Manny Diaz is heading into his third season as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes. Coach Diaz, who has been part of the program since being hired by Mark Richt as DC in 2016, looks to continue building on the 2020 campaign. In 2019, Diaz finished 6-7 with a loss to Louisiana Tech in the bowl game. In ‘20, Diaz’s squad finished 8-3 with a bowl loss to Oklahoma State.
Over two off-seasons Manny Diaz has replaced the offensive staff twice (first dumping Coach Richt’s staff after his retirement) and the defensive staff once. Diaz himself will now serve as the defensive coordinator once again for The U. This will be a huge year for Miami and Diaz. In Game Changer, Fergus Connolly discusses the importance of year three with an organization. Year three is a big year to prove whether you’re the right person for the job or not.
2020 Record/Ranking: 8-3, 22nd in the AP Poll.
2020 Data: 34PPG scored (26th in FBS), 27PPG allowed (51st in FBS).
Bowl Game: Lost the Cheez-It Bowl 34-37 against Oklahoma State.
Key losses: Brevin Jordan, TE; Jaelan Phillips, DE; Quincy Roche, DE; Jose Borregales, PK.
The Hurricanes have 10 players on the Athlon All-ACC Preseason team heading into the 2021 season. Even with the hype surrounding UM’s OC Rhett Lashlee, not a single ‘Cane made the 1st team offense.
Safety Bubba Bolden and Punter Lou Hedley made the 1st team defense and specialists, respectively. Bolden led the ‘Canes in tackles a year ago with 74, and added an interception and three PBU’s. Hedley was a true game changer for Miami at punter. Hedley averaged 47.2 yards per punt a year ago.
Three ‘Canes made the 2nd team offense per Athlon with RB Cam’ron Harris, WR Mike Harley, and OT Zion Nelson on the list. The 2nd team defense had only DT Nesta Jade Silvera on the squad.
Harris ran for over 600 yards with 10 TD’s while averaging over five yards per carry in ‘20. He’s also a weapon in the receiving game and sticks his nose in to block in pass protection. Harley is the standout weapon on the offense. A year ago, Harley totaled 799 yards receiving with seven TD’s.
Nelson has grown leaps and bounds in two seasons at left tackle and is a rumored 1st round draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Silvera had eight TFL’s, a forced fumble and a sack in 2020 as part of the rotation at defensive tackle.
QB D’Eriq King and CB Tyrique Stevenson made the 3rd team offense and defense, respectively. King was a true difference maker for Miami in 2020. His leadership and experience were night and day compared to the past few QB’s behind center for The U. King is coming off of a knee injury but threw 23 TD’s with only 5 interceptions in ‘20. He’s backed up by Tyler Van Dyke and Jake Garcia.
TE Will Mallory and OG Navaughn Donaldson made the 4th team offense. Mallory averaged 15 yards per catch and hauled in four TD’s in 2020. He follows suit with now NFL TE Brevin Jordan on the ‘oft-injured’ list. Donaldson, who has also been out due to injury, is rumored to have slimmed down.
Scheme on O
Rhett Lashlee uses a predominantly 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) offense with some use of two tight ends (12 personnel) but typically in an 11 personnel picture for the defense (one TE lined up wide). Lashlee uses a QB that is mobile enough (King, Shane Buechele), but doesn’t have to run the football more than a handful of times per game.
Lashlee also uses run pass options (RPO), play-action passes, and a zone-based run game. Lashlee has experience in the Air Raid and hurry up-no huddle offenses, and will speed up his tempo after big plays.
How do you lose to the Hurricanes offense? Let Coach Lashlee’s offense hit the big plays either on trick plays (he loves tricks plays), wheel routes, or deep seems up the middle of the field and your defense. The O-Line struggled to run block with enough consistency to put together long drives.
How do you beat the Hurricanes offense? Focus on stopping the run and make them put together a long, consistent drive. Harris got most of his 5.1 yards per carry on hitting a home run when the linebackers didn’t adjust or when the safeties didn’t rotate. The U also put up big plays on those sneak routes up the seam from Will Mallory, or by catching the defensive backfield lost in coverage.
