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Manny Diaz leading the culture change

On December 30, 2018 the Hurricane program was flipped on top of its head.

The head coach, Mark Richt, retired abruptly after 3 seasons and a 26-13 record. The 2018 season of his tenure was very dark, coming off a 10-3 season the previous year.

The Hurricanes had high expectations that they could not meet. Many factors went into this such as; bad QB play, the offensive coordinator’s play calling was terrible, and the team stopped believing in Mark Richt.

Miami then turned to Manny Diaz 18 days after he had taken a head coach job at Temple. The job Diaz has done is already exceeding expectations. He’s bringing back the Miami culture and has rejuvenated it.

The main reason why is because Manny Diaz understands what it takes to coach the Hurricanes. It is by far one the hardest jobs. It comes with many expectations, as well as distractions for the players who go to the University Of Miami. Diaz has brought new energy, swagger, and belief in the program, hence his hashtag in recruiting #TNM ( The New Miami) .

Players committing left and right shows that they believe in the Diaz culture in Miami. This is a real turnaround that brings back the Miami Hurricanes every fan loved in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. I think Miami has the right guy, a young coach with energy.

Most importantly he understands the Miami culture, because he’s born and raised here. He also went to the U so it’s  a match made in heaven in my opinion. Hurricane fans gear up and watch Manny Diaz culture change. Let him work his magic through the good and bad during his coaching tenure.

Miami Hurricanes name Jarren Williams QB1

Is Williams the Best Choice as Canes’ QB1?

The dust has settled, just a bit. We all know by now that Jarren Williams has won the starting quarterback position for the Canes. He beat out the once thought to be the next big-time quarterback in N’Kosi Perry and the highly anticipated Ohio State transfer Tate Martell.

“We believe we can win with all three guys, however, we feel like Jarren has the greatest upside due to his passing ability, his instincts and his determination.” – Coach Manny Diaz on new Canes QB1, Jarren Williams.

Williams will see his first real action as a college quarterback on August 24th in Orlando against the top ten ranked Florida Gators. That’s a tall order for the redshirt freshman out of Central Gwinnett High School in Georgia.

Coming out of high school, Jarren Williams was a standout quarterback ranked as the 77th overall prospect and #5 Pro-Style Quarterback in the country. He improved every year at the high school level as a passer, culminating in a senior year that saw him throw for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also ran for over 500 yards.

Under the Radar?

So why was it such a surprise to many that he got the nod? Maybe it was all the hype surrounding Tate Martell that made people forget about Williams? Maybe it was some saying that Perry has the most experience and needs to start? Was it the bad taste he left in everyone’s mouth when there were rumors swirling of him wanting to transfer? Either way, make no mistake about it, Jarren Williams, in terms of pure passing ability and skillset, is the best quarterback on this roster. He can make all the throws with precision and is very accurate on the deep ball.

Personally, I believe it was always a two-quarterback race: Williams and Martell. I think Williams ultimately won out because of his accuracy and because he took care of the football a little better than Martell. My conspiracy theory is that people closest to the program may have seen N’Kosi as part of the problem regarding last year’s team. Too many antics on and off the field may have cost him a legitimate shot at QB1. Oh, and don’t count Martell out just yet. I still expect to see him on the field in some role this year.

At the end of the day, the question still remains. Did the Miami Hurricanes make the right decision at QB1? Will we find out in 12 days? Maybe. But when the dust clears and those pads get crackin’ on August 24th, I don’t care who is behind center, just win!

Regarding the backup situation, Coach Manny Diaz said the competition is still going on to see who serves as QB2 behind Williams. Now all that’s left is for Jarren Williams to show them why they chose him as the starter.

Jarren Williams named QB1

Jarren Williams is the Hurricanes’ QB1

Well, that was suspenseful.

Manny Diaz, the new coach of the Miami Hurricanes, hadn’t revealed much about the quarterback competition between holdovers Jarren Williams and N’Kosi Perry, and transfer Tate Martell.

But a day before Media Day, Diaz spilled the goods.

The winner is Williams, who nearly left the program last season, a couple of times.

This wasn’t a total surprise, since the chatter has been trending that way of late. Word was that Williams has been most consistent in practices, and he has the most pure arm talent of the trio.

Reaction on Twitter was mostly positive.

Here’s some context…

Now we wait to see how he plays against Florida.

Can’t be worse than Malik Rosier, right?

