Manny Diaz reiterates importance of Miami football developing a backbone

CORAL GABLES, FL - JANUARY 02: Manny Diaz of the Miami Hurricanes addresses the media during his introductory press conference in the Mann Auditorium at the Schwartz Center on January 2, 2019 in Coral Gables, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
CORAL GABLES, FL - JANUARY 02: Manny Diaz of the Miami Hurricanes addresses the media during his introductory press conference in the Mann Auditorium at the Schwartz Center on January 2, 2019 in Coral Gables, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

In an interview with ESPN discussing the state of football in Florida among the big three, Miami football head coach Manny Diaz told Andrea Adelson that he admired Florida head coach and his former boss Dan Mullen giving the Gators a backbone last season.

Manny Diaz relayed an anecdote about Florida trailing 21-3 in the first half against Vanderbilt and rallying for a 37-27 victory over the Commodores. He compared it to the Miami Football team’s loss to Virginia on the same day when Diaz implied that the Hurricanes did not compete enough to earn the road victory.

Miami’s lack of intensity and focus was often called into question by Hurricanes fans and the media during Mark Richt’s three-year tenure as head coach. Richt did a lot of crucial things during his three-year tenure leading the Miami football program but last year’s performance was far below expectations.

Under Diaz, intensity and playing with a backbone won’t only be expected it will be demanded. Diaz’s personality is the antithesis to Richt. Both stress their teams to have fun on the field but their approaches are very different. Richt is laid back and doesn’t show a lot of emotion. Diaz shows more outward emotion.

His personality resonates more with the players, the media and the Miami fanbase. Diaz understands the culture of today’s athletes and the current climate of society. He has used social media to his and the Miami football program’s benefit. The intensity from the Miami football team will increase under Diaz.

Diaz explained to Adelson in depth his admiration of Mullen and how Florida competed last season. Diaz spent two seasons in separate stints as the defensive coordinator under Mullen at Mississippi State in 2010 and ’15.

"“From afar, what it looks like to me is Dan Mullen went in there and gave the team a backbone…I don’t know what their record is but they’re at Vanderbilt, and they’re down 21-3 in the first half…and the season could have gone either way, and they found a way to win.We were 5-1 that day and we were at Virginia. So we’re watching that game during the day and we go play Virginia at night, but we didn’t have enough to go claw our way out of that. You’re not always going to play your best, but if you have a backbone, you’ll be competitive and have a chance to get in the game.You could make the argument our seasons went in different directions from that day…We remind our players all the time they had a 12-month head start on us.”"

The Hurricanes showed a backbone after coming back from a devastating season opening 33-17 loss to LSU. They won five straight games following the loss to the Tigers heading into the road trip to Charlottesville to play Virginia.

Part of the winning streak was because of the opponents in those five games, The week before playing Virginia, the Miami football team rallied from a 27-7 deficit in the third quarter to rally with 21 unanswered points to defeat Florida State 28-27. Diaz continued how Miami’s season disintegrated following the loss to the Cavaliers.

"“Somewhere along the line, the team lost its spirit. The first thing you have to do is build a team that competes, build a team that’s got resiliency. If you do those things, your schematic stuff has a chance. That’s what we’ve been trying to focus on, getting a backbone, callusing ourselves up so we don’t ever look like that again.”"

Winning at Miami is important. That doesn’t mean finishing the season with a winning record, winning the ACC Coastal Division or less than a New Year’s Six Bowl game. Anyone associated with the Miami football program expects the Hurricanes to compete for national championships. Under Diaz that could become a reality again.

Diaz spoke to Adelson about setting the expectations in Coral Gables. He has often spoken about how close Miami was when they started the 2017 season 10-0 and rose to second in the polls behind Alabama. He compared the flip of the coin to Notre Dame who walked out of Hard Rock Stadium in November 2017 with a 41-8 loss.

"“There’s a standard at this school and an expectation of how we should perform…Seventeen months ago, we were No. 2 in the country and we were building something here. Last year we got off track.I don’t know how good we could have been a year ago, but I know we were better than what we played like. That’s the goal, to get it looking the way it’s supposed to look again."

The expectation of the sixth national championship season in Miami football history is not likely to happen overnight. Diaz has quickly changed the culture. Keeping it that way is going to take a few recruiting classes for Diaz to have the entire team full of players he recruited.

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He has an excellent head start after working with the defensive players for the last three seasons. With the nation’s fourth-ranked recruiting class in 2020, the future in Coral Gables is bright.