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Diaz recaps first win over BCU, looks ahead to CMU

Diaz recaps first win over BCU, looks ahead to CMU

Stefan Adams
Speaking in his Monday press conference after Miami’s 63-0 win over Bethune-Cookman, Miami head coach Manny Diaz felt the most important takeaway from the game was being able to evaluate the backups, some of whom saw their first real playing time against the Wildcats.

“Obviously, reviewing the game on Saturday, it was great to get a lot of guys in the game,” Diaz said. “What was even better was that a lot of guys played very well, which is important for us with this being a long season. With the three bye weeks, we know this is going to be a long marathon, and the more we can develop our depth, on both sides of the ball and especially how that impacts us in special teams, that’s a great benefit to us.”

Of the backups that impressed him, Diaz mentioned Robert Burns, Dee Wiggins, Sam Brooks, Keontra Smith, Te’Cory Couch, and Christian Williams as those that stood out. The Canes also finally got backup QB N’Kosi Perry some live reps in the new offense as well. Perry finished 7-10 (70%) for 79 yards and one TD toss.

“It was also great to get N’Kosi Perry some action in the game,” Diaz said. “I thought he went in and played well and threw the ball well, which is what we expected because that’s what we had seen all throughout training camp.”

Of Jarren Williams’ performance, Diaz continues to be impressed by the young gunslinger. The redshirt freshman starting QB went 19-24 (79%) for 254 yards and 3 TD’s against BCU.

“On offense, I think Jarren Williams continues to improve,” Diaz said. “We just found out that he was announced ACC Rookie of the Week this week, which is pretty cool. I think early on, it took him a little bit to get into the game, but he really settled down. Again, he’s taking care of the football, he’s showing great accuracy with his throws, and more than anything, he’s just the same guy, no matter what’s going on on the field.”

Junior running back DeeJay Dallas had his second straight 100-yard rushing day (12 carries 108 yards), and put points on the board for the Canes with 3 TD’s. Diaz felt it was Dallas’ play that got the offense going after a slow start.

“DeeJay Dallas continues to be the identity of our offense with his ability to hammer it in there when he needs to hammer it in there, and also to break the long one,” Diaz said. “It was a great example of a game where we were a little slow in starting. You never really know which play is going to get it, and, bang, it’s a simple inside zone play that DeeJay takes to the house and that really got us going. I’m not sure that we were stopped much after that.”

The key to the game? That was field position according to Diaz, an area where Miami dominated.

“Defensively, to force 10 three-and-outs is a pretty special day. Field position was really the issue, the hidden factor in the game. I think our average starting field position was our 46 or 48. Theirs was inside their 20,” Diaz said. “The hidden yardage was over 300 yards, in terms of where we started and where they started on the 13 drives. That’s everything – that’s the offense not going three-and-out. The offense had one three-and-out, which I think was on the opening drive of the game. The defense forcing 10 three-and-outs.”

On special teams, Diaz felt the unit had a great day aside from Bubba Baxa’s missed FG.

“We were dominant on the net punt averages between the two teams, and the same thing on our average starting field position after kickoff. That credit goes to really everybody that plays – everybody that plays is responsible for special teams. I thought we were dominant in the punt game. I thought we were dominant in the kickoff game. Obviously we’re still disappointed in the one short missed field goal. At the same time, Bubba Baxa is probably one of the top kickoff guys in the country. I forget how many touchbacks we had, but we had three tackles inside the 15-yard line, which is outstanding.”

Baxa continued his struggles over the weekend, missing yet another FG 30 yards or closer for the third straight game. Baxa is now just 4-8 on FG attempts on the year.

