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Acquisition, development, and deployment at the University of Miami

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How the ‘Canes shake out as managers of young athletes

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Louisville at Miami Photo by Aaron Gilbert/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bobby Bowden was known for saying that in a recruiting class one-third of the athletes, regardless of “ranking” must become starters, one-third must become role players, and one-third will sadly be bench warmers or transfers. If two-thirds of your signing class don’t play you’re in trouble.

Urban Meyer believes in the 10-80-10 Principle which is that 10% must be elite, 80% must be compliant, and sadly 10% will be defiant. Your job as a head coach, a boss at Target, or an educator is to get as many of the compliant 80% into the 10% elite category, and to get as many of the defiant 10% to buy in to the 80% compliant as possible. Sadly, 5% of your 10% defiant crew will probably be cut or will transfer before long. I also believe that my job is to teach those 10% that are elite to “hang loose” (read this book) and not get burned out on their own drive and expectations.

Bill Connelly (creator of the SP+ analytics system) coined the adage that a football program is responsible for three phases in order to build success: acquisition, development, and deployment. Acquisition is, of course, recruiting. Development can be done both on the field at practice and in the weight room. Is your strength and conditioning coach elite? Can he or she and their staff push your athletes into the top 10% category? And of course deployment is putting the right guys and the right scheme together for wins on game day.

Acquisition can’t just be about raw talent, it also has to be about finding gritty players who have the resiliency to overcome a lack of early playing time, and who have it in them to become the 80% that are compliant and push into being the 10% who are elite. It takes leg work and a keen eye to read through transcripts and discipline records of high school athletes. But that’s a huge part of acquisition- there are a lot of kids who can dunk a basketball but how many can do so and maintain a 3.5 GPA, take a couple of AP classes, and stay out of the principal’s office?

Development will need to adapt now that David Feeley has been on campus for a year. Running players into the ground, and off-campus is unnecessary now that it’s Manny Diaz’s team. I would love to see less 300’s and 110’s and more actual football speed and agility (change of direction) training this off-season. The articles about gassers, mat drills and conditioning need to shift into articles about football speed, football power, and production related lifts.

Deployment this off-season would require a deep look into the offensive philosophy and into the defensive play caller. Should Baker be left to his own devices again, or should Manny bring in a veteran coach who can help guide the young coordinator? Currently the defensive back coaches are extremely young and don’t have the guidance to offer Baker.

Manny Diaz hasn’t had a ton of time to put his stamp on the ‘Canes program as a head coach, it’s been about 11 months for him on the job as we speak. However, this is his 4th season in the program and three were spent as a defensive coordinator under an offensive-minded head coach. I expect 2020 to be one hell of a season including a Coastal win and a New Year’s Six bowl game appearance.


Pittsburgh v Miami Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Bad Classes

2016 (32 wins so far)

The 2016 class was thrown together late after the firing of Al Golden and the hiring of Mark Richt. You would need six to be starters, six to be role players, and six could be bench guys of your 19 players in the class in order to be successful. It has been a near complete disaster. This class was ranked 22nd in the country and 3rd in the ACC per 247sports.

Of the 19 enrollees 4 have been starters (not the 33% needed per Coach Bowden) in Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney, Joe Jackson and Travis Homer; three have been role players (not the 33% needed) in Romeo Finley, Pat Bethel, and Michael Irvin II; two retired from injury (Malek Young and Ahmmon Richards who could’ve been stars) and the rest have been non-factors like Sam Bruce (the top player in 2016), and Jack Allison.

There was a little development going on as Irvin II has played better, and Homer and Jackson are NFL players. However, Quarterman and Pinckney have looked like the same players from 2016 in 2019 and losing two players to injury doesn’t say a lot for your S&C program.

Bethune-Cookman v Miami Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

2017 (23 wins so far)

The 2017 class consisted of 25 players (so eight players need to be starters, eight role players, and eight can be bench guys with one lost to transfers). This class was ranked 12th in the nation and 2nd in the ACC. It has not lived up to that billing so while acquisition was there, development and deployment was not.

Where do I even begin? Jeff Thomas was the top rated player (per 247sports) in the ‘Canes class and has flashed brilliance while also being suspended, quitting, and being an all-around cancer. As a coach you either coach it or you allow it- so we can put this on Manny Diaz for bringing him back and on Mark Richt for not doing the background check and due diligence before bringing him in. Thomas has only averaged 12.3 yards per catch but did play big against Florida State so good for him.

Navaughn Donaldson might not be the All-American fans dreamed of but he’s been a starter since arriving on campus and that’s a good thing. Other starters have been Trajan Bandy, Deejay Dallas, Jonathan Garvin, Mike Harley, Corey Gaynor, and Amari Carter (at times). That gives you eight starters when Carter and Thomas haven’t been suspended for a variety of things from targeting (Carter) to discipline (Thomas).

N’Kosi Perry and Jon Ford have been role players. This class needed eight role players but only had two. Perry being beaten out by Williams pushes him into the role player category. I would expect him to transfer out this off-season. He’s also been suspended in the past, which is a bad look for acquisition and development.

