No one knows how good Manny Diaz will be as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes, but it is widely acknowledged in the college football coaching industry that Diaz was ready to get a high-profile head coaching job. He deserved a shot. Now he has it.
Diaz patiently waited for his time. He paid his dues at Texas and Mississippi State and Miami and other places, then jumped at the chance to coach at Temple, when it seemed that Mark Richt would stay on for the 2019 season.
We all know what happened next.
Never having officially moved to Philadelphia, Diaz was back in a weekend blur to take over the Canes.
This was an unconventional path to the Miami head coaching job, but Diaz was — on the merits and under the specific circumstances — a perfectly reasonable and logical choice to become the next face of the program.
Let’s be very clear about this: Logical moves don’t necessarily work out. When a move doesn’t work out, that doesn’t automatically mean it was foolish or deficient.
Jim Harbaugh hasn’t worked out at Michigan. No one would say that was a dumb move.
Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics made so many moves to create a championship roster… and then, for whatever reason, the coach and players simply didn’t mesh well this past season, despite outmaneuvering the Philadelphia 76ers in the draft and getting Jayson Tatum instead of Markelle Fultz. Good moves did not lead to a good outcome It happens.
Diaz was — and is — a good move by Miami. Now it’s up to Diaz to make a good move become a fruitful and productive move.
This is where the discussion shifts to Dan Enos, as the 2019 season opener against the Florida Gators approaches.
Unproven head coaches have to get a lot of decisions right, few more centrally than the coordinators they pick, especially the “weakside” coordinator.
Diaz, as a veteran defensive coordinator, knows how to coach and oversee a defense, which reduces the significance of having Blake Baker and Ephraim Banda as co-defensive coordinators. Those positions aren’t insignificant, but they aren’t as vital to the staff and the fortunes of the program since Diaz can always offer a course correction if needed.
When one refers to a “weakside” coordinator, one is referring to the side of the ball which is NOT the head coach’s fundamental point of expertise. For Diaz, this is the offense.
Diaz will count on Enos to cultivate a quarterback and guide an offense Diaz might be responsible for shaping the culture of the program and hitting targets on the recruiting trail, but Enos is in many ways the man who will make the Canes sink or swim in the next few years.
Realize the world Enos is entering in the ACC Coastal this year. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster — a legend of the sport — will coach his final season in Blacksburg after a third of a century with the program Virginia — picked by some to win the ACC Coastal this year — is led by Bronco Mendenhall, one of the better defensive minds in the sport.
New Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins figures to develop a formidable defense on The Flats in Atlanta. New North Carolina defensive coordinator Jay Bateman turned Army into an 11-win program and could be the reason the Tar Heels thrive in the course of time under Mack Brown, who is returning to Chapel Hill for a second tour of duty after a very successful first run in the 1990s.
The defensive minds in the 2019 ACC Coastal are waiting to smother Miami.
Dan Enos will match wits with those minds. More precisely, he will match wits with the ACC Coastal’s defensive wizards more than Manny Diaz will. It’s up to Diaz to contain Bryce Perkins of Virginia and outsmart Justin Fuente of Virginia Tech.
Enos has to guide the Hurricanes past Foster and Mendenhall in the two most important games of the season. He has to figure out Florida State’s defense as well.
Diaz will step into the cauldron of pressure, moving from the coordinator’s chair to the big throne in Coral Gables. Nick Saban is relatively unique in that his coordinators seem to change every single year, but the Alabama machine keeps rolling. That is not reflective of how most successful programs operate, partly because Alabama is not “most programs.”
The way things usually work is that head coaches need their coordinators — especially the “weakside” coordinator — to meet the challenge.
Diaz definitely needs Enos to hit his marks and deliver the goods this year.
The head coach might get the credit — and certainly, hiring the right coordinator is something for which a head coach deserves credit — but Manny Diaz probably won’t become a success as a collegiate head coach if Dan Enos falls short of the mark.
Keep that point squarely in mind before Miami’s season begins.
Even in victory reality is harsh for Hurricanes
It makes sense that an important victory for the Miami Hurricanes – a season-saving 17-9 win over the Virginia Cavaliers on Friday night – would simultaneously remind the Canes how far they still have to go, and how slim their margins are.
This was an improvement, and a significant one, but it wasn’t the conquest which dramatically changes opinions and gives birth to a fresh sense of hope.
The uneasy coexistence of happiness and uncertainty is going to remain part of Miami’s world in 2019, and if we’re being honest, probably the first half of the 2020 season. The U isn’t yet ready to escape the familiar problems which have dogged the program for a decade and a half.
If we are looking at the very big picture, negativity can’t be eliminated from the landscape. One has to see reality for what it is.
