Blake Baker the Manny Maker
Bend Don’t Blake
The Future is Bl(e)ake
The Baker Man
Diaz (Do as) you Say
Like some of the proposed names for this article, the retention of Blake Baker can be viewed in a multitude of ways. One thing they ALL will be accompanied by?
On its own, being the leader of a process, a team, or a project means that everything is filtered through you, good, bad or indifferent. When add sports to that, with the 24 hour news culture we live in, that becomes personified. You think that’s bad? On top of that, add in the historical performance of your franchise or program, and you have a uniquely designed experience. One that can reward you handsomely, or throw your life into a blender.
Miami Hurricanes head coach is that job.
If anyone knows that, it is the son of Miami, the hometown kid, Manny Diaz. Being from here, he knows what it looks like to be in the spotlight. He knows what the expectations are and the reactions if they are not met. Now, he will experience the same fork in the road each of his predecessors had to navigate.
There’s only two ways this goes...........
Win Or Go Home
That’s it huh? Just like that?
Yeah just like that.
By choosing his buddies, he put the target on his own back, and squarely set the difficulty level from Hard to Master.
This is due to the fact that much of what worked AGAINST Manny Diaz’ team needs to break in the opposite direction, with much of those changes needing to directly through Coach Diaz.
PlayCalling and Discipline
By taking back the playcalling rather than going with similar options on the open market, Diaz has set the difficult task of getting players to change without the help of new blood at DC. More than helping playcalling, its MUCH easier for a new DC to implement the discipline that was TERRIBLY lacking on the Hurricanes defense that led to 62-26, 42-17 and 37-34. That along with looking very beatable in 3 one score games. If not for a revamped offense revamped offense under Rhett Lashlee, a fantastic first campaign by D’Eriq King, and two, last minute, game winning plays by Mike Harley and Mark Pope, Manny may not even be HERE.
Now, he has to get the defense to fall back in line under the same rule. This is tremendously difficult. If you are a parent, its the difference between how your kids act for the babysitter and how they act for you. If your a teacher, its the equivalent of letting a room of 3rd graders run wild and undisciplined for nearly two years, building there own levels of expectations and lack of respect for your authority, then coming back and saying, ok guys, I know I told you do what you want, but hey can you stop now?
Changing your tune with young men will be serious work. From work habits in the weight room, to extended film work, EXTENSIVE revisions in tackling, run defense responsibilities at ALL THREE LEVELS, and overall, fundamental change of a how the defense approaches its work and perfecting even simple, remedial football mechanics, will fall on Diaz if they don’t happen.
New Faces - Same Hot Seat
Travaris Robinson HAS to pay off and come as advertised. Anything less than recruiting and GETTING the best DBs in south Florida will be seen as a failure. The defensive back play, competitiveness and productions have to return to at least 2017 levels or bringing Robinson in will be a failure Diaz has to own. Robinson has the benefit of succeeding at nearly every stop he has made in coaching, so a step back won’t go against him, but against Diaz, as it will be viewed as him holding T-Rob back.
“In [Coach Simpson’s] first season at The U in 2018, the Hurricanes ranked No. 4 in the country in total defense and ranked No. 1 in several categories, including tackles for loss, third down conversion percentage and passing yards allowed.”pic.twitter.com/z5TT1nct9Y— GO ‘CANES! (@83_87_89_91_01) January 15, 2021
The defensive line success feeds the prior defensive back play. Success at this level means the quarterback, offensive line, and running backs are stressed. Stress offensive lines create less running lanes and open up the attack on the quarterback. When that happens, defensive backs can worry less about tackling running backs in space, and can play aggressive against wide receivers and a stressed quarterback that is now more likely to let the ducks fly.
Enter Jess Simpson, who coached a defensive line that was a major contributor to a defense that ranked No. 1 in Havoc Rate, tackles for loss, third down conversion percentage and passing yards allowed. He is the same man the untapped the potential in Gerald Willis and Greg Rousseau, who was set to see major playing time as a freshman before injury dampened his rookie campaign. Jess Simpson is an excellent hire, someone who knows how to recruit (Jahfari Harvey, Cameron Williams, Jared Harrison-Hunte and Jason Blissett highlight his record), how to coach the right techniques on the line, and how to win with young men. As the Head Coach at Buford High School for 12 years, he won seven state titles and compiled a record of 164-12 good for a . 932 winning percentage.
