Player development key to Manny Diaz tenure in Miami

The Miami Hurricanes are coming off a high after two straight impressive road wins at Pittsburgh and Florida State. They have already impressed before when they defeated ranked Virginia but that came before the Georgia Tech loss.

“We’d be very foolish, given some of our past performances, to think we’ve got everything figured out,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said during his weekly press conference on Monday. “We know hard work and attention to detail give us a chance to win.”

The defense took a hit after safely Bubba Bolden’s injury removed him from the remainder of the season. He intercepted a pass in Miami’s 27-10 win against Florida State and fellow safety Gurvan Hall leaped in celebration and crashed into him, causing him to landed awkwardly and suffer an apparent ankle injury.

“Unfortunately, he’ll be out for the season, which is tough on our defense because he was really, really starting to play at a very high level,” Diaz said. “We’ll have to do what we always do. We’ll rely on the depth we have at the safety position and move on.”

Part of that depth includes veteran safety Rob Knowles, who has already played a vital role to the defense. Diaz considered the senior safety as “a testament to player development.” 

“Rob Knowles is so important to our football team,” Diaz said. “I don’t know where we’d be without him. I don’t know how many wins we’d have without him.”

Player development has been the theme of the press conference, something that may seem like a lost art in college football when players who are recruited to be starters lose their time and transfer somewhere else in search of that opportunity. 

He’s the guy right now in college football that’s not sticking and staying,” Diaz said. “He’s the guy that doesn’t look player development in the eye that wants to leave and wants to go someplace else because of the assumption that it will be easier somewhere else.”

Diaz said Knowles is more athletic that he’s ever been and other players have followed suit. To him, recruiting is half the battle, development is the more crucial half.

“Not all players walk on to campus ready to play from Day 1,” Diaz said, “but it’s our jobs as coaches to get them to be the best versions of themselves that they can be.

Another example is redshirt freshman defensive end Greg Rousseau, who won ACC defensive lineman of the week after posting a career-high four sacks, a career-high five tackles for loss and a career-high eight tackles against Florida State.

“Greg’s a guy that didn’t know a whole lot about playing defensive end when he came here,” Diaz said. “And obviously he had to spend some time being hurt, so getting a guy like that to transform his body. The way he looks now is not the way he looked when he was dropped off on our campus 18 months ago.”

Junior running back DeeJay Dallas rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown along with 44 receiving yards against Florida State. Surprisingly enough, being Miami’s featured back wasn’t the original plan when he came to campus. He was a high school quarterback when he committed to Miami.

“You always try to find ways to get these guys to maximize their potential and thats one of the things we take as much pride on as a coach,” Diaz said. “Coaches a lot of times like to beat their chest about this one was a first rounder, this guy was a first rounder. Sometimes getting that guy that became an undrafted free agent that was not gonna be that, one of the most awesome stories in the last three-four years was Adrian Colbert. He’s still in the National Football League and was left basically out of football at Texas and came here and had a great 2016. As coaches you just love advancing those guys, just getting them to be the best they can be, whatever’s out there for them. That’s as much of a success story as a guy that becomes a first rounder.”

The Hurricanes will be closing out the home slate of the season on Saturday with a Louisville team that is coming out of a bye week. It will be both their homecoming and senior day.

“We play a very dangerous Louisville team that had a week off to do nothing but think about the Miami Hurricanes,” Diaz said.

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