Manny Diaz took over as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes in December of 2019, after having committed to being the head coach of the Temple Owls only days prior. The Temple to Miami coaching pipeline came up empty, again. If you can’t recall, former Miami head coach Al Golden also came to Coral Gables via Philadelphia back in the early 2010’s.
Diaz’s first class in ‘19 was a rush job to save the work he and Mark Richt had done prior to Richt stepping down and Diaz taking over. The 2020 class was Diaz’s first full class, and was ranked 11th by 247 Sports and 17th in their composite rankings. The transfer portal class was 1st in the nation.
‘20 saw the departure of Dan Enos as offensive coordinator, and the retention of Blake Baker as defensive coordinator. Even with a defensive-minded head coach, five of the top recruits seven signed in 2020 players were on offense. However, the highest rated player per 247 Sports was Avantae Williams- a safety. Williams, a former four-star safety, has entered the transfer portal this off-season.
Miami signed six defensive backs in its 2020 recruiting class. All of them have now departed through the transfer portal. Marcus Clarke transferred to Missouri last year. pic.twitter.com/yYhWl9rmzR— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) December 8, 2022
The above Manny Navarro tweet got me thinking: what did happen to Manny Diaz’s 2020 class that would’ve been the backbone of the ‘22 Hurricanes 5-7 team. Let’s take a deeper dive into the ‘20 class that had a lot of potential but came up short in both ACC Coastal Championships and Grit (as defined by Angel Duckworth: passion and perseverance).
The offense was the issue in 2019 under Dan Enos, but not in 2020 or 2021 under Rhett Lashlee. It’s an issue again in ‘22, but that’s for another post. When Lashlee left Miami to become the SMU head coach, he had the nation’s 25th ranked offense per Bill Connelly’s SP+ metrics. Miami scored 34 (26th in FBS) points per game in 2020, and 34.1 PPG (23rd) in ‘21. This season Miami scored only 23.6 PPG (98th in FBS) under new OC Josh Gattis and offensive-minded (save your jokes) head coach Mario Cristobal.
Jaylan Knighton, four-star: Knighton played in all three seasons in Miami before hitting the transfer portal this off-season. As a part-time starter, part-time injured, part-time suspended running back, Knighton scored 14 touchdowns from scrimmage and averaged 4.3 yards per carry.
Don Chaney Jr., four-star: After a promising freshman campaign in ‘20, Chaney has spent the last two seasons in the injured reserve list. Chaney’s career stats are four TD’s from scrimmage and 4.6 yards per carry.
Tyler Van Dyke, four-star: Van Dyke went from 3rd stringer to promising All-ACC and 1st round NFL Draft pick to mediocre in the blink of an eye. Van Dyke threw 25 TD’s in 10 games under Rhett Lashlee as OC in ‘21, to only 10 TD’s in ‘22 under Josh Gattis. Van Dyke also dropped from 9.0 yards per pass attempt to 7.3 under the new regime. He will return to Miami for the ‘23 season.
D’Eriq King, transfer: Lashlee needed a starting QB and the ‘Canes knew it wasn’t N’Kosi Perry or Jarren Williams. They turned to the Houston transfer in King. King played in parts of six college football seasons at both wide receiver and QB. The perfect pick up in ‘20 for Diaz, he scored 27 total TD’s with only five INT’s as the starter. Without King, I can’t imagine Diaz having survived year two as head coach. He was injured in ‘21, and has been floating around the NFL practice squads and will join the XFL 3.0 experiment.
Grade: King saved the 2020 season and Van Dyke saved the ‘21 season. Those two guys alone would give this at least a B-, if it wasn’t for Van Dyke’s 22 season and King’s ‘21. Chaney will hopefully focus less on his powerlifting and more on his football’ing this off-season. Knighton and his fumbles are gone. C
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
WR Michael Redding III, four-star: Redding was the highest rated wide receiver in the ‘Canes 2020 class and has made the least impact. Redding has caught two TD’s for 12.6 yards per catch in 11 games.
TE Dominic Mammarelli, three-star: Mammarelli is more of a blocking tight end. Over three years and nine games, Mammarelli has caught one single pass for negative yardage.
WR Dazalin Worsham, three-star: Worsham has already transferred to Auburn where he caught only four balls, and now is back in the portal in ‘22.
WR Xavier Restrepo, three-star: The ‘hardest working’ guy in the room, the undersized Restrepo was only a three-star prospect out of high school. He worked his way into the starting line-up but was injured in ‘22. Restrepo averaged 13.6 yards per catch with four career TD’s over 23 games.
WR Key’Shawn Smith, three-star: Smith has found himself in the transfer portal this off-season. In three years at Miami Smith caught five TD’s and averaged 14.4 yards per catch. Smith did average 30 yards per kick return this season with a touchdown.
Grade: You can’t have five of these guys either in the portal or providing limited stats and have a passing grade. Restrepo is all Greentree talk until he has a Charleston Rambo type season. F+
Jalen Rivers, four-star: Jalen Rivers has been injured in multiple seasons now, but he’s an NFL caliber guard if he can stay healthy. He’s a clearcut starter and needs a real medical team, rehab specialist, and S&C coach to get him back healthy.
Chris Washington, three-star: The six-foot-seven guard has seen limited playing time at Miami. I was high on Washington and it seems like his potential might have been tapped in high school. Tall and lean, he seems like a Coach Mirabal “guy” but Michael McLaughlin didn’t get burn in ‘22, either.