If Jess failed, that resume tells the world that any failures on the defensive line or on the defense directly connected to his unit, once again, will fall on Manny Diaz.
Lastly, and most importantly, the other side of the field should be set to EXPLODE. Rhett Lashlee will have a second year with the same coaches, same high profile quarterback, new high profile weapons at wide receiver (Charleston Rambo, Romello Brinson, Brashard Smith) tight end (Khalil Brantley and Elijah Arroyo) and an offensive line that is one year older, one very big man stronger (Full year of Navaughn Donaldson). With a similar scenario at SMU, Lashlee ratcheted up the production, jettisoning the offense from 54th overall with 30 points a game to SEVENTH with a whopping 41 points a game.
The offense, by all accounts, is on a vertical line straight up. IF Diaz lets his teams lose games where his offense is scoring 41 points a game, then he may very well be handing those keys to coach Lashlee in a year.
IF Diaz Can:
Fix the Discipline
Fix the Tackling
Fix the Playcalling
Fix the Linebacking Play
Fixt the Defensive Back Play
Fix the Defensive Line Play
Win every game after game 1
And do it all with the right technique, intensity and bravado a Miami Hurricane fanbase is expecting year in and year out, yeah, we’re good to go.
What I love about the people that know what it is to be a Hurricane, from Ed Reed, to Manny Diaz, to folks like myself, Marsh Thomas and Mike McCoy, this is FAR from critical.
THIS IS REALITY AT THE U!
You see, on its face, at an Appalachian State, or an East Carolina, or even at a Pitt, 8-3 is a nice little season. Your team gets some love in the national media, players get to say they made it in college, played in a bowl game, maybe even made a conference team. That’s because, expectation on the bottom of the mountain, compared to it on top of the mountain, gives plenty of room for average. If your expectations are to scale the mountain a little bit, feel a little bit of the breeze from 10 feet up and take a selfie is your goal, then cute, you did it! Now you can go about your day and get ready to be average again next season. Even if you fall from that 10 foot post you might not even get a scratch, and from a distance, your failure will go quietly unnoticed.
Not at Miami.
Not at a school that bred legends.
Not at a school STARVING for Championship number Six.
And damn sure not for a Board of Trustees that are FINALLY stepping up. They want results.
Not at a school that saw its peaks in the boiling hot arenas that are home to championships and titans. Scaling the mountain to a perch isn’t an option. Its not an option because Miami is at the top of the mountain already. At the bottom, you can jump off and walk around, have options and failures, because winning, no matter how their fans spin it, is not the primary.
At the top, one misstep to the left or the right, grabbing at a skinny branch when you need a strong, foundational stone leads to one thing and one thing only, death. Not the kind that’s expected, or quiet or easy. The kind that the world watches, rewinds and replays over and over again. That every naysayer will revel in by burning your failures in public bonfires. The same ones that sent Al Golden, Mark Richt and Randy Shannon up in smoke.
Hey maybe you’ll land on your feet right?
Coaches Post-Miami in the Last 20 years:
Randy Shannon: As if getting a HC position as in african-american wasn’t hard enough, losing at Miami set Randy Shannon’s career in stone as no more than a defensive coordinator since.
Al Golden: This is example one of nice guys finishing last: following his unceremonious exit, a 58-0 demolition at home versus Clemson, and similarly refusing to part ways with future YMCA coach Mark D’Nofrio, Al Golden was sent to purgatory as the Lions LB coach, only to double down now in the same role with Cincinatti. He was last seen getting slapped around in court for chasing invisible checks from Miami.
Mark Richt: Example Two of nice guys finishing last. We love Coach Richt still, and to his credit, landed on his feet, albeit outside of football. Now a personality on the ACC Network, coach Richt met a similar downfall as Golden after putting himself on the chopping block rather than having a hand in the removal of his staff, which included his son, Jon Richt at QB coach.
So, its on one Manuel Alberto Diaz II. Not on kids to motivate themselves and each other like the Irvins, the Reeds, the Dorseys of our illustrious history. Nor is it on an offensive coach and roster set to take the next step. Nor the new shiny coaches with the sparkling resumes.
Manny put the weight SQUARELY on his own shoulders.
If he does it, he deserves a banner in the Carol Soffer Practice Facility rafters next to Phillips and Borregales.
BUT, if he doesn’t, its a -