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Manny Diaz Fixed Miami’s Defense Four Years Ago. Can Rhett Lashlee Fix Miami’s Offense?

Manny Diaz fixed the Miami defense when he was hired four years ago. Can Rhett Lashlee fix the offense?

Miami Hurricanes football practice Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The hiring of Rhett Lashlee as Miami’s new offensive coordinator has been the biggest move that the Hurricanes have made all offseason, no questions asked. Given Miami’s struggles on offense the past several years, Lashlee definitely has his work cut out for him.

UM’s head coach, Manny Diaz, faced a similar situation when he was hired in 2016.

When Mark Richt made Diaz the Canes defensive coordinator, Miami had just endured five rough years under previous DC Mark D’Onofrio. Known in the past for having a dominant defense nearly every season, D’Onofrio’s Miami teams did just the opposite defensively.

In terms of yards given up per-game, Miami’s defense was 45th in 2011, 120th in 2012, 90th in 2013, 14th in 2014, and 70th in 2015.

In 2015, which was D’Onofrio’s final year at Miami, his defense ranked 102nd against the run, 38th in pass defense, and his scoring defense was 77th.

Diaz came in prior to the 2016 season, and immediately had the Hurricanes defense swarming and shutting down opponents again. In his three years as Miami’s DC, Diaz’s defense was elite, finishing in the top 12 each season in yards per play allowed.

His final season as defensive coordinator, 2018, the Canes defense ranked 3rd in yards per play allowed, 11th in sacks, 1st in pass defense, 4th in yards given up per game and 1st in tackles for loss. Simply put, Diaz fixed the Hurricanes defense, helping them become dominant on that side of the ball again.

Now, can Rhett Lashlee do the same, but for the Miami offense?

While the Hurricanes defense has been one of the best since 2016, their offense has gone in the opposite direction. In 2016, Miami was 37th in total offense, 31st in points per game, 27th in passing and 93rd in rushing. Besides rushing, the Canes weren’t awful on offense in 2016.

However, Miami has degreased in a big way since then.

In 2017, they were 60th in total offense and 64th in points per game. In 2018, 105th in total offense and 90th in points per game. Last year in 2019, 98th in total offense and 99th in points per game. Since 2003, Miami has had 9 seasons where the offense failed to average at least 30 points per game.

This is the challenge that Lashlee is facing as the Hurricanes offensive coordinator, possibly even more daunting than what Diaz had to overcome with the defense when he came in. Over the last 16 seasons, Miami’s offense has been, if I'm being honest, a joke. When you look at all the talent and speed that the Hurricanes have had on offense, and what they haven’t been able to accomplish, it’ll make you want to try anger management.

When you look at those stats, a ton of blame has to be put on coaching, and sometimes, it’s the change of a system and scheme that makes all the difference.

When D’Onofrio was DC, his 3-4 defense simply didn’t work, but when Diaz came in with his aggressive 4-3 defense, it turned everything around. Diaz realized the talent he had on the defensive line, as well as at linebacker and in the secondary, and the Canes defense hasn’t looked back.

Now compare that to the offense. For years, FOR YEARS, Miami ran the same pro-style offense, didn’t matter the coordinator, the scheme stayed the same for the most part. When you’re filled with South Florida speed, lining up under center in a pro-style, you’re not going to reach your full potential on offense. Look at last year under Dan Enos, you don't have to be a football expert to realize it wasn’t going to work.

Lashlee, on the other hand, has established himself as one of the top offensive coordinators in all of college football, running his high-tempo power spread attack. His system allows playmakers on offense the opportunity to get in open space, and use their athleticism to their advantage. It’s the offense that the Hurricanes fans have been begging for, for well over 15 years.

So, the question is, can Lashlee pull a Manny Diaz? Can he resurrect the Hurricanes offense, which has been dormant since the mid-2000’s? We’ll find out soon enough.