Saturday will mark one year since the Hurricanes closed out the 2019 season, with an embarrassing 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl, capping off a dreadful 6-7 year. First year head coach Manny Diaz seemingly had lost the program he had just taken over, and the future of the program was not bright, to say the least.
Fast forward to December 2020, and that same Canes team just wrapped up an 8-2 regular season, and has a good shot at claiming only their second bowl victory since 2006.
"We improved as a program...we're certainly not where we want to be, but we're not where we were...I think the players deserve a lot of credit for that."— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) December 23, 2020
Newest episode of The Manny Diaz Show: https://t.co/NfDU3ZQjRf pic.twitter.com/oUKzvXKK7q
Yes I know, the 62-26 defeat to UNC two weeks ago left a bad taste in the mouths of ALL Miami fans, but as the dust has settled, you have to give coach Diaz, his staff and the players, a lot of credit, in restoring optimism to this program.
Say it with me now: Jaelan Phillips, first round pick.— Canes Legacy (@CanesLegacy) December 6, 2020
What a monster performance from him tonight. pic.twitter.com/BIbb2u8d5B
The progress that this team has made, compared to past UM squads, is a major step in the right direction. Take the NC State game for example, which I consider the biggest win of the 2020 season for the Hurricanes. Down 10 heading into the 4th quarter, on the road, on Friday night, those are the type of games that nearly every Miami team from 2006 to 2019, almost always, loses. Yet, thanks to D’Eriq King and a rejuvenated defense, the Canes pulled out of a come-from-behind victory against a team that finished the regular season with an 8-3 record.
Coach Diaz also improved to 2-0 as a head coach against Florida State, with a 52-10 drubbing of the Seminoles in September. Since Diaz has taken over as HC for Miami, the UM program is trending upward, while FSU is doing the complete opposite. In terms of who currently owns that rivalry, it’s not even in question.
Another great sign? Look at the phenomenal recruiting class that the Hurricanes are about to pull in. Even after the UNC loss, coach Diaz and his staff lost zero recruits to de-commitments. Instead, they finished the early signing period by landing top 247 quarterback Jake Garcia, a prospect that had been committed to USC just two weeks prior. Combine that with two five-star players in Leonard Taylor and James Williams, one of the more talented 2021 safeties in Kamren Kinchens, and a WR class that stacks up to any that Miami has hauled in recent memory.
Great To Wake Up Officially A Cane— Kamren Kinchens⁵ (@KKinchens5) December 17, 2020
Following the 2019 season, the biggest change that coach Diaz made was bringing in offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to replace Dan Enos, and a Miami offense that had been dormant for well over a decade. All Lashlee did was direct the Canes offense in averaging 34 points per game, and establish UM as a high-powered attacking team.
Coach Lashlee sounds like he has no plans on leaving Miami anytime soon. Awesome to hear— Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) November 16, 2020
Now yes, it can definitely be said that coach Diaz has to make some adjustments to his defensive staff, if he wants Miami to keep trending in the right direction. Though, with the help of Chief of Staff Ed Reed, Canes fans should be very confident in the decision making that will go into whatever moves are made.
Manny Diaz: "This going to be a big offseason. Our players can sense that."— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) December 13, 2020
Even if Miami were to lose to Oklahoma State in their bowl game, I'd still say this season was a big improvement. Am I satisfied in this season? No. Is there still major work to be done? Absolutely. But for the first time in a very, very, VERY long time, I’m excited about where this program is headed.