Under Manny Diaz, the Miami Hurricanes defense had an identity.
Since Diaz took over as the defensive coordinator in 2016, the Hurricanes defense were known for their hard-nosed style of play that got to the ball and created a sense of swagger. Whether it was the dominance against teams like Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, or the Turnover Chain that was donned a combined 25 times last season, Miami’s defense became both prominent and produced a plethora of NFL talent.
That, however, was never the case for the offense. Since Mark Richt’s tenure as head coach began, the Hurricanes’ offense could best be described as widely lethargic and archaic, despite loads of talent on the side of the ball.
Now, under new offensive coordinator Dan Enos and company, the Hurricanes have a task that seems near improbable: improve a once horrific offense in just one season.
While the task will be hard, it has to start at its core with finding a new identity, something the Hurricanes offense has not had since Randy Shannon took over in 2007.
Lacking an identity last season, the Hurricanes finished the year with a carousel of quarterbacks and threw just 19 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. On the ground, the Canes had a little more success with just over five yards per rush. Though even then, it seemed as a disappointment with the talent Miami had.
While the scheme, which will feature motion and shifts if Spring practice is any sign, will be an important part of making the offense better, it’s only a part of the identity shift.
Much like the Hurricanes of former glory, which were known for running up the score, the UM of current day need to find its identity that puts the team back on the national map.
The obvious answer? Using the thing that South Florida, especially the Tri-County high school football teams are known for:
On offense, the priority has to be to get the ball to the playmakers on the Hurricanes offense, who possess that similar quality of speed.
As a high school recruit, wide receiver Jeff Thomas was timed at 4.38 on the 40-yard dash at The Opening, which was the fastest time at the event. The same speed was on clear display late last season when Thomas broke multiple tackles on his way to a punt-return touchdown against Virginia Tech. On offense, he was used in the deep game, often when head coach Mark Richt would put Thomas on fly routes.
Even after gaining 20 pounds between the 2017 and 2018 season, running back DeeJay Dallas still managed to clock a 4.45 40-yard dash. Dallas also had a punt-return last year, where he ran the last 30-yards of a 65-yard return against Pittsburgh untouched. Even though Dallas only ran for 609 yards in 2018, his speed allowed himself to get past the line quickly, accelerating him into the second level often and creating larger plays for himself.
The speed on offense is clear. If it is not Thomas or Dallas, it’s players like Brevin Jordan or Mike Harley, or it’s quarterback Tate Martell under center. Last season, the biggest downfall for the Hurricanes on offense was not using this array of talent when it was there.
If Miami begins next season with the mindset of being fast, 2019 will surely be different. What was once a hopeful expectation will turn into a positive result, and the offense that was once lethargic can turn into a historically dominant attack.