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Diaz breaks down UF matchup and more as UM hits home stretch of offseason

Diaz breaks down UF matchup and more as UM hits home stretch of offseason

Stefan Adams
As the Miami Hurricanes go into their final week of preparations for the opener against the #8 Florida Gators, Manny Diaz addressed the media in his first game week press conference as Miami’s head coach.

“Obviously, in Florida, we have got an outstanding opponent,” Diaz said. “All the rankings that just came out, pretty much a consensus top-10 team and for good reason.

“I think their skill players are as good as we will see all season. Starting with their running backs, I don’t know if we will play a stable of backs that will run as hard and try to run through tackles and contact like their backs will. Their top six receivers are back from last season, so they have a bunch of guys that can make plays down the field. Then you have quarterback Feleipe Franks who with the two things that jump off on film are his size and the way he can fall forward as a runner and then his arm strength—he can zip throws across the field at a rate that really catches your attention.”

Of course, Diaz has had his own experiences with the UM-UF rivalry growing up in South Florida in the 80’s.

“I think the only time I’ve been to a Miami-Florida game was the 31-4 game at the Orange Bowl,” Diaz said. “It was hard to find. They haven’t been down here all that often, and I don’t think the two schools played at all in the 90s. I do remember that day. I remember the 31-4 game. It’s hard to get four, so that’s one you tend to remember.

“What I do remember is that when Miami and Florida, and Miami and Florida State, and Florida State and Florida – when they played each other – we used to say whoever won the state championship usually had the inside track for the national championship. That’s gone away for whatever reason, but there’s no reason that can’t be the rule of law again. I’m sure Dan Mullen and Willie Taggart feel the same way, and I know we do here.”

Rivalry aside, there will be a lot of familiarity between Diaz and his Gators’ counterpart in Dan Mullen; Diaz previously worked under Mullen as his defensive coordinator at Mississippi State in two separate stints in 2010 and 2015.

“I have a lot of respect for Dan Mullen. I think personally we get along very well and I consider him a friend,” Diaz said. “We have worked together twice and two of those years Mississippi State had two of their best years in history there. I think we view the game similarly. He is a very creative guy and an outside the box type of thinker. I try to be the same way defensively and I think that is why we got along well together.

“I don’t think there will be any type of advantage because we know him and he knows us, because it is going to come down to things like who can block, who can get off blocks, and who can cover, and who can throw and catch.”

Diaz also addressed some personnel issues, first saying he doesn’t foresee announcing any suspensions for the UF game.

"We expect to have everyone there Saturday," Diaz said.

After Miami named redshirt freshman Jarren Williams their starting QB last week, much of the fervor surrounding UM’s QB situation has died down. However, there is still the question of who would be the first QB to come in in the event of an injury, and Diaz said that competition is ongoing.

“Right now, Tate (Martell) and N’Kosi (Perry) are battling it out to be our ‘number two’ quarterback,” Diaz said. “We felt like, after we got through last Friday, as we were getting into the game plan stuff for the opener, (we wanted) to really see which of the two guys could really grasp that.”

Although Martell played some snaps at WR during this weekend’s scrimmage, Diaz says by no means is that a permanent change.

“He may be our second quarterback, so it’s hard to have him play another position when he may be our next guy in,” Diaz said of Martell.

If Perry is the backup, could we see Martell move to receiver full-time?

“That would be up to Tate,” Diaz said.

In what may have been the story of the offseason, true freshman tackle Zion Nelson came into Miami at 245 pounds in January, gained 45 pounds, and is now officially set to start the season as Miami’s left tackle. Diaz talked about the progression he’s seen from Nelson in just 7 months.

“First of all, Zion was impressive in offseason program, in our mat drill program,” Diaz said. “You’re like, ‘Look at this guy.’ His athleticism is really off the charts. His body was changing. David Feeley and his staff did an amazing job, just in terms of putting on weight. It was one of those deals where we thought, ‘He might be our best guy there. Let’s put the freshman in and let’s kind of see what happens.’… Zion has for sure earned our tackle spot.”

Diaz also saw similarities between Nelson and UM’s three freshmen linebackers that came in during the spring of 2016 and took hold of the starting jobs.

