Some coaching clashes are compelling because of how different the two men are. Some coaching confrontations are enhanced by the level of mystery in the encounter. Some coaching matchups are fascinating. because the two men know each other well.
Saturday’s college football season opener between the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes fits into that third category. Dan Mullen and Manny Diaz know each other well.
How many times in the history of college football has this EXACT set of details below pertained to a season-opening coaching clash?
— The two programs involved in the game have won national titles in the past 20 years
— Both head coaches were previously coordinators at the schools they currently lead as head coaches
— Both head coaches served under SEC champion head coaches (Urban Meyer and Mark Richt)
— Both men were part of coaching staffs which participated in New Year’s Six or BCS bowls
— Both men had coached in the Orange Bowl in the past five years
— One of the two coaches not only worked for the other coach, but in two separate stints
— The two separate stints lasted exactly one year apiece
Yes, this is an uncommonly intimate coaching matchup.
Manny Diaz was Dan Mullen’s defensive coordinator — not once, but twice.
Mullen took over the Mississippi State program before the 2009 season. He invited Diaz to be his defensive coordinator for the 2010 season. Diaz then jumped at the opportunity to go to Texas and work for Mack Brown after Will Muschamp grew impatient with Brown (as the coach-in-waiting) and bolted for… Florida, where Mullen had worked from 2005-2008 under Meyer as offensive coordinator.
Diaz spent three years in Austin as the Longhorns flamed out and Brown lost hold of the program. (Brown has resurfaced this year as a rival for… yep.. Miami in the ACC Coastal Division with North Carolina.) Humbled and knocked down a peg in the coaching hierarchy, Diaz then spent the 2014 season at Louisiana Tech. It was Mullen who gave Diaz a lift before the 2015 season, enabling Diaz to once again coach not only at Mississippi State, but more generally in a Power Five conference.
Diaz — in a move mirroring his jump to an established veteran coach in 2011 — once again latched onto a big-name program led by a high-profile sideline sultan. He joined Mark Richt in Miami for the 2016 season. He once again spent three seasons as the coordinator for that program.
Unlike the Texas tour from 2011 through 2013, Diaz’s star clearly rose in Miami. The turnover-chain defense of 2017 was the reason Richt won the ACC Coastal and a berth in the Orange Bowl. Diaz’s reputation grew in Coral Gables. The disastrous 2018 season for The U had nothing to do with the defense, which held up its end of the bargain. Richt’s offense and his inability to develop Miami’s quarterbacks led the car to swerve off the road and into a deep ditch.
Diaz saw the sinking ship and wanted to begin his career as a head coach. The Temple job has been a short-term catapult for various coaches in recent years. Matt Rhule used it to go to Baylor. Geoff Collins — who once coached at Florida as an assistant — used it to go to Georgia Tech. A man named Al Golden — Canes fans want to forget him — used Temple as a stepping stone for the Miami job. Diaz sensed opportunity and went to Philly.
We all know what happened next. Richt retired. Diaz changed his mind. Here we are.
Diaz gets to match wits with Mullen. Manny not only has the advantage of knowing how Mullen thinks; he has been able to see how Mullen has evolved.
It is a very unique and particular dynamic: A coordinator got to see how a boss (his head coach) thinks in two separate occasions five years removed from each other. Diaz’s introductory course on “Mullenology” was in 2010 at Mississippi State. Diaz received the graduate course in 2015. (He didn’t have to pay tuition, either. He got paid for the course!) Now the two men meet in 2019, eager to see how their ideas have continued to develop.
The obvious yet extra-sexy aspect of this intimate coaching matchup: Mullen is an offense-first coach, Diaz a defense-first coach. If the two men both coached the same side of the ball, the battle of brains wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. It is PRECISELY because they occupy different sides of the ball that Diaz-Mullen and Canes-Gators are so loaded with intrigue.
At the beginning of this decade, they were introduced to each other.
In the middle of this decade, they reconnected with each other, again on the same coaching staff.
At the end of the 2010s, Dan Mullen and Manny Diaz will stand on opposite sidelines in a Week 1 cauldron of pressure.
The college football world will be primarily interested in seeing how both men have evolved in their own ways and on their own terms. Yet, the context surrounding Gators-Canes is incomplete if the relationship between Mullen and Diaz isn’t included.
How they evolve in their understanding of each other — not just their own autonomous selves — will have a lot to do with the outcome of Florida versus Miami.
Will Canes turn things around in home opener?
