Manny Diaz opened up Monday’s press conference before they play Florida by crediting Dan Enos and his staff for changing the culture of that football program.
“I really look at two programs in a way separated by 12 months. I look at Dan Mullen and his staff coming in and inheriting a four-win team two years ago, changing the culture of that program.”
The Canes and Gators were both 5-1 in October of the 2018 season when they went in completely different directions. The Gators were facing a 21-3 deficit against Vanderbilt and came back and won that game.
Later that night, Miami played Virginia and lost.
The Gators had a similar showing when South Carolina went to Gainesville a couple weeks later and put them in a 31-21 hole going into the fourth quarter before rallying late and winning.
The Gators had lost their previous two games to Georgia and Missouri and were staring dead in the face of their third straight loss, but Dan Mullen’s team instead showed resilience. They went on to win their final four games against USC, Idaho, Florida State, and Michigan in dominating fashion, finishing the season with 10 wins.
On the other hand, the Hurricanes collapsed — losing four in a row before finally bouncing back with a win at Virginia Tech.
“One of our main objectives of this offseason has been to find that competitive spirit that drive, that backbone that benefitted Florida a year ago.”
Diaz mentioned that the Gators skill guys were a key to their success a year ago.
“I don't know if we’ll play a stable of running backs that will run as hard and try to run through tackles and contact like their backs will.”
On the Gators quarterback Feliepe Franks, Diaz says,
“Two things jump off on film. Number one is just the size. The way he can fall forward as a runner which is a big deal on short yardage and goal line. And Just his arm strength he can zip throws across the field at a rate that really catches your attention.”
On the defensive side, which Manny seems much more comfortable talking about, Diaz sees a lot of similarities in philosophy between the two teams.
“They create a lot of havoc with their front. They were outstanding with their pass defense year ago.”
Diaz also talks about turnovers being a major factor in the game just because of a lack of live contact, especially from quarterbacks, who don’t get hit very often in the off-season.
And special teams, which Diaz says is something people don't like to talk about, but will be essential in the opening game.
“They have a punter who can change the field. We saw how important a year ago field position was in terms of where you’re starting. It’s not complicated. The closer you start towards the goal line, the more that helps. And that's going to come down to what? Special teams and turnovers.”
More than anything, Diaz is ready to go play and said his team has “practiced all you can practice.”
The Hurricanes head coach wants to find out who this team is and who is going to shine bright under the Camping World Stadium lights when the two teams take the field for what is surely going to be an emotional and disruptive atmosphere.
Motivation will not be the deciding factor and there will not be a lack of inspiration on either side. Diaz believes that the team that can sustain their focus for the entirety of the game and compete at a “very high level.”
Manny Diaz noted that the he’s been putting the ones against the ones all the way up until Friday which should help young guys such as John Campbell and Zion Nelson, who face off against a combination of Jonathan Garvin, Scott Patchan, Greg Rousseau, and Trevon Hill on any given snap.
They always say the toughest battles should be on Greentree and that holds true for the two young tackles. You will be hard-pressed to find a tougher rotation of ends for those guys to learn and grow from on a daily basis.
Miami also dropped their first depth chart of the 2019 season, which answers questions about the two tackle positions, which were mentioned earlier in this piece, and some other key positions for the Hurricanes.