“Zion, at left tackle, in a strange way, reminds me of the linebackers when they were here spring of their freshman year,” Diaz said. “I remember seeing the same thing with Shaq Quarterman and Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud in spring of 2016. What happened is, he just maintained the job from there on out. He is a very highly motivated young man. He’s very mature beyond his years. He does not look like a young guy out there. What helps - similar to Pinckney and Shaq, for example – he has above-the-charts athleticism. Even if he makes a mistake, he has the quickness to make up for it at some time. I also remember Pinckney and Quarterman and McCloud, the first month of their freshman year…they’re a lot different today than they were then.”

The Canes will also be starting another freshman opposite Nelson, as redshirt freshman John Campbell was named the starting right tackle today as well.

“John is a guy that got better and better and it was probably the second scrimmage where he just took a step up,” Diaz said. “You always see how they do when they work with that first unit. John never looked out of place. We always felt like he was very talented. We have a young offensive line and we feel like we have guys that are going to be really good and John has earned a spot.”

Of freshman LB Sam Brooks, who was named Quarterman’s back-up at MLB: “He has done really well,” Diaz said. “Sam was a terror at Miami Northwestern coming off the edge, but you have to be able to project. Sam is a guy we know can run. When he gets fully-developed he’ll be really, really impressive to see.”

On sophomore safety Bubba Bolden, who was named Gurvan Hall’s back-up at FS: “Bubba has been drinking out of the firehose a bit since he came,” Diaz said. “It is all new, but he is very intelligent and he has experience, so you can see where he is like oh yeah we used to call this, this or that, that. He is picking things up, but when we are asking him questions really fast, he has to be really fast. He is a great learner. Physically, he stands out on the field with his range and athleticism. There are some things that have wowed everybody in the program since he has been out at practice. As that happens, his role will increase more and more as the year goes on.”

At the end of the day, this will be Diaz’s first game as a head coach and he just as excited to see how he handles things in the moment as he is to see his team on the field for the first time.

“Well I can’t wait to see my emotions, because at the scrimmage I’m really excited every time something good happens,” Diaz said. “We discussed this as a coaching staff - the importance of our poise. Both teams are really good. There’s going to be some give or take in this game. They’ll be watching us, because if they see we’ve lost confidence in them they’ll get in panic mode. That’s not just important for me but for our entire staff to keep our poise in the game.”
 

Comments (14)

Guess this throws the,BS suspension rumors here started by troll twitters in the garbage where they belong
 
On sophomore safety Bubba Bolden, who was named Gurvan Hall’s back-up at FS: “Bubba has been drinking out of the firehose a bit since he came,” Diaz said. “It is all new, but he is very intelligent and he has experience, so you can see where he is like oh yeah we used to call this, this or that, that. He is picking things up, but when we are asking him questions really fast, he has to be really fast. He is a great learner. Physically, he stands out on the field with his range and athleticism. There are some things that have wowed everybody in the program since he has been out at practice. As that happens, his role will increase more and more as the year goes on.”

If he can solidify this by October, even if he's in the rotation for merely 50% of the snaps, it changes the dynamic of how we cover the inside WR out of our coverages. Like Redwine was able to do in 2018.
 
Two first time tackles def gives reason for pause. I believe Enos will do a good job of helping them out. The other 3 guys all need to raise their game to another level.

Defensively, the Secondary is crucial because they have talent at the skill positions. The DL needs to help these guys out
 
Zion and Campbell starting gives me anxiety. Just don’t know what to expect. Hoping for the best and that the interior line can be solid and stabilize the unit
Isnt Florida oline basically all true or RS freshman? And besides if those two are the best they deserve to start, obviously the others haven't gotten better and i want the best guys out there
 
Isnt Florida oline basically all true or RS freshman? And besides if those two are the best they deserve to start, obviously the others haven't gotten better and i want the best guys out there

Florida has older guys starting but all freshmen behind them. Rumor is their starting RT might be out which would make them start a true freshman
 
Glad he realizes they're going to attempt to play big boy football on offense. LBs need to have a big game for us.
 
Isnt Florida oline basically all true or RS freshman? And besides if those two are the best they deserve to start, obviously the others haven't gotten better and i want the best guys out there
from I read they are older didnt.see.any freshmen. They are not 5 stars but most have experience. They are all over three hundred pounds, hopefully very slow.
 
If he can solidify this by October, even if he's in the rotation for merely 50% of the snaps, it changes the dynamic of how we cover the inside WR out of our coverages. Like Redwine was able to do in 2018.

I expect him to make his move sooner than October. Hall / Bolden as our starting safeties by UNC or Bethune.
 
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