Canes Convos: Diaz talks freshmen, upcoming scrimmage

Canes Convos: Diaz talks freshmen, upcoming scrimmage

Stefan Adams
Hitting has commenced on Greentree Practice Field. After the Canes played their first two practices in shorts over the weekend, the Canes brought out the shoulder pads (shells) on Monday, in preparation to rock full pads on Wednesday. Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz expanded on that and much more in today's interview session.

“Guys have waited since April to hit. We looked eager,” Diaz said. “A lot of big hits and a lot of guys really playing with an edge about them, both sides of the ball, which is good. We’ve got a thing now – like we mentioned in the spring – this team has an edge about it. It’s been a little feisty out here, and as coaches, I think we think that’s a good thing.”

If your favorite Storm18 enrollee seems buried on the depth chart, don’t fret: it’s all according to plan says Diaz.

“What we do is, the first week, all the freshmen go with the third group,” Diaz said. “That way, there’s kind of no status or whatever. That way all of the recruiting stars fall right to the ground. Also though, we can limit some of the calls - make some things easier - so they can show us they can play without having to do so much thinking, not make it so complicated jumping around from this defense to that defense.”

After Monday’s practice, Diaz handed out some praise for a few true freshmen that have made an impression through the first three days of camp.

“You see Jade [Nesta Silvera] back there with a tackle for loss, Jordan Miller back there making plays in the backfield,” Diaz said. “We already know what to expect from [Greg] Rousseau. He’s kind of picked up where he left off in the spring. On the back end, you see an Al Blades have a really good day the first day, and certainly [Gilbert] Frierson and [DJ] Ivey. Gurvan Hall is back in the mix and doing Gurvan Hall things.”

Diaz cautions not to read too much into that one highlight play you may have seen online, however. While the freshmen flash here and there and Diaz is encouraged by that, he’s looking for more consistency on every play from his young defenders.

“The problem is this – we know they’re all talented. They can flash, but you don’t win all your games with guys flashing. You win all your games with guys doing their job on every play. We’re happy they’re all here. We’d recruit them all again.”

“But now comes the hard part. Greatness is being consistently good. It’s so fun now – I can put a highlight tape together and go on Twitter with my one good play I made, right? But greatness comes from being that guy every time. And a great team comes from being consistently good. Sometimes that means, [like] last October, putting teams away that we should have put away much earlier. That’s that idea of being consistently the same team, week in and week out, that we’re really trying to strive for. I think that’s why we have that edge.”

The Hurricanes will hold their first scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday. Afterwards, Diaz says there’s usually separation that begins to form at some positions and that’s when the depth chart can really start to be solidified. However, getting to a spot where the coaches trust a guy to play in the opener against a ranked opponent is about more than just skill and talent.

“We’ll scrimmage on Saturday, and after Saturday we’ll start to really break up the depth chart,” Diaz said. “We’ll start to move some guys and maybe some of the young guys can go. But you can’t really make an assessment until you get to that scrimmage day, because it’s just different with a scrimmage. And with our first game being in such an intense environment, it’s not just, ‘can you play?’ But, ‘can you play on that stage? At that level?’ That’s not a talent question, it’s really a [question] of poise, mental toughness and not thinking you know what to do. You have to know what to know what to do in the opener [against LSU in Arlington, Texas].”

Even still, Diaz points to corner as a position where separation has already began to form, with Michael Jackson and Trajan Bandy way ahead of the crowd. The real battle is for the number three job, as the others in the group are still looking for more consistency on a daily basis.

“I would say, in the corner backs room, you have Mike [Jackson], who has done it the most, very consistent. Trajan [Bandy] behind him,” Diaz said. “I still think ‘Tay’ [Jhavonte Dean], Gilbert [Frierson] and DJ [Ivey], I think the wheel kind of spins. I think it might be a period where this guy is on top or that guy is on top. They all have their different pluses and minuses, but again, it’s Day 3. We’ve got three weeks to really set in stone, assuming that Mike-Jack and Trajan are number one and two, who is number three and beyond that.”

