Manny Diaz is introduced as head coach of the Miami Hurricanes and outlines his vision for the program moving forward.
Once the dust settled after Manny Diaz was hired last week as the Miami Hurricanes’ new coach following the abrupt resignation of Mark Richt, one of the biggest questions Diaz faced was about his staff — namely, who would lead the offense.
Before taking the reins as the 25th coach in program history, Diaz led a transformed Hurricanes defense that became one of the better units in the nation. But as Miami limped to a 7-6 record in 2018, the Hurricanes were plagued by quarterback questions, inconsistent line play and a myriad of other offensive issues that proved costly in losses to Virginia, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin.
Therefore, one of the first moves Diaz made after taking over as coach was firing all of the offensive coaches. More than a week later, though, replacements still haven’t been announced and questions continue to swirl about the offensive staff.
None of those questions were answered Wednesday morning when Diaz — while on with WQAM-560’s Joe Rose and Zach Krantz — promised the announcement of an offensive coordinator hire would come soon.
And Diaz had a little bit of fun with the situation in the process.
“I thought sources said we’ve hired about six different guys,” Diaz quipped, acknowledging the rumors that have circulated linking several coaches, including Larry Fedora and Major Applewhite, to his offensive coordinator search. “That’s the problem. I have to try and fit them all on one staff.
“This is a process that you’ve got to see through. You’re really not just hiring one guy. You’re hiring a group of guys. I’ve said all along that a football staff is not fantasy football. You don’t just put guys together, put them in a room and expect stuff to happen. You want to make sure there’s great alignment along the staff, so there’s multiple things that are always occurring at one time and then you’ve got to be respectful of people’s timetables at the time when it can happen. The first third down of the Florida (Gators) game (Aug. 31), no one will remember whether the hire happened on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or a Friday. It will just matter if it was the right guy, and I’ve really been guided by that principle all along. I still really feel good about where it’s going. … It’s coming, I promise. It’s coming.”
As Rose and Krantz tried to press Diaz further — even mentioning Applewhite by name — the coach still wouldn’t budge.
“Today is not the day. There’s still a couple things. … I’s getting dotted and T’s getting crossed and so on and so forth. … I think [we are close]. Our goal of getting things sort of situated as we get into the weekend and head off for the final three-week stretch of recruiting is still the plan. It’s still intact.”
What Diaz was willing to discuss Wednesday was the structure he has outlined for his defensive staff, including the hire of Blake Baker as defensive coordinator and the fact defensive line coach Jess Simpson will keep the associate head coach title given to him by Richt.
Also on Diaz’s defensive staff are safeties coach Ephraim Banda, who will serve as a co-defensive coordinator with Baker, outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Jonathan Patke and cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph, a member of Miami’s 2001 national championship team.
“I mentioned the word ‘alignment’ and we have a good thing going on defense, so when we were looking to fill the hole we had on the staff, we found a guy like Blake, who has been with me at Louisiana Tech and understands the system. The most important guys are the guys in the locker room and I want them to feel like they’re coming back to the same defense and the same structure as we had before,” Diaz said. “I’ve got a staff of guys that I think you’re going to look back on 10, 15 years from now and say, ‘Wow. All those guys worked together on one staff.’
“I think Blake is extremely talented. He’ll work very closely with Ephraim Banda. They’ll hold co-defensive coordinator titles and Ephraim has a great understanding of what’s going on in the back end. He and Mike Rumph, of course, were a large part of our success in terms of leading the nation in pass defense this year. Jonathan Patke understands how it all fits together on the inside and his passion and his toughness and what he brings as a coach. I want that to spread to the entire team as our special teams coordinator. I think he’ll have a dramatic impact on our team doing that. And Jess Simpson — the word you can use with our defensive line this year was unbelievable. His instincts to see the 30,000-foot picture from all his background as being a head coach is really remarkable. He will have a role that everyone on our football team will feel because he has a great understanding of messaging and the ins-and-outs of the team. Those guys together on that side of the ball really get me excited.”