What play would I like to see Miami run more of? Shallow Cross.
Shallow Cross is an Air Raid staple. Above you can see a diagram from a past SOTU post of mine on “Open Grass Reads.” The first read is the “rhythm route.” The QB has to see if this is open on his drop, if it’s not open by the last step of the drop, he’ll hitch up for his “read routes.” The QB will read the ‘shallow cross’ space, if it’s occupied, he’ll hitch and read the hunt-dig from the H. If pressured or out of reads the QB can either “rush” and throw to the back or “release” and scramble.
Scheme on D
Manny Diaz will return to run his 4-3/4-2-5 even front defense. Coach Diaz will use pressure packages to overload the offensive line and the QB’s OODA Loop as he seeks to pile up ‘havoc stats’ on defense. What are those havoc stats? They’re tackles for loss, forced fumbles and pass breakups.
How do you lose to the Hurricanes defense? You do what the Virginia Tech Hokies did in 2020 and abandon the run while also not using a running back or tight end in pass protection to help your offensive tackles against speed rushers and blitzing linebackers and defensive backs. It made no sense for Justin Fuente to leave his right tackle by himself against Phillips but he did it anyway.
How do you beat the Hurricanes defense? Run the damn ball, and then hit a few deep throws once the safeties creep up into the box, and Diaz gets impatient. Miami is poor at alignment, in pursuit and in finishing plays. Show some different pictures from 11 personnel, motion to get Miami out of whack, then pound the rock inside. Screens out wide that will force the ‘Canes defense to shed blockers and tackle in space will be deadly vs. Diaz’s defense.
What does Miami need to fix? Finish aka pursuit and tackling. Pursuit and tackling can’t be skills that you only work on once the season starts. Pursuit, especially, is something that can be honed in small-sided games like 1-on-1 and 2-on-1 drills. Pursuit is 1⁄4 determined by physical baseline ability (speed and lateral movement), and 3⁄4 determined by other factors such as psychological, tactical and technical skill.
Above- This Hip Track Game above will improve visual-cognitive-motor components. When your ‘ball carrier’ (BC) changes tempo, so does the pursuing defender. When the BC walks the defender scrapes. When the BC jogs the defender scallups (a mix of a scrape and a gallup) and when the BC sprints the defender finishes with a tag off on the hip.
The drill can then be built upon. The BC will change tempos faster and slower and the defender has to change from scrape to scallup back to scrape before a finish on the hip.
Above- The third variation is to include a counter-step. The BC can now ‘cut back’ and the defender has to be aware and slow play it. They can’t just turn their shoulders and run, they’ll have to stay square to the line of scrimmage.
Above- Open field drills are fun, too. Create a small space and allow the ball carrier to make some moves while the defender works on pursuit and cutting the BC off to the inside. The sideline is the best defender is a cliche, but it’s true. Shoving a BC out of bounds works as a tackle and the sideline is a great 2nd defender.
(Thank you to Annie for being in these videos)
Canyonero keys to victory
So how do you beat the Miami Hurricanes? Here are the 3 keys to victory against the ‘Canes heading into 2021.
1 Establish a run game. As the country saw against UNC, Diaz’s defense gave up an unprecedented 550+ yards rushing. Blake Baker is out but it’s still Diaz’s defense and always was. The program needs to focus on align-assing-and finish. Miami has been poor in pursuit and tackling at all three levels of the defense.
2 Don’t get too cute in pass pro. Make sure you protect your QB because Diaz is going to bring pressure. Give the QB time and find open spaces in coverage that will be there. Teams need to watch what has worked in pass pro against Miami’s speed rush.
3 Force Miami to put together long drives on offense. Weak pass protection, King’s injured knee, and Miami’s lack of Mental Toughness (focus under duress) have been evident over the years. If the ‘Canes can’t hit a home run to Harley, Mallory or Harris and they’re forced to drive the football, they’ve been prone to drops, turnovers and penalties.