Filling the shoes of Manny Diaz on the defensive end is a challenging ask for any up-and-coming coordinator or position coach. That sentiment was especially true for former-defensive coordinator Blake Baker, who accepted the role of linebackers coach at LSU, announced on Thursday night.
Hold That Tiger— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) January 29, 2021
Blake Baker is Callin’ Baton Rouge and will serve as the Tigers’ linebackers coach. pic.twitter.com/sEJ32fvGG0
In 2019, a bevy of issues came to light for first-time head coach Manny Diaz. Miami’s offense was stagnant, the team was largely unmotivated, and making a chip-shot field goal was never a given. Shortly after the season’s end, Diaz got to work on turning things around. Entering the 2020 season, UM was now armed with the future-Lou Groza Award winner, an excellent leader and quarterback, and a new brand of attack with offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee taking the reins.
Congratulations to the 2020 Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award Winner @F5_Jose of @CanesFootball!!!! What an unbelievable year of kicking! Read more @ https://t.co/uGywWAGwzh and congratulations to all of this year's finalists! @ESPNCFB @ncfaa @pbsportsfl pic.twitter.com/pdxqZpLcux— Lou Groza Award (@LouGrozaAward) January 8, 2021
While they finished the season with a respectable 8-3 record, something was awry. That something was Miami’s typically-proud group, defense.
It seemed that Manny Diaz had made the necessary improvements to the staff and roster during the offseason. The addition of standout defensive end Quincy Roche and the emergence of Jaelan Phillips charged the hype behind the Hurricanes’ defense in 2020. While both Phillips and Roche surpassed expectations, both of which may be first-day picks in the NFL draft, Miami’s defense turned to a bend-don’t-break approach. Not only breaking in some contests but allowing a program-worst 778 yards to North Carolina in the regular-season finale. It was two-steps forward, one unexpected step back.
Historically embarrassing night for the Miami Hurricanes, a franchise with a history of great players on defense. Most yards given up in three decades, at least?#TheU #Miami— Roben Farzad (@robenfarzad) December 12, 2020
Following the UNC disaster, it was announced that Diaz would take over play-calling on the defensive side—a surely ego-damaging demotion for Blake Baker. Ultimately, it was the beginning of the end of his time at UM.
... Manny Diaz said Baker "will continue to run our defense and I will call the defensive plays on game days, which we feel is our best path to maximizing our strengths on that side of the ball." Coaching staff now complete.— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) January 14, 2021
While no one can be sure of who Miami’s next defensive coordinator will be, it offers Diaz a unique situation. If he sustains the role of defensive play-caller, we could see a return to ferociousness and dominance on that side of the ball. No matter how efficient the Hurricanes’ offense is, it’s a smothering defense that brings the pride and swagger back. Combine that with a more-than-competent attack from Rhett Lashlee and Co., and UM may finally be… back.
We wish Blake Baker the best at LSU and in all of his future endeavors.