Several times in the past two weeks, we were treated to a glimpse into the personalities and approaches of UM coach Manny Diaz and offensive coordinator Dan Enos, arguably the two most significant figures in the Hurricanes football program.
What we witnessed wasn’t surprising, but it reinforced two notions:
1). Diaz has injected more energy and bravado into this program than arguably any Hurricanes coach since Jimmy Johnson and Butch Davis.
2). Enos is demanding and meticulous and a stickler for details, and that’s a big reason he tends to get the most out of the players he coaches, particularly quarterbacks.
Diaz was in classic form at a Hurricane Club event before the spring game in Orlando, serving up his unique blend of boldness and bravado.
“When the Canes show up, it’s a big event,” he told the adoring audience.
Then, with the crowd in the cup of his hands, Diaz said: “One of the cruelest, unexpected effects of the turnover chain is we have a party on our sideline, and the other team is so jealous they weren’t invited. They watch on the JumboTron and say, ‘I wish I was at Miami.”
And then this: “You are either a Cane or you wish you are a Cane.”
When the subject of victory formation came up, Diaz cracked: “To me, we’re true Hurricanes. We run the score up!”
The man certainly understands his audience and knows what they crave.
And Diaz is the most social-media savvy coach in Canes history.
As Joe Zagacki passed him the microphone before the spring game, while leading the crowd in a chant of “Manny! Manny!” Diaz whipped out his cellphone and started filming the lathered-up audience on a live Instagram feed.
“Show everybody what’s up!” Diaz shouted.
No wonder athletic director Blake James punctuated his comments to the Orlando audience with a reference to “the energy” Diaz has brought to the program.
Now Diaz knows the swagger must be backed up with on-field performance.
Watching Enos — Diaz’s first choice for offensive coordinator — do his job this spring has been eye-opening. He prides himself on being a teacher and a mentor and insisting that everything — and I mean everything — is done correctly.
It’s not a coincidence that every starting quarterback who has started for Enos this decade — at Central Michigan, Arkansas and Alabama — has seen enormous jumps in their completion percentages.
That’s a byproduct not only of Enos’ teaching skills, but also not letting any mistakes slide. And that manifests itself by being tough on his players and telling them loudly and forcefully when they make mistakes so they’re not repeated.
Enos said he had to make one thing clear to his players about his style:
“They’re all getting accustomed to how I coach them,” he said. “I’m very demanding and I confront and demand [and that] is my style. I confront them to do it correctly all the time and I don’t take a play off because that’s not fair to them. All three [quarterbacks] are getting used to the style and buying in.
“Sometimes I tell them, ‘Don’t listen to the tone; listen to the message.’ They’ve been doing that. Part of the reason I tell them I coach them very hard is to make the games easier, so they are used to practicing with a high level sense of urgency and practicing with game type plays.”
As an example of Enos not letting anything slide: After a poor practice in the final week of spring ball, he gathered the entire offense for “a heart to heart about the expectations, the standard we’re trying to set.”
Several times this spring, Enos could be heard admonishing players who weren’t doing something correctly. Players who made mistakes were required to do push-ups.
And here’s the key point Enos tells his players, which he shared at a recent luncheon in Pinecrest: “The secret to a person’s success lies in their daily agenda. I constantly tell our players: What is your goal athletically, academically, socially? What do you want to accomplish?
“First you have to define that as a young person or as an old [50-year-old] coach like me. Then, I tell them, every day when you go to sleep, look to see what you did. What did I do today to help me accomplish those goals? I want to be starting quarterback at The U, for example. When you go to bed at night, what did you do today to accomplish that goal?
“People ask, ‘How do you do deal with the stress?’ There’s not any pressure and not any stress if you’re prepared. I tell our players there’s nothing to ever worry about, nothing to ever be stressed about as long as you’re prepared. And I teach them how to prepare; that’s part of my job. And [tell them] what the expectation levels are every day when they come to practice.”
For players who want structure and to be coached to the max, Enos looks like the the ideal fit. All of UM’s quarterbacks have improved their mechanics in their first five weeks under his guidance.
Tate Martell’s accuracy jumped dramatically. So did N’Kosi Perry’s from last November.
Enos’ pre-snap motion and varied offensive looks will undoubtedly help --- UM’s offense will be less predictable and more modern - but to me, the biggest value to his hiring is coaching QBs because of his track record of success in that area.
But there’s one thing his quarterbacks don’t seem to be taking his advice about: staying off social media.
“People are always angry,” Enos said. “They have to say negative things about everybody. I encourage them to stay away from that stuff, but they don’t listen to me too often on that.”
Enos, who begins his day at 5:45 a.m. with a workout, told the Pinecrest audience that 10 years into his coaching career (in 2001, as quarterbacks coach at Western Michigan) he was making only $26,500 and “my buddy from home said, ‘How do you do it? You don’t make any money.’ I said, ‘I don’t care. I love what I do. I love coaching.’
“I’m going to coach the rest of my career. This is a profession, not a job. I‘m a teacher, I’m a mentor, I’m a coach. There are so many hats we have to wear as a coach. I don’t feel I’ve had to go to work one day in my entire life. I love being around these young men.”
That’s one reason, he said, that he has spurned multiple overtures from NFL teams.
Enos changed changed jobs 13 times in his coaching career — Miami is his 14th job — but sees positives in that.
“It’s a new journey every time we move,” Enos said, noting that he and his wife of 20 years have a son and a daughter who will be going to St. Louis University next year on a basketball scholarship. “We meet new people, make friends. We’re helping our children build life skill lessons. We’re going to live in Pinecrest and very excited about moving here. “
Diaz has plenty of substance — he’s a master game tactician and an outstanding talent evaluator — but he won the offseason partly with his style.
And Enos, with his teaching skills and meticulous approach, has shown why he has a chance to fix the position at UM that hasn’t produced a long-term starting NFL quarterback this century.
It will be fascinating to see it play out.