Greg Cote

Losing Manny Diaz would be a bigger loss for Canes than any on the field or in recruiting

University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz on negative plays

University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz speaks to the media after practice at Greentree Practice Field at the University of Miami on Wednesday, October 3, 2018.
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University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz speaks to the media after practice at Greentree Practice Field at the University of Miami on Wednesday, October 3, 2018.

It is recruiting season in college football, and the Miami Hurricanes have one particular commitment they most need to hang onto and not lose.

His name is Manny Diaz.

He is the defensive coordinator..

Hiring him was the best decision Mark Richt has made in his three years as UM head coach.

UPDATE: In UM’s season defined by tough losses, the departure of Manny Diaz is the biggest of them all

Losing him would be Richt’s biggest loss yet, a massive gut punch to the program underlined by awful timing.

Diaz is being wooed by Temple, with whom he interviewed Monday. Understandably he is seen as a strong finalist for the job. He is among the nation’s top-tier assistant coaches. At 44 and with a plump resume of defensive accomplishment, Diaz may be ready for his first head-coaching opportunity.

All the more reason the Hurricanes had better fight like hell to keep him.

Enough losing, Canes.

The program has sagged sharply in the 13 months since UM was 10-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country in 2017.

Last season ended with the fizzle of three consecutive losses. This season’s early promise was wrecked by four losses in a row and a pedestrian 7-5 finish. Along the way Miami has suffered hits in recruiting, its 2019 class currently ranked an uninspiring 26th by ESPN, 29th by 247sports.com and 33rd by Rivals.com. UM lost a heavily recruited four-star quarterback to LSU. It was Richt’s own nephew! (Sorry, Uncle Mark).

Enough losing!

Stake your ground on keeping Diaz. Make a statement about how serious you are to see The U all the way back to national prominence, because the defense and what Diaz has brought is the best, most reliable thing about the program right now, and second place isn’t close.

Coaches always ask players to “do whatever it takes” and now the university -- President Julio Frenk, athletics chief Blake James, Richt -- must do the same. Give Diaz a raise, a big one, a buck more than Temple is offering. Give him the assistant head coach title. Make it clear his first head-coaching job should be at UM someday.

The father of the Turnover Chain is that good. Worth keeping that much.

Do it quick, though. Because the timing of speculation Diaz might leave cold not be worse. The early signing period for National Signing Day is Dec. 19-21. Last campus visits are happening this coming weekend. UM is trying to nail down four-star defensive end Lloyd Summerall and steal four-star cornerbnack Kaiir Elam from Florida.

What will you say when they ask, “Who’ll be the defensive coordinator?”

UM is hoping underclassmen defensive stalwarts like Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney elect to return, not enter the NFL draft, in decision now being considered.

What will you say when they ask, “Will coach Diaz be back?”

Miami disappointed this season due to offense and quarterback turmoil. Diaz’s guys were good as ever, ranking No. 2 in the nation in defense with only 268.3 yards allowed per game and 4.16 per play. The pass defense was No. 1. The opponent third-down conversion rate of 23.70 ranked No. 1 . The Turnover Chain kept changing hands.

Temple isn’t a bad opportunity. The Owls were 8-4 in the American Athletic Conference this year and will face Duke in the Independence Bowl the same day (Dec. 27) Miami plays Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl. But it’s a step down from the Power 5 conferences that include Miami and the ACC. Temple also has its own conference Goliath, in the same division with unbeaten UCF, of the consecutive unbeaten seasons.

It should not be that hard to coax Diaz — Miami born and raised — to stay, if the money is right

The coach did not return a text message sent Wednesday asking to discuss his situation. But earlier this season he said, “I drive to work every day and say, ‘I’m so happy I get to coach the Miami Hurricanes defense.’”

May that drive continue.

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Greg Cote is a Miami Herald sports columnist who in 2018 was named top 10 in column writing by the Associated Press Sports Editors. Greg also appears regularly on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz on ESPN Radio and ESPNews.

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