Barry Jackson

‘We’ve made this a place where our guys want to be again’, says UM’s Diaz

Diaz: Our team isn’t far from competing for championships

The Hurricanes football coach Manny Diaz says, "Maybe it just takes me". as he speaks to the media at the University of Miami on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.
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The Hurricanes football coach Manny Diaz says, "Maybe it just takes me". as he speaks to the media at the University of Miami on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday night:

UM coach Manny Diaz told WQAM’s Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr., on Hurricane Hotline this week that more than 60 players are showing up to involuntary workouts and staying after work is completed.

“We’ve made this a place where our guys want to be again,” he said. “If they do it out of obligation, you’re not going to get this extra bit out of them....

“We want an extraordinary standard of living. We want to be the envy of college football. [For the players], we want all their friends to be jealous they’re not Miami Hurricanes. I want every other coach in the country to wish they could coach on this staff at the University of Miami.”

Diaz said “hiring David Feeley as our strength and conditioning coach has done more to change our culture than anything.”

Diaz already has made one position switch on his roster.

Cornerback Gilbert Frierson, who redshirted last season as a freshman, said he has been moved to the striker position. Frierson likely will compete with Derrick Smith Jr. to back up Romeo Finley.

Frierson’s move to striker leaves UM with six scholarship cornerbacks: Trajan Bandy, D.J. Ivey, Al Blades Jr., Nigel Bethel and freshmen Christian Williams and Te’Cory Couch.

Finley, playing the new striker position, was targeted 15 times and allowed only five completions for 61 yards this past season, with two interceptions and no touchdowns yielded, according to Miami Herald correspondent Daniel Gould. And what’s more, Pro Football Focus said Finley never missed a tackle all season.

But Smith allowed five receptions on six targets for 62 yards.

Frierson appeared in one game and allowed two completions in three targets for 49 yards and a touchdown pass.

Diaz said “if we had signed all high school kids, we would have had a miniscule recruiting class a year from now.” Plus, signing more than a handful of transfers filled immediate needs.

Incidentally, Diaz is now following linebacker Rahyme Johnson on Twitter; Johnson announced last week’s he’s transferring from UCLA. He was a four-star recruit out of a Los Angeles high school - Rivals’ 20th-best outside linebacker in 2017 - but had only five tackles in three games over two seasons.

Diaz didn’t address last Friday’s dismissal of three recruiting officials – including player personnel director Matt Doherty – in the taped WQAM interview but said: “We have to win in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. We have to do a better job than we did this past year. But all the great Miami teams were always supplemented by great players from [elsewhere].”

This UM class had one player from Miami-Dade (fewest for a Canes class this century), three from Broward and none from Palm Beach.

UM ultimately decided to take only one tight end in this case (Larry Hodges) and new tight ends coach Stephen Field said he’s “confident in what we have” on the roster right now at tight end.

Field likes what he has with Brevin Jordan, Will Mallory, Michael Irvin and Brian Polendey, with Hodges now joining that group.

He said he met with Irvin and he’s “working his butt off.”

Field said: “I want to deliver on the guys we already have here in my position group, making sure they’re holding up the standard of Tight End U because we have the best tight end standard in the whole world. I want to make sure the former tight ends that played here, had that standard, that we do the same thing on the field.

“Obviously they had some success this year. I told them I don’t want to just be good, I want to take good, turn it to great, take great and turn it to elite. And that’s what is going to take us to the level we need to be. The University of Miami can be an elite program that people fear to play every week, and that’s where we want to take the program.”

On his plans for UM’s offense, new coordinator Dan Enos reiterated to NBC 6’s Chris Fischer that he will use shifts and motions and “change tempos on people” – with some huddling and some no-huddle.

“We have to build a foundation and then figure out what our players do well and then figure out a way for them to be successful,” Enos said. “That’s what good coaches do.”

Of the Enos hiring, Diaz told WQAM: “Bringing in Dan Enos is a major step in that direction. He’s a guy multiple SEC teams tried to hire to be their offensive coordinator a year ago. And Alabama wanted him to stay. To [go to] work for a first year head coach was a massive statement of how strong this brand is.”

The goal now, Diaz said, is “get the offense rolling and the quarterback position [back on track]. If miami’s quarterbacks play great, Miami plays for championships in January.”

Quick stuff: Jiimmy Johnson visited with UM coaches on Tuesday night... Running back Lorenzo Lingard is ahead of schedule after knee surgery and should be ready for the start of the 2019 season…. Former UM players on Alliance of American Football rosters: linebacker Tyriq McCord (Atlanta); defensive tackle Anthony Moten and cornerback Ladarius Gunter (Orlando,... Cincinnati signed Brad Kaaya after he was cut by the Colts.

Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.


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