On the Monday of every regular season week, Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz and his coordinators give a State of the U type press conference recapping the previous game and previewing the upcoming one. Having attended it, here are my takeaways from what they said.
1) Diaz’s approach to recruiting
When Manny Diaz became the head coach, one of the first things he did was establish “The New Miami” rebrand in an effort to excite the base and modernize a throwback identity. That rebranding is at the forefront of recruiting, which Miami should have a natural advantage given it is in the apex of prime talent real estate. It hasn’t been easy, however. Miami has led the nation with 19 decommitments in the last recruiting cycle and has lost 13 this time around. A majority of those decommitments came from prospects that gave a verbal pledge to Miami early in the process only to later change their minds and put out a statement on twitter via notes app that ends with some combination of “PLEASE RESPECT MY DECISION!” and “NO INTERVIEWS!” That has led to a new approach from Diaz.
“What I will tell you broadly is that there’s some things we are changing in terms of what we will do to take a commitment,” Diaz said. “Not all of those things are necessarily grandfathered, but there are some things going forward. What it means to be committed to Miami and a series of criteria that has to happen for that happen. There’s a series of criteria of what happens once you are committed to Miami that’s never been in place in the past.”
He compared recruiting to sales during the presser, using his podium microphone as a metaphoric example.
“I have to create value and I have to make you want this, but before you value it, I have to value it,” Diaz said.” Part of that is not tolerating people not respecting the University of Miami, not respecting their hometown team. That’s something very personal to me. I want it to be personal to our staff and I want it to personal to our players. And that’s OK. Other people can go other places and that’s why there are 130 schools, but the University of Miami is going to get back where it needs to get back to with players that love the University of Miami. They love what it means to be a Miami Hurricane and they understand that value.”
Diaz had a little more polished version of Mike Singletary’s “I want winners!” speech during his first game as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
2) Moneyball Manny
Diaz went for it on a 4th-and-1 in the third quarter against North Carolina. While it came up short and the Hurricanes turned the ball over on downs, Diaz did not second guess his decision because it was backed up by data, which is an important element to his coaching style.
“I’m big into data,” Diaz said. “The Moneyball effect has filtered into football. I equate it to playing blackjack. We know we want a team that wants to be aggressive and go for it on fourth down. Once you understand the data, you trust you’ve made the right decision. It’s been calculated.”
That’s not to say that he’ll go for it in every fourth-and-short situation. Diaz said that those decisions “depends on score, time of game, depends on the opponent.”
“Your kicking game has to factor in as well,” Diaz said. “How often does any college kicker make a kick from 37 yards? All of that goes into the science of it.”
3) The quickest way from point A to point B is…
The Hurricanes gained 179 rushing yards against North Carolina and DeeJay Dallas looks to be a future NFL running back after back-to-back impressive performances this season. Enos mentioned where the Canes offense want to go on the ground during his press conference.
“We’re gonna run north,” Enos said. “When we get the ball, we’re not gonna be an east/west team. We’re gonna run the ball downhill.”
Cam’Ron Harris gained 60 yards and a touchdown in 10 carries against UNC, giving Miami a one-two punch to Enos’ liking.
“One thing that happens with running back in my experience, have been around some really, really, good ones, is when one’s on the sideline watching the other one run hard, he kind of realizes ‘when I get out there, I better run as determined and just as hard.'” Enos said. “That’s what we tell the guys. If you want more carries, you got to earn more carries.”
4) The more the merrier for Dan Enos
Against North Carolina, nine different Canes players recorded a reception and two running backs received double digit carries. Miami offensive coordinator Dan Enos emphasized playing a large amount of players on offense during the first two games. With the home opener against Bethune-Cookman expected to be a blowout early, plenty of players can expect to see the field on Saturday.
“It’s a lot better for your moral when you have more guys playing from a mental standpoint,” Enos said. “Coming over to practice for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, they all come over with maybe a little bit of jump to their step, knowing that they’re gonna have a chance to play.”
5) Why you should go to the Bethune-Cookman game
After a neutral site game and road game to start the season, Miami will be home for the next five games. In fact, from now until the last game of the season, the Hurricanes only game outside of the state of Florida is on Oct. 26 at Pittsburgh. The home opener against Bethune-Cookman and the Central Michigan matchup afterwards are expected to be a anti-climatic blowout where the fans would naturally leave once the tailgate buzz wears off. Diaz offered some valid reasons to come to game despite the expected outcome.
“These next five weeks are going to say a lot in terms of where this team is and what happens in our season in the ACC Costal,” Diaz said. “I would come just to watch Cam Harris and DeeJay Dallas run the ball. I’d come to watch Jarren Williams play and I know for a fact, I’d come watch Shaquille Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud play their last run of games at home because those are guys that you want to say five years from now, ten years ago, that every time I had a chance to watch Shaq Quarterman play, I watched him play. And if it happens, come watch Lou Hedley punt. That might be worth a ticket too.”
Honorable mention: UM defensive coordinator Blake Baker on his defensive personnel
“Talent is not going to be out issue, I think experience is our issue and there’s going to be some growing pains.”