3 Things We Want to Know After Tonight’s Canes Scrimmage

With just 14 days remaining before the Canes head up to Orlando to face Florida, many questions still surround this team’s roster. I break down what I feel are 3 major roster questions we want to be answered by the time tonight’s scrimmage is over with. 

Question #1: The Big Uglies

Let’s start with one of the biggest surprises in camp so far. Offensive lineman Zion Nelson was once thought of as a redshirt project with good skills that would need a few years to develop, especially at a very thin 240 pounds. Fast forward a few months and that 240-pound project is now weighing 290 pounds(reported by Nelson himself) and starting at LEFT TACKLE! Yes, you heard that right, LEFT TACKLE. I said to myself, Coach Barry(Offensive Line Coach) must be challenging his guys and we will see the real starting left tackle after the first scrimmage. But I was wrong. Nelson kept his job as LT1 and it seems as though it may stay that way. That means one of two things to me – this kid is really special – or we are incredibly screwed. 

Two other guys to keep your eye on that could possibly get some playing time if Nelson can’t hold it down: Kai-Leon Herbert and John Campbell. Herbert was getting a lot of first-team reps at right tackle along with Campbell, who ended up starting on the right side during the first scrimmage. Look for one of those two to get the nod August 24th at right tackle. 

Question #2: It’s the Muddy Badger and who?

We all know that Trajan Bandy is the leader in the Canes secondary. Bandy has the opportunity to be one of the best cornerbacks in the ACC. The question is, who will emerge as the other starting cornerback? Al Blades Jr. seems to be the front runner right now to start. He took first-team reps during last week’s scrimmage and has been atop the depth chart for some time now. However, I would not put sophomore DJ Ivey too far behind. Look for today’s scrimmage to be the one that helps solidify that spot. 

The concern what’s behind those three. Young players like Nigel Bethel, Jr., Te’Cory Couch and Christian Williams will have to step up and be ready to play when their name is called. The key to this group being successful is health.

The safeties seem to be shaping up nicely. Yesterday was the first day of practice for USC transfer Bubba Bolden. The addition solidifies what is already looking like a strong group. Right now it looks like the Canes will start with Amari Carter and Gurvan Hall. Don’t be surprised if you see Junior, Derrick Smith get a lot of playing time after moving back to safety from the striker position. I’m tempted to mention Robert Knowles…nevermind.

Question #3: Who’s My Quarterback?

Who will be the Miami Hurricanes starting quarterback? I am just going to get right into it. Offensive Coordinator Dan Enos is installing a brand new offense. None of the three have played in this system before and have all had growing pains. Some days Tate Martell does a few things better than the rest. Another day N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams make some really nice throws and Tate can’t hit water if he fell off a boat. All three are doing good things and not so good things. Let’s take one thing off the table right away, experience. Those making the argument that one should get the start over the other because of experience need to stop. None of them have experience! This is a new scheme, that none have played in before. And honestly, why do fans care so much about experience? Let me know how that worked out for Tua and Sunshine. I know these guys are not Tua or Lawrence, but there are plenty of young quarterbacks in college football that help their team win. 

 

3 Canes QB's vying for the starting role.

Who wins the battle at QB? (Left to Right) Jarren Williams, Tate Martell, N’Kosi Perry.

Jarren Williams is the most accurate according to many and throws with great touch. His knock was that he wasn’t very quick on his feet until Coach Manny Diaz said he was one of the guys that ran 20 mph in testing. Can he read and dissect plays quickly? 

N’Kosi Perry can spin it. He has great arm strength, can run and escape the pocket and does like to chuck it down the field. His aggressiveness has also gotten him in some trouble before. He tends to take too many risks and makes dumb throws. Has he learned the playbook? 

Tate Martell is a leader. His leadership and moxie, I think, are what make Martell stand out. He doesn’t throw the prettiest ball but can get it there. In my mind, he is the best runner of the three. His lack of accuracy at times could be a cause for concern. However, his rapport with former Bishop Gorman teammate Brevin Jordan and Buffalo transfer KJ Osborn are definitely a good thing. 

I have a feeling Coach Diaz already knows who his guy is at quarterback. If he doesn’t, he will know tonight. The question is, will he tell the rest of us? 