“What is important for Bubba is the same as for all our guys - fix your issues, don’t repeat a mistake, fully commit to what you’re doing," Diaz said. "You’re in a position where you play so few snaps, it’s a pass-fail down, an A or an F and you have to navigate that. All the great ones have had misses. He’s still a young guy. As long as we continue to see his development, growth, will to improve…”

With only 1 TFL and no sacks through 3 games, some feel junior DE Jonathan Garvin is off to a slow start this season. However, Diaz pushed back against that notion, saying he’s graded out well overall in terms of stopping the run and generating pressure.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Jonathan Garvin is off to a great start this season,” Diaz said. “The thing you have to look at, when people play our defense, if you take all the pass attempts from this past game, people are going to throw the ball very quickly against our defense. They’re not going to have the ball in the quarterback’s hand very long because they know they’re going to try to stay out of negative plays. Some of that is going to always affect your pass rush numbers. You’re always looking at the effect of your pressure, at times, will not always be measured in sacks. With that being said, I still felt like we left some sacks on the field. Usually, just because of everybody just being where they need to be and just doing their job.”

Junior WR Jeff Thomas was expected to be one of the team’s star players this season, but is only 5th on the team in receiving yards (102) right now. Fans also haven’t gotten to see many of Thomas’ trademark big plays either as he’s only averaging 8.58 yards per catch, but Diaz insists his role on the team has not changed at all.

“It’s hard to look at the numbers and say `Oh, this guy has turned into a short passing game (guy),” Diaz said. “Jeff can blow the top off a defense. It’s a small sample size and as the season goes on, you’ll see explosive plays.”

Overall on the season, the Canes are 5th in the country in third down defense, holding opposing offenses to a 20% conversion rate. UM has also shown off a stellar run defense so far, as Miami is 8th in the country giving up only 69.3 rushing ypg. Despite those successes, Diaz is still looking for more havoc stats (TFL and sacks) from his front 7.

“I think the run defense this season is off to a great start. Third down defense is off to a great start,” Diaz said. “There’s obviously things we’re still looking to clean up. We feel like there’s some plays, in terms of tackles for loss and sacks that we’re leaving on the field. This is not uncommon for our defense, if you look back at the last four years now. Early in the season, you have to develop that trust and guys just going and doing their job and letting the other guy eat when it’s his turn to eat, and you know that it’ll be your turn, too, in this defense. I expect that to continue to improve as the year goes on.”

The Canes have also only broke out the turnover chain once in the past two games, but Diaz feels getting off the field on third downs is a more important metric.

“Are we stopping the run, creating third and long situations, getting off the field on third downs and not giving up big plays?” Diaz said. “We eliminated the big play this past week, want to keep that going.”

Playing a lot of freshmen over the weekend has forced UM to start being more conscious of which players they might want to end up redshirting, but at the end of the day, Diaz isn’t doesn’t have a set group of players he intends to sit out all year, as it's more of a fluid situation.

“With the new rule in place that’s something you are always going to be aware of,” Diaz said. “There were people we pushed into the game Saturday that we are aware may (redshirt)… You can’t predetermine because you don’t understand how injuries may take a toll. But if there’s a guy you can keep under four, you want to do that.”

Diaz also mentioned that senior LB Zach McCloud will not redshirt despite him not starting this season, as he has been too valuable as UM’s main backup at both WILL and MIKE.

“He’s too important to the team,” Diaz said. “He can also transition to SAM linebacker. His role on this team is too crucial. He’s not a luxury to us, is a necessity.”

With win #1 out of the way, the Canes will turn their attention to Central Michigan this week.

“Obviously, we know with Jim McElwain, they’re going to have a well-designed offense. They’re very multiple, like us,” Diaz said. “They present a lot – a lot of personnel groups, formations, motions, shifts – a lot to have to adjust to on defense. And then their defense does a great job. They play very hard and they can go back from playing an even front and a ‘bear’ front. Outside, they’ll play man coverage, they’ll play split safety coverage. It’s a game where we have to make sure we know what we’re doing on both sides of the ball, because they’ll present some issues."

In injury news, Diaz expects Brevin Jordan to be fine and play this week, while he did not yet have updates on Mark Pope or Romeo Finley, both of whom left the BCU game on Saturday.
 

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