Miami has 1 goal every year, and that is to win a National Championship in football. Yes, there are other small goals along the way, including beating FSU, winning the Coastal, getting to and winning the ACC title, but the ultimate goal is to put Championship trophy #6 in the trophy case. Unfortunately, outside of 2005 and 2017, the Canes haven’t been in the discussion past the month of September in most years. The question has always come up, whether it was coaching, QB play, or the overall talent on the field.
This is part 10 of 10, where I ask, Do the Canes have enough to contend for the College Football Playoffs?
Manny Diaz struggled mightily in his first campaign as Miami’s head coach, and will have to prove himself in year two. 6-7 is not a mark that’s acceptable at a place like Indiana, so for the Canes to have that type of season, is downright deplorable. Manny made every mistake possible, 1st by hiring the wrong assistants, then by allowing players to run amuck, and third by making some bad decisions in game. Can he clean up those missteps and improve the football team? The best thing is this offseason Coach Diaz addressed a lot of the coaching staff, and seems to be on the right path. Now will it translate to gameday?
Dan Enos was billed as a homerun hire by some pundits when he arrived in Miami before the 2019 campaign, but by early November most wanted him gone. The Canes struggled to do anything consistently offensively, and outside of an explosion vs Louisville, Miami was downright painful to watch. Miami was 90th in the country scoring just 25.7ppg, and even worse on 3rd downs where they were dead last out of 130 teams converting just 25.97% of the time. Enos was rightly fired, and in steps Rhett Lashlee who brings an uptempo spread concept from SMU. Miami has been waiting for this type of offense seemingly for a decade, and will be a welcome change for Canes fans. SMU was 29th converting 43.87% of their 3rd downs and averaged 41.8ppg, which was 7th in the country. Miami’s best ppg average in the last 15 years is 34.3ppg in Mark Richt’s 1st year as a head coach, and you have to go all the way back to 2002 for the last time Miami averaged 40ppg or higher. To say the Canes have struggled on offense, would be an understatement. Stephen Field was hired to coach TE’s and is one of the best recruiters in the country. Garin Justice arrives as the OLine coach, and seems to be paying immediate dividends, and Rob Likens looks to do the same as WR coach.
On the defensive side, the staff stays intact, and Blake Baker will lead the unit for the 2nd straight year. Miami wasn’t bad defensively but did have a few breakdowns throughout the year. The Canes finished 23rd, giving up 20.2ppg, and should be even better with an offense that can keep the ball and score some points. I’m not as down on Baker, Banda, Rumph and Stroud as others are, and think this can easily be a Top 15 unit in 2020.
Manny Diaz created “The New Miami” heading into 2019, and that moniker was a huge flop. The Canes were more flash than dash, and were pretty embarrassing, flaunting the Touchdown Rings, dancing on the sideline and getting their butts whooped on a weekly basis. The New Miami needs to be about hard work and accountability, which Miami has been lacking for 15 plus years. Too many rumors abound last season, that kids were missing practice, that the locker room was split, and a lot of kids didn’t like some of the coaches. Manny has to make this accountable, and show that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. One thing that will be eradicated in 2020 is the QB flip flop of the past few seasons. D’Eriq King will be the starter, and should only come out of the game in blowout scenarios. Miami has suffered from QB fatigue, and having a signal caller like King should galvanize the team.
The 2020 and 2021 recruiting classes show that Manny and his new staff seem to have a connection in south Florida that previous regimes didn’t have. There is a palpable buzz that the Canes are really close to turning the corner, and if they can put together a really good season, the floodgates of homegrown talent will stay home again.
Manny was given a 2nd year, partly because Miami can’t afford to keep paying coaches not to coach here, and partly because he was willing to make changes to his staff. Previous regimes would keep trotting out the same group, and continued to get the same results. Coach Diaz realized after year 1, that what he was doing didn’t work, so he made changes that all of us applauded.
As much as I would like to drink the kool aid, this is not a CFB playoff coaching staff. This group should be much more cohesive, and the potential is there for them to make a huge leap in year number two, but unlike last offseason, I just can’t ignore the shortcomings from 2019. Manny has momentum heading in the right direction, and maybe he follows Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll, Nick Saban and many others who have had a great 2nd year following a mediocre 1st season. The “State of Miami” seems to have it’s foothold again on the recruiting front, and if the offense lives up to the advanced billing, Miami will be in Charlotte to play Clemson in the ACC title game. The Canes seem to have the right Head Coach, but now he just needs to show success on the field.