Barry Jackson

Straight talk from Diaz on issue of playing UM’s most gifted players

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Monday:

In a few cases, UM recently seems to be giving more playing time — or larger roles — to some of its most physically gifted players, with defensive end Greg Rousseau and receiver Mark Pope at the top of the list. And when defensive tackle Nesta Silvera returned from injury, he was immediately given a significant role. So was safety Bubba Bolden when he became eligible two games ago.

But for those wondering why it takes time for playing time to increase for some of UM’s most talented players, coach Manny Diaz gave a good answer on the issue.

“When we talk about talent, the talent doesn’t get a chance to show until we know what to do and [the player] can do it at full speed,” Diaz said. “That’s called player development. What’s happened with Rousseau is player development. Rousseau did not have a great training camp. He had a much better spring than training camp, and Greg knows that.

“We have a very competitive situation at defensive end. It doesn’t matter if you can jump over a building and do all these other things. If you can’t handle your assignments, you can’t do it. It’s hard to put that guy in and tell the others kids who are doing it right, ‘Oh no sorry, he’s physically more gifted [than you are].’ It’s the exact opposite of how we run this program. Hard-working guys that know what to do and do it full speed” are what UM wants.

Pope, meanwhile, “has been a guy [receivers coach] Taylor Stubblefield has done a great job of developing, understanding his assignments. [He has] improved.”

Rousseau needed to prove that he was at least pretty good against the run before UM was comfortable having him supplant Scott Patchan as a starter.

In terms of setting the edge on the run, Rousseau “has come a long way since fall camp,” defensive coordinator Blake Baker said. “Really powerful. When he uses his size, he’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s gotten better and better. And you will continue to see him play more and more and more.”

Virginia’s blitz gave UM’s offense all sorts of problems on Friday. Did quarterback N’Kosi Perry have the authority to get UM out of bad plays when he identified a late blitzer?

“He has the flexibility to adjust certain protections; certain ones we don’t,” offensive coordinator Dan Enos said. “With quarterbacks, I try to do everything I can to limit the things they do so he can play fast in the pass game. The less clutter they have with other things, the faster they can play.”

Enos didn’t seem happy Monday, with UM ranking among the nation’s worst in third downs and sacks allowed and well below his career coaching averages in the red zone.

UM is 107th in red zone offense, with 16 touchdowns and four field goals in 27 trips inside the opponent’s 20 yard line.

As for the red zone work, UM has been “pretty inconsistent,” Enos said. “We were pretty good the other night, but some days obviously not as good. When you can run the football in the red zone, that’s the best red zone offense. Our total offense been pretty inconsistent.”

As mentioned here, at least seven UM freshmen are positioned to redshirt. But defensive coordinator Blake Baker said linebacker Sam Brooks won’t redshirt, though he’s still eligible.

“We need Sam to play; he’s getting better and better and better,” Baker said. “You will start seeing more of Sam as the season progresses. I have to do a good job of getting him in there. Sam Brooks is going to have a bright future here.”

Diaz spoke of Brooks and defensive end Jahfari Harvey (who might redshirt) getting a “leg up on the competition” next spring if they prepare each week this fall “as if they’re going to play.” They will have chances to compete for starting jobs next year “with the departures we know we have at linebacker and defensive end.”

With freshman receiver Jeremiah Payton and tight end Larry Hodges, Diaz stopped short of saying they will definitely redshirt. “Sort of monitoring [those two],” Diaz said. “We don’t want to give them snaps to give them snaps. We’ll see how it goes the rest of the season.”

UM already has allowed five passing plays of 40 yards or more this season, including one 49-yard play Friday when DJ Ivey slipped.

“DJ Ivey should have been protected on that route,” Baker said.

And Baker wasn’t upset with Ivey about two other plays where a receiver high-pointed a ball against him.

“DJ is getting frustrated [by those plays],” Baker said. “I said, ‘Man, nothing you can do about it’; he played both those balls as we coach it.”

But overall in pass coverage, “we have to continue to refine our technique,” Baker said. “We’re far away from being on defense where we want to be.”

UM’s defensive tackle play was very good Friday, with Jon Ford producing four tackles and a sack after mustering three tackles in the first five games of the season.

“He has had a lot of opportunities to make a lot of tackles for loss,” Baker said. “A lot has been pad level at the point of attack. You get what you demand and we demanded low pad level, finishing on the ball carrier.”

And UM likes how Silvera has played since returning from the foot injury.

“I couldn’t be more proud of [Silvera],” Baker said. “He adds spark, nastiness to our d-line. That was our best game up front. They were challenged; they rose up to the occasion.”


The ACC announced that UM’s game at Pittsburgh will begin at noon on Oct. 26 and be televised by ESPN or ESPN2. Saturday’s home game against Georgia Tech also will start at noon and be televised on ACC Network.

Related stories from Miami Herald