Diaz preparing Canes to take on top-ranked Tigers

Diaz preparing Canes to take on top-ranked Tigers

Stefan Adams
This weekend, the #7 Miami Hurricanes take on the #1 Clemson Tigers in one of the biggest games yet to be played during the 2020 college football season. As head coach Manny Diaz prepares his Canes for the nation’s top-ranked team, he feels this weekend will be the perfect measuring stick for where UM is as a program.

“Anyone who follows college football - statement games are always statement games until there’s another statement game,” Diaz said. “That goalpost of whatever statement you’re trying to make always moves. What we’re trying to do is get ourselves in a position where playing these games is not extraordinary for Miami anymore, where we’re in these primetime matchups, College GameDay, playing a team like Clemson - this is how you build a program to be in these positions and have it feel kind of natural and normal, which is exactly what it does (feel like) for Clemson. This is a great opportunity for us to go and test ourselves against a team who is very comfortable in these settings, but had to earn the right to be there.”

Leading the Tigers into the showdown will be junior QB Trevor Lawrence, who is considered both the Heisman frontrunner and the favorite to be the #1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. While Lawrence has drawn plenty of rave reviews for his arm, Diaz says the Canes aren’t overlooking his ability to make plays on the ground with his legs – Lawrence piled up 563 yards and 9 TD’s rushing last season.

“Look at the Ohio State game a year ago, he ran a quarterback draw and outran the entire Ohio State defense filled with first-round draft picks to the end zone from 60, 70 yards out,” Diaz said of Lawrence. “So he can run. The really aggravating part is when you’re doing a good job in pass coverage and he has the ability to break away from a pass rush and either scramble or throw. He’s really good throwing on the run, or just tuck it and get a first down. He’s one of those guys that eats up your angle - he’s got long strides. It puts a lot of stress on your defense and that’s why he is the player he is.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Clemson comes in with the #7 scoring defense through 3 games, holding their opponents to just 12 ppg thus far. For Diaz, he sees a unit that has built a strong culture under the leadership of DC Brent Venebles over the years.

“What you see is a culture now that’s used to winning, where the leadership of the team has been able to pass it down through generations so that when freshmen come it’s, `Hey, this is the way we do things here,’” Diaz said. “You see the stability they’ve had on their staff, which is immeasurable… Then they have had a run of, really starting with Tahj Boyd, transformative quarterbacks - Deshawn Watson and now Trevor Lawrence. When you have a guy like that, can play defense like they’re going to play defense, you’re going to have a chance to win every game against everyone you play against. And they believe that.

In the last game between the teams, the Hurricanes were dominated by the Tigers 38-3 in the 2017 ACC Championship, a matchup that occurred back when Diaz was defensive coordinator at UM.

“In terms of the game in 2017 as opposed to now, that situation ate us up a little bit,” Diaz said. “Being there, we had been in a big game against Notre Dame, but not quite in that setting in Charlotte. It was a great learning experience… When you’re building a program, you’ve got to get into these type of games where when the ball is kicked off, it doesn’t take you a couple of rounds of the boxing match to really feel you can throw a punch. And that’s a great challenge for us.”

What does Diaz see in the team that is different from the 2017 version of Miami, or even from the Canes of last season?

“Our leadership is better on both sides of the ball than it was a year ago,” Diaz said. “They’re still a football team and you have to win on Saturday. We have to win the battle of turnovers, of explosive plays, and third down and red zone are going to be crucial in this game. No matter what the hype that surrounds the game, it’ll still going to be decided by the things that decide football games. We tried really hard to focus on doing those things. Again, this is not a big game to Clemson, this is just what they do. We have to get our program to where it’s the same way.”

In regards to personnel decisions, Diaz mentioned that Mark Pope is still the primary punt returner for UM as of now, but that the job will be up for grabs in practice this week.

“Still confident in Mark, (but) our Monday depth chart is not our Saturday depth chart,” Diaz said. “We are still working on that this week in practice in terms of who will be our first punt returner.”

Comments (16)

Nice writeup. Baker has his hands full. Tempo offense, quick drops, read zone, RPO with a QB that can possibly outrun your entire defense. Tough matchup. My guess is that Baker and Diaz know Clemson will get their points and yards - just got to keep it contained.
1. In times past we would have tripped ourselves up on the road in Louisville looking to the FSU game. This team took care of business.
2. With FSU losing, we would have called that a trap game looking forward to Clemson. This team took care of business.
3. Everyone else will be surprised on Saturday when we hand Clempson their arse on a green and orange platter, but I will not!
4. We will win, BUT we must forget about it and beat Pitt the following week like they stole the Covid-19 vaccine!

When this team beats the teams they are suppose to beat, AFTER they beat the team they were not suppose to beat, we will know that we are THAT team and so will everyone else!
Not much else to say...this team has won as much if more the past 3 years than the Alabama's and Ohio States' of the college football world. Time for our guys to play the game of their lives.

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2020 Schedule

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