How about when UM goes to nickel?

“Because of the striker position, we have many more athletic-type guys who can play there,” Diaz said. “Like I said in the spring - it’s not scheme, it’s personnel. It’s about finding who our 11 best players are. Is our third safety better than our third corner this year? Is either guy better than our third [linebacker]? Because that’s going to dictate how you want to set up your structure. We have the flexibility to play, really, predicated on who we think our best guys are. Right now we have our base schemes in.”

“Everybody has got a chance to play. We are running some of the freshmen through at the nickel position. A guy like [Al] Blades can play some nickel. But shoot, he may end up being our third- or fourth-best corner. For the first two weeks, we just let everybody play and then we’ve got two weeks to get ready for the game - now we really start to plug in guys where they’ll feature in Dallas.”

**Senior QB Malik Rosier was named the leader in the starting QB battle by head coach Mark Richt at ACC Kickoff/Media last month, but that doesn’t mean Rosier is resting on his laurels. He knows all it would take is one off day and he could be on the bench.

“If I come out and have a bad day, [Richt] could say ‘Kosi’s the guy’ or ‘Cade’s the guy’...even though I’m named the starter, I can’t let my guard down,” Rosier said. “I still have to come out here and compete and show that I am the guy now.”

Rosier admits that every QB on the roster has improved their accuracy from last season, and they are pushing him to keep raising his game.

“I’m pretty sure Cade Weldon was throwing 80 percent [completion rate] yesterday, N’Kosi [Perry] was in the 70’s and I was in the 70’s,” Rosier said. “So we have guys, it’s not even [just] me…it’s so good to know the guys behind me, if something happens to me, we’re going to have a guy that can step up and make plays.”

How did Rosier change his mechanics to get his accuracy up?

“[There were] two things me and coach Mark Richt talked about a lot. He said one was shortening up my throwing motion, so I really harped on that,” Rosier said. “The second one was when I went back, I talked to David Morris and he said sometimes I over stride, which gets my body wide and gets my arm down. He said I’m starting to overthrow balls.”

Accuracy wasn’t the only way Rosier feels he has elevated his game over the off-season. The redshirt senior is learning to feel comfortable going through his progressions and surveying the whole field, not just locking onto one target.

“I feel like the second one is just vision. I’m starting to see the bigger picture now,” Rosier said. “Sometimes I would kind of get funneled into seeing one side of the field, and now I’m seeing the whole field. It’s a lot better.”

In the end, 10 wins last season wasn’t enough for Rosier: he’s trying to build on his legacy and win the ACC title, and also doesn’t rule out a trip to the national championship. With some of the blue-chip weapons at his disposal in 2018, it certainly wouldn’t be out of the question.

“It’s also my last year, so for me I’m trying to leave a legacy,” Rosier said. “I’m trying to leave my last statement as, `Hey, we won the ACC championship.’ `Hey, we played for a national championship.’ I want to bring Miami back, because we have the talent to do it.”

**Junior DE Joe Jackson is already getting NFL first round draft pick buzz and the season hasn’t even started yet. He took his game to the next level as a sophomore last season, becoming a more complete defensive end that could also defend the run after operating as mostly a pass-rushing specialist as a true freshman. In preparation for his third year at UM, Jackson has bulked up to 270 pounds after playing last season at 250.

“I feel pretty good, still move the same, feel the same, and have mostly put on muscle,” Jackson said. “I've improved in a big way. I'm a tougher defender."

As an upperclassman now, Jackson has been mentoring some of the young guys on the team. One such player is DE Gregory Rousseau, and Jackson thinks the true freshman from Champagnat-Catholic is a future star.

“Rousseau is one of those freaks of nature,” Jackson said. “He has the height, the get-off, the speed. His first step is maybe at least two yards. He gets that first step, he’s already most likely beaten the tackle. He picks up everything quick.”

On freshman DT Nesta Silvera: “He’s got a lot of power...he’s got a lot of potential,” Jackson said. “He comes off that ball, his initial punch is very strong. Once he learns the plays better, gets a few more techniques to his resume, he’s going to be a very hard guy to stop.”