But enough about the bigger picture. In the immediate aftermath of Friday’s game against Virginia, Miami gained positive clarity and took a needed step forward in its evolution. The Hurricanes probably knew this on a conceptual level before the game began, but now they know this in a concrete way:
They have to lean on their defense, and they have to avoid huge mistakes.
The Canes watched a home game against Virginia Tech slip away the week before. A tidal wave of interceptions led to a boatload of Hokie points. Miami’s festival of mistakes enabled The U to lose as a 12-point favorite.
A starting point for the Canes against Virginia was to not commit turnovers Sometimes, “addition” can simply mean the elimination of negatives: addition by subtraction.
Miami did exactly that against the ACC Coastal leader and favorite, committing zero turnovers. Virginia endured a blocked field goal – made possible by Miami’s Pat Bethel – and a steady stream of failed red-zone possessions which recalled UCF’s nightmare the Friday before against Cincinnati.
Virginia committed a turnover inside the Miami 25-yard line. Jon Ford punched the ball out. Trajan Bandy made the recovery.
Miami didn’t make any of those debilitating mistakes.
No, the offense didn’t function well for most of the game. Miami’s first drive and its last produced touchdowns; everything in between created only three points. N’Kosi Perry (above) lacked touch on his deep ball. The offensive line wasn’t particularly good (though not as bad as it was against Florida).
Yet, with zero turnovers, Miami didn’t give Virginia any free points. It gave Virginia Tech several free touchdowns six days earlier.
Merely weeding out the awful aspects of its performance was enough, given how well the defense played, especially freshman defensive end Greg Rousseau
He hadn’t been in the starting lineup earlier in the season, but on Friday, he delivered seven tackles, a sack, a fourth-down stop, and a forced fumble recovery.
Perry might not need to win games; he can merely avoid losing them… and allow Rousseau and the defense to win them.
Miami isn’t a complete team. It does not have a complete solution within its grasp. It does, however, possess the roadmap to success in 2019. It probably won’t always work, but it is the way UM needs to play:
Don’t screw up. Shorten the game. Play for field position and a rested defense. Let the defense win.
If Miami can continue to trim the fat and add by subtracting, this season – which probably won’t reach all of its goals – can become a lot better than many expected after any of September’s especially embarrassing moments.
That isn’t a soaring statement of hope, but it’s a lot better than the previous weeks of this season.
For now, that’s a start, and a good step in the right direction.
Canes named N’Kosi Perry starting QB against Virginia
Canes head coach Manny Diaz announced on Wednesday that last year’s part-time starter N’Kosi Perry will be starting under center for the matchup with Virginia. He said that he made the move, because Jarren Williams is dealing with an injury that has him not at full capacity, however, it could in part be a hope to continue the momentum that almost pulled out a huge come from behind win against Virginia Tech on Saturday.
N’Kosi Perry starting Saturday, per Manny Diaz pic.twitter.com/UmILFo8W5o
— Gaboowins (@GabyUrrutia22) October 9, 2019
“We’re going to start N’Kosi Perry at quarterback on Friday night.” He added, “Jarren Williams is dealing with an upper extremity issue that leaves him less that 100 percent. N’Kosi gives us a chance to win, I think we all saw last Saturday the improvement in his game and we’re excited to ride behind him and find a way to beat a very well coached and tough-minded Virginia football team.”
The Virginia game will mark Perry’s seventh career start as he sits this season at 35 for 55 with 501 yards and five touchdowns so far.
This past Saturday night, Diaz had seen enough of an ineffective Jarren Williams, who threw three first-half interceptions to the Hokies, So right before the half, he replaced him with Perry. On the final play of the first half, Perry got a key Hail Mary score, saving Miami from a potential shutout, making the game 28 – 7 at the break.
Perry then engineered an 88-yard drive out of the locker room hitting tight end Brevin Jordan to trim the lead in half to 28 – 14. The Hokies still looked to be in great shape, when Hooker threw his third TD pass of the day to cap a Virginia Tech 80-yard drive, and it was 35 – 14 with 12:43 left.
But unfazed, Perry helped Miami get right back in the game hitting Jeff Thomas with a 13-yard score and then, with another 25-yard score to Thomas, plus a 2-point conversion to make the game 35 – 29 with over three minutes remaining.
Perry, who finished with 422 yards against Virginia Tech despite not playing until the second quarter got Miami in range for one more score. But, he threw incomplete with one second remaining in the back of the endzone and then, his final pass with no time left was batted down at the goal line, and allowed the Hokies their first ACC win of the season.
Diaz indicated Williams remained day-to-day and has been limited in practice this week. It’s undetermined who will be QB1 for the remainder of the season once Williams is back to full speed, but for now Perry is the guy who needs to continue to ignite the passing game that hasn’t fully taken off for Miami this season.
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