A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Monday:
▪ I read the transcript of Andrea Kremer’s HBO feature on UM coach Manny Diaz that will air at 10 p.m. Tuesday on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. And it looks like it’s going to be good television.
During the taped interview, Diaz surprised Kremer. The two crossed paths when Kremer – now with HBO, NFL Network, CBS Sports Net and Amazon Prime – was a reporter at ESPN and Diaz was a production assistant there, trying to set the groundwork for what he hoped would be an on-air television career.
Here’s how that part of their conversation went for the Real Sports piece:
KREMER: Full disclosure: our paths crossed back at ESPN. Any memories for me?
MANNY JR.: Yes. Christmas of 1996, you were so kind, you gave all the production assistants Christmas presents. Which happened to be a Christmas [pair of socks].
KREMER: You do not have them.
MANNY JR.: Pair. (pulls out Christmas socks)
KREMER: You kept them?
MANNY JR.: Well, you don’t have that many Christmas socks, right? Now there’s only three women on the planet who have ever bought me a pair of socks. My mom, my wife, and you.
A couple of other neat things from the feature:
1) Diaz said the reality of him taking the Temple job and then getting the UM job two weeks later was so improbable that “if someone would have put this story up, it would have been thrown out as being too unbelievable, you know? It just … the way it happened and the quick turnaround and the fact that it was your hometown, it’s, to me, it’s too, too unbelievable.”
2) Diaz’s grandmother told Kremer than Manny “speaks only two words in Spanish, abuelo [and] abuela. That’s it.” That’s grandfather and grandmother.
3) Diaz said when Mark Richt called him about being UM’s defensive coordinator in 2016 (Diaz had been at Mississippi State), “the second I saw Mark’s name on the caller ID, I knew I was going to Miami because this was my one shot to have a chance to come back home.”
Diaz’s father, former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, also appears in the piece.
▪ Though Jaquan Johnson is smaller than the traditional safety prototype (5-10, 191 pounds), he was a big-time playmaker at UM, and he said his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has been telling teams “to watch the film. Don’t be overwhelmed by [the height and weight] numbers. My play speaks for itself.”
Meanwhile, a scout at UM’s Pro Day on Monday spoke very highly of UM’s other draft-eligible safety, Sheldrick Redwine. And some teams view UM cornerback Michael Jackson as a potential safety; he’s comfortable playing both.
▪ Redwine is braced for the likelihood that he and close friend Johnson will be playing for different teams for the first time.
They played together in little league, high school (Miami Killian) and at UM.
“I can’t get away from him,” Redwine cracked. “Our whole neighborhood is proud of us. It will be different [probably not playing together as NFL rookies]. I can’t go my whole career saying I can only play with this man.”
Redwine said they “definitely” will be friends and talk forever, into their 80s hopefully.
And count Johnson and Redwine among those convinced Diaz is going to lead UM to greatness.
“You already know what type of coach he is and what he brings,” Redwine said. “Coach Diaz is like an evil genius. That’s the only way you can describe it. You have to be in meetings to really understand where he’s coming from. I expect him to have immediate success.”
Said Johnson: “Coach Diaz is going to get those guys to run through a wall for them. When he first left, he didn’t know this, but I unfollowed him on Instragram because I was so upset. As soon as he got the [UM] job, I followed him back. I was upset, in the heat of the moment. I didn’t even tell him.”
Johnson said the new buzzword with the UM football program is “strain” – which in this context means “being physical, getting your hands in the right place.”
▪ I asked Diaz what under-the-radar Canes prospects are positioned to make the NFL.
“A guy like Mike Smith would be a starting linebacker at many, many many teams in the country,” Diaz said. “Many teams in our conference Mike Smith would have started at but he had to share time with [Shaquille] Quarterman and [Mike] Pinckney. He’s a guy that can show good things today and I think he’s a guy that can get on the roster and make a team.”
▪ Of UM’s 12 non-binding commitments for 2020, nine are given four stars by Rivals.com.
UM picked up two more commitments at junior day this past weekend, and Diaz said Monday that “the momentum for the 2020 and 2021 class is going great right now. Every time they come inside this building [the indoor practice facility] they see what is happening here is real.
“The New Miami is something tangible they can feel. Especially talking to our current players, they can pick up the vibe and want to be a part of it. Our job is to create a program that great players want to go and be a part of it. We’re in the early days of doing it, but that’s certainly a major goal of ours.”
▪ Who’s poised to break out defensively at UM among returning players?
“Everybody would probably say the linebackers,” Redwine said. “I expect [defensive end] Jonathan Garvin to have a real breakout year. Seeing how he carries himself and how he plays, I feel he will have a chance to come out early and possibly be a first-round pick [in April 2020]. He’s really like unstoppable. He kind of got overshadowed.”
Colleagues Susan Miller Degnan and David Wilson will have more Pro Day particulars - including notable 40 times and details on good day for Trayone Gray - in a post later tonight.