Jarrid Williams, transfer: Williams got plenty of burn at Miami which was just part of his seven seasons of college football. Williams did a bang up job at times but wasn’t a ‘star’ by any means. He’s a fringe NFL practice squad player.
Issiah Walker Jr., transfer: Walker transferred out of Gainesville almost as soon as he arrived. Diaz and co. cook a flyer on him and he never really played. He’s been a portal bounce around guy ever since.
Grade: Rivers is good, Williams played a ton, the other two are zeroed out. Bobby Bowden lived by the 1⁄3 rule: 1⁄3 need to start/star, 1⁄3 need to be great roles players, 1⁄3 will ride the bench or transfer/quit. C-
Manny Diaz was fired after the 2021 season with the SP+ 51st ranked defense in FBS. Miami was giving up 28.4 PPG in ‘21 (85th in FBS) when Diaz, who also served as his own DC, was let go as head coach. In 2020 with Blake Baker at DC, the ‘Canes allowed 27 PPG (51st in FBS). This season, Miami allowed 26.8 PPG (98th in FBS) under new DC Kevin Steele.
Chantz Wiliams, four-star: In 25 games, Williams has only logged 1.5 sacks and four TFL’s.
Elijah Roberts, four-star: After playing in 16 games, Roberts has hit the portal. Roberts logged 1.5 TFL’s and only 1⁄2 a sack over his three seasons at Miami.
Quentin Williams, three-star: Williams saw action in three games for the ‘Canes logging three tackles and 1⁄2 a TFL in two years.
Quincy Roche, transfer: Roche benefitted from being across from Jaelan Phillips. O-Lines had to decide which edge rusher to double and always seemed to pick wrong. Roche picked up 14.5 TFL’s and 4.5 sacks in his one season for Miami. Not as many sacks as you would’ve liked, but the TFL’s were there.
Grade: Didn’t hit on Bowden’s 1⁄3 rule. Roche was a one year rental. D
Tirek Austin-Cave, three-star: Austin-Cave had already transferred to West Virginia. In ‘22, he played in 10 games for the Mountaineers logging one tackle. He made 11 stops in six games over two years for the ‘Canes.
Corey Flagg, three-star: Corey Flagg had his best season to date in ‘22 as a junior. Flagg logged 10.5 TFL’s and 2.5 sacks. He has 17.5 career TFL’s and an INT. Flagg has also played 29 games in three seasons. He’s a run plugger type that doesn’t move sideline to sideline very well and isn’t great in coverage.
Grade: Flagg has started games and made some plays. Austin-Cave did nothing at Miami. C-
Avantae Williams, four-star: Williams is in the transfer portal after suspensions and portal flirtations had limited his playing time at Miami. Williams redshirted as a freshman, and has one interception in 15 games for the ‘Canes. He was credited with zero PBU’s in two seasons at the safety position.
Jalen Harrell, four-star: Harrell is in the portal after playing in two games over three years making four tackles with no other stat line.
Isaiah Dunston, four-star: Dunston has hit the transfer portal as well in ‘22 for the ‘23 season. In 13 games, Dunston has logged 14 tackles with a PBU.
Keshawn Washington, three-star: Washington is in the portal, too. In three years he played in four games, making only three tackles.
Marcus Clarke three-star: Clarke played in 11 games for Miami making 29 tackles, intercepting two passes, and picking up two PBU’s and a fumble recovery. He’s already a Missouri Tiger, where he played in eight games in ‘22.
Brian Balom, three-star: Also in the portal, Balom played in 15 games making 11 tackles with no PBU’s or INT’s.
Grade: Three four-star Blue Chip players and nothing to show for it. Just transfer portal entries and over-zealous Twitter hype bros going crazy for no. 15. A BIG FAT F
Miami had a clear hole at placekicker and dumped Bubba Baxa for Jose Borregales. Along with Clay James (long snapper) and Lou Hedley (punter) Diaz put together a really good specialist group even if he could put together a coverage or return scheme to save his life along with Jonathan Patke. Miami finished 3rd in special teams SP+ in 2020, after finishing 94th the year prior.
PK Jose Borregales, transfer: Borregales beat Miami in 2019 while kicking for FIU, then came to Miami in 2020 and won the Lou Groza Award. He also brought his little brother to The U. In his one season at Miami, Borregales made all 37 of his PAT’s (rare for Miami) and went 20-of-22 field goals. He was truly a weapon and his brother coming has been helpful with touchbacks and making most of his field goals (except against Texas A&M) as well.
It’s clear that Mario Cristobal is looking to clean house from the Manny Diaz Era. 15 players are already in the transfer portal, and more might be coming soon. Cristobal is taking the USC / Colorado / Michigan State approach and burning the ships. He clearly started Year One at 5-7, a two game downswing from 7-6 the year prior under Diaz.
The ‘23 season will be filled with transfers and freshmen- all around new faces. Lincoln Riley is the type of coach who could ‘scheme for guys,’ he’s an elite offensive mind (even if his team’s defenses are terrible). Cristobal is a recruiter, he’s not an X&O mastermind. I’m not sure if the transfer portal full swing is the best method for building culture and sustaining success for a program builder type of head coach.
Plugging a kicker in here or an elite wide receiver in there, to an already established culture, okay that makes sense. But if this is a “rebuild” then take your time with freshmen and really establish a true locker room culture. Otherwise you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. Remember, it’s about acquiring the best person, not the most talented.