 

My picks: 

Tackle   

LT- Zion Nelson

RT- John Campbell

Cornerback

Al blades, Jr. or DJ Ivey (They will split reps)

2 Deep Safety

FS- Gurvan Hall, Bubba Bolden

SS- Amari Carter or Derrick Smith (Let’s see how tonight plays out)

Quarterback

1- Tate Martell or Jarren Williams or N’Kosi Perry 

A fan’s view of Canes Fest

Highlights and photos from today’s annual CanesFest held right on the campus of the University of Miami:

Fans starting rolling in at around 11:30 am to catch a glimpse of ‘The New Miami’. While most of the festival activities were outside in the parking lot right behind the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility, it was inside that practice facility where all the action took place. If you ask me, it was unbearably hot…but that did not stop everyone from waiting over an hour and thirty minutes or more in line to get in for the player autograph session.

It was a great opportunity for fans to experience the new indoor facility and get up close to this year’s team. I was able to catch a few former Canes enjoying themselves as well. Some of the guys I saw were Tracy Howard, Tommy Streeter, Jacory Harris, and Bryant McKinney. McKinney and Harris also had their own signing tables. McKinney had a longer line than Harris. No surprise there. Even musical artist and big-time Canes fan Solo D made an appearance. We were even able to stick around a bit longer inside due to a torrential downpour right before they shut down the autograph session. Head Coach Manny Diaz was due to speak to the fans that came out to support outside in the parking lot. Thankfully we did not have to endure that terrible heat and were able to stay indoors to hear what Coach Diaz has to say.

To be quite honest, it was the best thing about the whole event. It’s almost as if it was the only thing the fans really came for. Biggest thought I came away with was the way in which Coach Diaz carries himself. He’s the CEO. He’s not the Defensive Coordinator or the Linebackers Coach. He’s the CEO. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is yet to be determined. Some of the best coaches thrive in that role. Others, not so much.

He mentioned changing the mentality from within the program first, and then the outside will follow. And I know it’s cliche to say this but, there does seem to be a different feel to this team, the coaches and everyone around the program.

The question is, will it translate to wins?

While it’s great that he wants to change the mindset on what it is to be a Miami Hurricane – what it means to play like the Miami Hurricanes – the play on the field will have to talk the loudest. That’s the only way things will change. As fans, we all know it’s always been, us against the world. I think I speak for all Canes fans when I say, we wouldn’t want it any other way.

A few fun tidbits: I asked kicker Bubba Baxa if he had a name for his leg yet and man, he ate that question up. He said, “yeah, it’s Boomstick”. From now on, he’s Boomstick to me. Well, as long as he proves it on the field. I think he’s poised for a big sophomore season. And of course, the fan-favorite, Deejay Dallas was seen sprinting up and down the row of fans leaning up against the fence, high-fiving them all and showing love. Hard not to like that kid.

Pre-Season Watch Lists, All-ACC Mentions for Hurricanes

With the beginning of Fall Camp approaching , the Miami Hurricanes football team continues to grab attention.

Preseason watch lists are a lot of speculation, but recognition at least sets a tone of high expectations.

Miami has had several position groups mentioned in pre-season watch lists for major awards, including multiple players on the Butkus Award list.

 

Seniors Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney lead an impressive linebacker corps for the Hurricanes. Quarterman comes off a stellar 2018 season where he earned first team All-ACC honors with 82 tackles, including 14 TFL.

Not to mention he has started every game in his UM career, a streak which enters the season at 39 games.

Pinckney has also been a solid performer and a mainstay in the middle in his four years on campus. Coming off a season with 74 tackles and 11 TFL, he also earned pre-season All-ACC mentions along with tight end Brevin Jordan.

 

Jordan looks to follow a nice freshman campaign (32 receptions, 287 yards, four TD) and set the tone for a young tight end group on the rise.

Trajan Bandy joins his fellow Hurricanes on the trophy hunt, earning a spot on the Jim Thorpe Award list for best college defensive back.

 

Bandy had a breakout sophomore season in 2018 and looks to continue right where he left off.

Wearing the Turnover Chain.

Bandy led the squad with five such occasions last year.

These lists are a nice indicator of potential but really don’t mean a whole lot once the season starts.

What is shows is that the team seems to be reaching top level talent across multiple positions, on both sides of the ball.

A nice step to building elite depth on a team level.

Now let’s hope they can end the year with even more recognition.

Make sure to check out the 5 Rings Canes Podcast for in-depth Miami Hurricanes football coverage.