the morning for workouts and Felder sometimes not being there.
“There was the notion we didn’t work quite as hard as we needed to work this past year, that was expressed to me,” Diaz admitted Thursday.
We hear Diaz likes Bo Davis, a longtime college and NFL strength and defensive line coach, though it’s unclear if he wants a strength and conditioning job, considering he was a defensive line coach for the Detroit Lions last season.
▪ With Diaz keeping cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph on staff, does he want someone on offense with similar strong local ties?
“That’s certainly a possibility, not just for recruiting, but just for ties,” he said. “The hire has to be the best person available that we can find that does fit at Miami. You do have to fit at Miami.”
▪ Count Brevin Jordan among those expressing sadness on Twitter in the wake of the dismissal of tight ends coach Todd Hartley and all the offensive assistant coaches.
“No need for words. You know how much this hurts... I love & Thank you for making me a better man coach. @coach_thartley”
▪ Diaz said he won’t rush to sign players who aren’t UM-worthy as athletes. “We need the right guys, may hold a couple [of open spots] till May [for transfers],” Diaz said.