Jackson and his fellow defensive linemen absolutely abused the offensive line in the spring, recording sack after sack in scrimmages. However, with a lot of new faces on the O-Line, Jackson feels like all they needed was time to gel and already sees improvement three days into fall camp.

“They’ve improved,” Jackson said on the O-Line. “In the spring it was a huge gap [between O and D-Line], but I feel it’s closed a little... We’re going to keep trying to push them, and hopefully that brings the best out of them.”

**Senior DE Demetrius Jackson has returned to practice at 263 (down from 270 last year) after knee surgery last fall.

“It’s been a span of 10 months since the last time I played ball,” Jackson said. “It just felt good to be back out here, a blessing to be back out here.”

One of Miami’s most impactful formations last season was when they bumped Jackson and former DE Chad Thomas inside to DT on passing downs to harass the QB. Jackson says you can expect more of the same this season.

“I know I’m playing inside in some different packages,” Jackson said. “Whatever the coaches need me at, because I can do it. Most of my success last year came playing inside, so I can play it. I’m a strong boy.”

**Junior RB Travis Homer gets to see a different side to Malik Rosier than most; the two are roommates and he says an area that he’s noticed Rosier improve is his playbook study habits.

“You know, I am his roommate too, so I get to see it at home. He is always in his books, trying to get everything down. It’s showing on the field right now,” Homer said. “I see him talking a lot more, bringing that energy. He’s completing more passes. He’s just coming out with that fire.”

Miami brought in a talented twosome of backs in Storm18 with Lorenzo Lingard and Cam Davis, and Homer talked about what he’s seen from them early on in camp.

“[Lorenzo Lingard] likes to lower his shoulder a little more than Cam [Davis],” Homer said. “I think they are all looking great right now. They still got to learn some things, but I think once they get it down, it is going to be great competition.”

Homer also noted he has put on 7 pounds this off-season and plans to play the opener vs. LSU at “a little over 200 pounds.”

Comments (13)

The best thing I read was Jordan Miller is making plays in the backfield. If he comes in and can do that right away, we are going to be scary good on D. I believe the upside of him and Silvera is far greater than Norton and McIntosh. Just my opinion.
Wouldn't mind a package with Bandy as our fourth or fifth safety and Blades at nickel so Knowles doesn't get exposed, maybe Knowles could play some Striker behind Carter, challenge Finley, Knowles is a physical tackler.
I was expecting more out of Dean when we got him, not great that he is competing for the third sport with two freshman as a senior. Worse that Diaz makes it sound like a mental hold-up rather than a talent deficiency.
Clearly Saban saw something in Dean he didn't like and quit recruiting him. I think we're seeing it now unfortunately
Great review Stefan, thanks for putting it together. I too am of the believe that Jordan Miller and Nesta Silvera are going to become beasts on the DL. And I think they’ll play above normal freshman level this season. They’re just both too talented not to contribute and do it well spelling Willis, Bethel, and Ford. I think if he keeps it up that Blades JR will be the 3rd CB starting out against LSU. Not sure if Diaz will put him at nickel or let him be the 2nd CB behind MJ. But he’s got all the intangibles to become a great one for the Canes. I also think Joyner is going to surprise us some with his hand planted on the ground playing DE when we bounce DJ and/or JJ inside. What’s so nice to hear this year is the flexibility we have on defense this year, and at all levels too. That’s really going to let Diaz design some nice packages to keep offenses guessing. Man, can’t wait for September 2nd!!
Love what I'm hearing about these trench monsters mane! Miller, Nesta and Rousseau, stepping up. Joe Jackson elevating to the next level.
Malik Rosier is definitely competing his *** off for the job. I think it’s going to pay off. Cade Weldon sounds like he could be a serious contender as well after this season.
I was expecting more out of Dean when we got him, not great that he is competing for the third sport with two freshman as a senior. Worse that Diaz makes it sound like a mental hold-up rather than a talent deficiency.

We rarely seem to get impact JUCO guys.