The excitement behind first year Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz is quickly losing steam as the once ACC powerhouse has now found themselves as an unranked, middle of the pack team in their conference with an 0-2 record. Granted, they have had some bigger tests than most teams in the first two weeks of play, but still, there is too much talent on this team to have had such a lackluster start.
So, today has to be the day for Diaz to see some success as he heads into his first home game as the Canes head coach. Even if it’s against an FCS team, it will give the Canes the boost they need to turn the season around. They have a lot of young talent who can certainly bring Miami back to its state of prominence and there is still a lot to be hopeful for as they head into their first kickoff in Hard Rock Stadium this season.
History is certainly on Miami’s side. In their all time series with Bethune-Cookman University, Miami has a perfect 4-0 mark against the Wildcats, winning all four games by 3o points or more. Also, Miami has not lost a home opener since 2006, and have emerged victorious in its last 12 home openers, most recently, a shoutout 77-0 victory vs. Savannah State last season.
Amidst the two early losses, RS Freshman QB Jarren Williams has looked strong. In his first ever collegiate start against Top 10 ranked Florida, Williams finished 19-for-30 for 214 yards and 1 TD. He looked even better in week two against ACC opponent North Carolina, throwing for 309 yards on 30-for-39 passing with two touchdowns and no picks. He’ll likely put up even bigger numbers today against a significantly weaker defense. He’s now the ranked fourth among ACC Quarterbacks.
Williams also has strong targets in RB DeeJay Dallas who rushed for 107 yards on 14 carries, averaging 7.6 yards per rush vs. UNC, as well as TE Brevin Jordan who leads the team with 161 receiving yards (80.5 per game).
On the defensive end, Miami has one the best linebacker trios in college football right now with Zach McCloud, Michael Pinckney & Shaq Quarterman. These three have started nearly every game together since arriving to University of Miami as early enrollees in 2016.
UM’s starting offensive line now has three freshman. True freshman LT Zion Nelson, redshirt freshman RT John Campbell, Jr. and true freshman Jakai Clark who made his first start against the Tar Heels. The young UM offensive line looked much improved in week two, but they still allowed four sacks and aren’t up to the caliber they need to be to be considered a solid offensive line. However, facing a FCS level opponent like Bethune-Cookman, the starting five on the offensive line should be able to grow confident together this week.
Should Miami be upset with the way they’ve started this season, for sure. But, the 0-2 start does not have to reflect what the rest of the year will look like. This week is the perfect opportunity for the teams nine new starters so far this season to get more comfortable and build some confidence, and get the second string guys playing time to give the team more depth all around.
Even with defeat Canes legend Irvin passionate about future
MIAMI IS BACK!!!! Well, at least they are, according to Hurricanes legendary WR Michael Irvin and a social media post Monday morning.
First, Irvin was seen getting Canes fans hyped at a rally Friday night prior to Miami’s opening loss to rival Florida in Orlando Saturday night:
MICHAEL IRVIN IS READY FOR MIAMI VS. FLORIDA
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 24, 2019
Irvin was also a guest on ESPN’s “College Gameday” show at Disney World and got very animated on Saturday morning with Gators legend/Heisman winner, Tim Tebow:
— ESPN (@espn) August 24, 2019
Well, despite the hype, the Hurricanes played a sloppy game with lots of penalties and turnovers. Some of this was to be expected with a first year head coach in Manny Diaz and a redshirt freshman QB making his first start in Jarren Williams. As we wrote though, Williams showed promise at times despite sacks and misfires, at times for the offense.
Well, Irvin was back on social media Monday (apparently after a morning workout) and wanted Canes fans to know he is encouraged and to keep that same energy even after the loss:
— Michael Irvin (@michaelirvin88) August 26, 2019
In the :60 post, Irvin made it very clear that the Canes “gave it to the Gators,” and he was so adamant about that, he even said it twice. He was also very encouraged about the way his team played, especially with multiple freshmen on the O-line and a young QB.
“If it weren’t for a few mistakes, the Canes would have walked away with the win!,” Irvin emphasized.
Irvin, who was a two time All American receiver for the Gators in the 80s, part of the 1987 National Championship team and later a Pro Football Hall of Famer with the Cowboys, was a good sport and congratulated the Gators. But, he did leave us with a great quote to end his speech,
“I don’t care what ya’ll say, we will never die. We will never quit, and we will never go anywhere. So, eat that on your breakfast, lunch, and dinner plate.”
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