Simpson, Van Dyke discuss joining UM staff

Simpson, Van Dyke discuss joining UM staff

Stefan Adams
Three weeks back, Jess Simpson officially made his return to the Miami Hurricanes program as their defensive line coach after spending two seasons in the same role with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL.

"It’s been great being back here the last couple of weeks,” Simpson said. “Here a few years ago, I loved my year, our players. I love the beach, love the weather down here. I feel it’s been 73 and sunny every day. It feels like a chance to get a do-over… Just to see some of the great things that have happened here the last two years whether it’s facilities getting finished, players develop, the staff change, all exciting for me.”

Simpson coached Miami’s DL for just one year during the 2018 season before getting the opportunity to jump to the NFL with Atlanta, and he expanded more on why he originally left Coral Gables.

“It’s the whole thing of I was a high school football coach in 2016, then got an opportunity to be an assistant D-Line coach with the Falcons in 2017. Then came here (to Miami). Atlanta is home to me. Buford High School, where I coached 22 years, was seven miles from (the Falcons’ facilities). The opportunity is once in a lifetime… It wasn’t that I was looking for a reason to leave Miami, it was ‘This is an opportunity’.

“My time in Atlanta was amazing. We didn’t have the success we wanted as a team. But coming back here was an easy decision. Manny (Diaz) called me, having a chance to come where I was familiar with the scheme, the people. When that was thrown out there, that wasn’t a hard decision for me and my family.”

While the Canes lose a lot on the defensive line this offseason, they do return a few linemen that have a familiarly with Simpson as players he’s coached previously at UM such as Jon Ford, Nesta Silvera, and Jordan Miller, while Jared Harrison-Hunte, Jason Blissett, Jalar Holley, Jahfari Harvey, and Cameron Williams were all recruited by Simpson in the 2019 recruiting class.

“It’s been great getting back with them,” Simpson said. “I said either you’re getting better or worse, and I said I feel two years better as a coach. And they’ve grown as young men, as players.”

The Canes added a ready-made contributor to the DL group this offseason by landing Tennessee transfer DE De’Andre Johnson, and Simpson spoke on what he brings to the table.

“You turn on his tape, he’s physical,” Simpson said. “He has a tremendous chance to come in and make an impact for us immediately. Fired up to get to work with him, the person and the player.”

The Canes will also add 4 freshmen on the defensive line this year, including Leonard Taylor, Allan Haye, Jabari Ishmael, and Thomas Davis, who has already enrolled for spring.

“I see potential and competition, all of them have great traits,” Simpson said of the freshmen. “All those guys will have a chance to contribute, but they have to earn a right to do it.”

Simpson also said that Diaz is leaning into his new role as UM’s de facto DC, giving a speech to the defense earlier on Wednesday afternoon.

“Today Manny spoke to the defense - I always said to guys `Remember why you go the job.’ When you become a head coach, you always have to remember why you got the job. Hearing Manny talk today, he was so on point, on message,” Simpson said. “When you know the direction of the program, that’s what gives you a chance to be successful.”

Every coach has a preferred profile he’s looking for when it comes to recruiting his position, and Simpson is no different.

“It’s about being disruptive,” Simpson said. “When I was here, we were number 1 in TFL’s. That speaks to the style of play up front. We are vertical penetrators. We are looking for guys that can run out of their stance, play with great fundamentals. I’m looking for athletes.”


**DeMarcus Van Dyke has long been part of the University of Miami football program, playing with the Canes as a corner from 2007-2010 before embarking on a 6-year NFL career. Over the past two years, Van Dyke made himself an instrumental part of Miami’s recruiting department as the assistant director of recruiting after spending 2018 as a defensive quality control analyst at UM, and he has frequently been cited by many recruits and families as being a key part of their recruiting process.

Last month, that hard work behind the scenes finally paid off, as Van Dyke was promoted to become UM’s cornerbacks coach for the upcoming 2021 season.

"Man, I’m very excited to be here, dream come true,” Van Dyke said. “I’m ready for it… It’s exciting to be part of this program. My dream was always to become a coach at Miami, and I can bring a lot to the table.”

Van Dyke will essentially be working under the newly hired Travaris Robinson, who has jurisdiction over all the DB’s at Miami with the “defensive backs coach” title, and the rookie coach in Van Dyke says he expects to learn plenty from the 13-year veteran in Robinson.

“The biggest thing I learned about T-Rob is he’s a great recruiter but also a great coach,” Van Dyke said. “His track record speaks for itself - first round, second round guys. He’s just a personable guy, straight shooter, a real funny guy.”

At the age of just 32, Van Dyke brings a youthful element to the coaching staff that in the past has helped him connect with the high school prospects Miami targets on a daily basis in recruiting.

“It all starts with the relationship with the kids and the parents, but mainly the parents,” Van Dyke said of recruiting. “My mom had the final say-so (in my recruitment). I think it’s the relationship with the parents, `Look, I’ll take care of your son, make sure he leaves here with a degree and NFL contract.’”

What traits does Van Dyke value above others when evaluating a corner prospect?

“Those guys with swag, no type of fear,” Van Dyke said. “I watch game film to see how a guy plays, and then in between plays. Guys that are not afraid to tackle, game-changers. We need game-changers.”

Van Dyke also gave his take on the current crop of corners at Miami, a group that struggled at various points last season, but returns every contributor from the 2020 roster and will add Georgia star transfer Tyrique Stevenson.

"It’s a great group,” Van Dyke said. “(DJ) Ivey, watching film from last year - long arms, skills, great technique. Te’Cory (Couch) is like a pitbull, not scared to put his face in the fan, he’s tough, good ball skills, technique at the line of scrimmage. Al Blades a good football player, great technique, football skills. And two young guys, Isaiah Dunson and Marcus Clarke. Isaiah is a long kid from Georgia, very fast, good change of direction. And Marcus is a former receiver who has great ball skills and I think is one of the top two fastest DB’s on our team.”

Now on officially a coach the UM staff, the man known as DVD gave his take on what it’s been like working more directly under Diaz and if his perspective has changed at all from his days in the recruiting department.

“Coach Diaz treats everyone the same, from the custodian to the AD, is respectful,” Van Dyke said. “For me, I have to do extra to pull my weight around here.”
 

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