If only eight players could be bench players and one could transfer, it’s really bad recruiting that 12 people have fallen into this category. Diaz signed off on the defensive players and there have been plenty of flops, especially at linebacker, from the class. D.J. Johnson transferred out almost immediately, and Derrick Smith, Jeff Feagles and Cade Weldon are gone as well. Kai-Leon Herbert, Zalon’tae Hillery, Brian Polendey, Robert Burns, Evidence Njoku, Waymon Steed, Bradley Jennings Jr and Zach Dykastra have been bench players.

The development of players, or the acquisition of players with any ceiling, has been highly questionable in this class. Hillery, Herbert, Steed, Jennings, Dykstra, and Ford hardly have done a thing in orange and green. Then you add in Perry has seen limited growth and Donaldson is a mess at times at guard and you have to question the development, especially at the offensive line positions.


Virginia v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Great Class

2018 (13 wins so far)

The 2018 class consisted of 23 players and was ranked 8th in the nation and 2nd in the ACC. It’s hard to judge a class this recent but so far it’s been more successful than the past two. To be a success this class needs 7.5 starters, role players and bench players with maybe an allowable transfer. This could be a wildly successful haul with 10 players that could be regular starters and four to five role players of significant value. Add in the potential of Lorenzo Lingard and this could be a huge class.

Brevin Jordan, Nesta Silvera, Jarren Williams, Al Blades Jr, DJ Scaife, Cam’Ron Haris, Gurvan Hall, Dee Wiggins, Gregory Rousseau, and DJ Ivey look like sure-fire starters and major players in this program.

Jordan Miller, John Campbell, Gilbert Frierson, Mark Pope, and Will Mallory have played significant roles or should in the near future.

The big bust could be five-star running back Lorenzo Lingard who has been injured for most of his short Miami career. He still has plenty of time to rehab his knee and get ready for a big season in 2020 splitting time with Harris and Don Cheney. Sadly, Brian Hightower is already in the transfer portal. I had high hopes for the young wide receiver but he has opted to play else where from 2020 and beyond.

The development here is limited due to time, so this could just be one hell of a job of acquiring some ready-made players. However, I will give credit to the development of Rousseau who is new to not only the position but also to carrying real defensive end weight. Williams has grown under Enos this season, too. However, Silvera was injured, Scaife has taken a step back, and I obviously expected more from Lingard.


JOE PATNERO Charles Bertram/Lexington Herald-Leader/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Potentially Great Class

Hal Mumme used to infamously tell kids “your potential is going to get me fired.” What that means is that if your potential never becomes reality, what’s it worth? That’s part of the proper acquisition issues I’ve discussed earlier. It’s also a huge part of development and deployment. It’s a coach’s job to get players ready to play. Saturdays are for the players to go out and have fun.

2019 (6 wins so far)

The 2019 class is way too early to do a proper analysis on but two of the lowest rated players have been playing the most in Zion Nelson and Jakai Clark while punter Louis Hedley has been a steal. K.J. Osborn has been a great transfer portal addition at wide receiver. However, I expect some really big things out of Christian Williams, Jason Blissett and Sam Brooks.

Trevon Hill has been a fine one-year addition, while Tate Martell has flopped as a QB but could find a role player spot at wide receiver or in some kind of Taysom Hill role. Bubba Bolden was coming on strong until a disastrous hip bump forced him onto the injured reserve.


Miami v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The Future

The 2020 signing class will be Manny Diaz’s first true recruiting class as the head football coach. The 2019 group was a throw together with Richt leaving and Diaz returning from Temple. The early signing period is making for some bad first classes when there’s a coaching change. The 2020 class is currently ranked 16th in the country and 2nd in the ACC.

So far there are three offensive linemen in the class. Four-star Jalen Rivers and two three-star prospects. Miami also is in desperate need of linebackers and there are four in the class so far. Hopefully they all stick with the ‘Canes on signing day. The highest rated prospect is running back Don Chaney who is a four-star from Belen Jesuit Prep. Other big names are defensive end Chantz Williams, IMG receiver Michael Redding III, QB Tyler Van Dyke, and wide receiver Marcus Flemming from Northwestern High School.

The acquisition seems to be heading in the right direction at most positions besides the offensive line. Development needs to become a priority this off-season. The ‘Canes can’t afford to be pushed around by Central Michigan, Pitt, and UVA any more. Miami should be dominating these less-than programs instead of scraping by or losing to these teams.

Deployment is also an issue as Manny Diaz had to pull in the reigns from Blake Baker, his defensive coordinator; and there was a sudden schematic switch against both FSU and especially Louisville into more of a shotgun and spread feel using RPO’s and quick passing to alleviate the offensive line woes rather than exemplify them as he did against CMU and Virginia and Georgia Tech.

Is Manny Diaz the right guy for the job? We’ll find out in 2020 because that will be his 6th season on campus and his 2nd as the head coach. The acquisition, development and deployment will be fully in his hands by the end of the season in 2020. The Hurricanes have to win the Coastal in 2020, they must beat the Seminoles who are currently without a head football coach or recruiting class, and they must play well in the ACC Championship Game rather than come out flat like in 2017, leading to a tanked bowl game, too.