Barry Jackson

Jimmy Johnson explains why this is the best he’s felt about UM football in a long time

UM coach Manny Diaz took his staff to the Florida Keys on Tuesday evening to visit with famous Keys resident and legendary coach Jimmy Johnson, who won a championship at UM in 1987 and won two Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys.

And Johnson emerged from that meeting even more convinced that the UM program is in good hands.

Johnson tweeted afterward: “Best I have felt about the U in a long time.”

Johnson expanded on those comments during a phone conversation Wednesday.

“I am really excited about Manny,” Johnson told me. “He knows the history of Miami. We talked for hours [Tuesday] night about our approach and he talked about how his defensive style mirrors our defensive style when I was at Miami.

“I don’t like his energy; I love his energy. He knows [Patriots coach Bill] Belichick and I are close. He went and visited with Belichick [last offseason]. He is visiting with other successful coaches and getting [input] on ways to do things.

“Like most young rising coaches, he’s hungry for information. He’s hungry to learn and that’s the thing that impressed me as much as anything else is he’s going out and visiting pro teams and visiting other successful coaches.”

Johnson had his eyes on Diaz for a while.

When UM hired Mark Richt in December 2015, Johnson told UM athletic director Blake James that “I don’t know much about Mark, but I know you have one heck of a defensive coordinator because Terry Bradshaw and I watch all the games every Saturday [in Los Angeles, a day before Fox’s NFL studio shows] and Bradshaw was watching Louisiana Tech games [Bradshaw’s alma mater] and I said, ‘Man, this defensive coordinator [Diaz] is good.’ And Terry said we won’t be able to” keep him for long.

Diaz left after one season as Louisiana Tech’s defensive coordinator (2014) to take the same job at Mississippi State, then came to UM in 2016 when Richt hired him.

Johnson said the UM staff’s visit to the Keys on Tuesday was “a spur of the moment deal. Manny texted me and talked about coming down here. We had a great visit. The whole staff, I was impressed with.”

The UM coaches were expected to remain in the Keys on Wednesday afternoon and evening, as well.

So does Johnson believe Miami can get back to being on the current level of Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State?

“Who can say? It all depends on players,” Johnson said. “If you recruit the right players, they are going to be prepared and know what to do.”

That includes quarterback, with Tate Martell’s addition offering hope at the position, though it’s unclear if the NCAA will grant him a waiver to play in 2019.

“Manny went through the frustrations of the last year or two with the quarterback [situation],” Johnson said. “He didn’t go into it with his eyes closed.”

Four-star Norland offensive tackle Issiah Walker announced he will visit UM on Saturday. He’s a nonbinding South Carolina commitment but appears open-minded about Miami.

Rivals rates Walker the 27th best tackle in the 2020 class.

Here are a bunch of my UM notes from Tuesday night.

Here are my Heat notes, including a Dwyane Wade update, from Wednesday in Dallas.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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