Barry Jackson

Top UM recruits explain what’s attractive about Manny Diaz and The New Miami

UM-flavored notes from high school media day on Saturday:

Hurricanes players and fans aren’t the only ones excited about The New Miami under Manny Diaz. So are recruits.

Several UM non-binding commitments and even non-commits expect Diaz and his staff to elevate the Hurricanes’ recruiting because of the energy and attitude they’ve injected into the program, among other factors.

They’re off to a good start, with 23 commitments for 2020 and Rivals ranking Miami’s 2020 class seventh overall. What’s more, Rivals ranks UM’s 13-member 2021 class first nationally.

Belen running back Don Chaney, Rivals’ No. 30 overall 2020 prospect and UM’s highest-ranked commitment, said: “When I stepped on campus [after Diaz became coach], it was like, ‘I need to be a part of this family.’ You could see it was a brotherhood, a bond. They’re like a family. It’s The New Miami. What can you not like about it?”

Chaney committed a month after Diaz was named coach.

Here’s what he found so appealing: “Manny Diaz is changing the whole program around. That meant a lot to me, knowing there will be a lot more new stuff going on and people are going to be able to have fun. It’s all being able to have a great time, a great experience in college; that’s what he’s guaranteeing people.”

And Chaney found appealing the fact that “the practice is hard, physical, fast. That’s what a lot of colleges don’t have; they practice but they go through the motions. They do it like a game at Miami; you’ve got to practice fast and play fast. As soon as you step on campus, it’s strictly business.”

And Chaney liked this, too: He said Dan Enos’ offense is “crazy, ridiculous, mind-blowing to me. I just can’t wait, I’m so excited.”

Fort Lauderdale Western High three-star cornerback Justin Hodges said the energy Diaz has brought to everything “makes a real difference [with recruits] because you can’t have a good practice if the practice is dead. You got to have energy at practice and they have a lot of it. It’s always been a school I always wanted to go to. They didn’t have to do too much to impress me. But once I heard Manny Diaz was taking over, it put the icing on the cake.”

South Dade High four-star cornerback Jaiden Francois, another UM commit, said “the reason I committed was the coaching change. When Manny Diaz came down, I saw he wanted to change the program around and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Francois attended a practice under Mark Richt and another practice run by Diaz and said there was a clear difference in energy. “You see the energy everyone always has,” Francois said. “In practice, all the coaches, everybody running around, clapping. Everything. And everything is a competition” now.

The other appealing factor about Diaz, UM commitments say, is even though “he’s serious, sometimes they have fun,” Hodges said. “That’s what I like about Miami. They have fun while winning. Manny Diaz is going to change everything around there.”

As another commitment, four-star South Dade High safety Keyshawn Washington, said: “They play around in the locker-room, dance in locker room, have fun. That’s stuff I like.”

Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna four-star defensive end Willie Moise, a solid UM commitment, puts it this way: Diaz “gives that it factor to a team” that makes Miami appealing.

But this much is also clear: UM needs to win this season to sustain the momentum with at least some recruits.

Francois said he’s still considering Ohio State — where he visited once and plans to visit again — and UM needs to win this season to re-affirm his commitment. “It’s complicated,” said Francois, the only one of the four aforementioned oral commitments who is hedging on his Miami commitment.

Four-star St. Thomas Aquinas offensive tackle Marcus Dumervil, who said he is considering UM (though the Hurricanes are considered something of a longshot) praised what Diaz is doing with the program but indicated how Miami does this season will influence him and likely some other recruits.

“If they have a big time winning program, that’s really an impressionable thing for recruits,” said Demuervil, who has visited LSU and Oklahoma and plans to visit Ohio State and Southern Cal. “I look forward to seeing what they got this year. I’m going to go to a couple of games.”

Carol City four-star receiver Thaiu Jones-Bell, an Alabama commit, said Miami’s play this year also will determine how seriously he will consider UM. Four-star Miami Norland offensive tackle Issiah Walker, a top UM priority, said he’s down to UM, UF and FSU and will make a decision this fall and that team and offensive performance will be a factor.

When top South Florida recruits bypass UM, don’t assume there’s anything Miami did wrong.

Four-star South Dade High guard Jonathan Denis, who committed to Oregon without even visiting there, said UM “did nothing wrong, nothing wrong at all. I wanted to go far and explore things and try new things and get out of my comfort zone. [What the new UM coaches are doing] is going to be something special for real.”

And St. Thomas Aquinas linebacker Derrick Wingo said he committed to UF in June, in part because he wanted to be “not too close to home, not too far from home.” But he added of UM: “Coach Diaz has changed the whole way the program is and everything he’s doing is the great way to do it. Their recruiting is going amazing, 2020 and 2021.”

Chaney has taken an active role in UM’s recruiting; he said he’s trying to persuade several players to join him.

“I wanted to start with de-commitments because I want them to hop back on the train,” he said, noting he reached out to James Williams, the four-star safety from Western High who said Miami remains under consideration.

Chaney added: “Right now, we’re trying to get a commit from a running back somewhere somehow and a couple DTs, corners. I can’t express the names but I’ve reached out to some.”

Miami Northwestern four-star receiver and UM oral commit Marcus Fleming, who said he’s “99, 100 percent” certain he will be a Hurricane, said he committed to UM partly because of then-receivers coach Ron Dugans but likes new receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield, too, because both men are “honest.”

He said Dugans has tried to flip him to FSU but never bad-mouths Miami or any school.

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