Manny Diaz and Miami energy brought K.J. Osborn to Hurricanes

MOBILE, ALABAMA - DECEMBER 22: K.J. Osborn #8 of the Buffalo Bulls catches the ball as Cedarius Rookard #5 of the Troy Trojans defends during the first half of the Dollar General Bowl on December 22, 2018 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
MOBILE, ALABAMA - DECEMBER 22: K.J. Osborn #8 of the Buffalo Bulls catches the ball as Cedarius Rookard #5 of the Troy Trojans defends during the first half of the Dollar General Bowl on December 22, 2018 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

K.J. Osborn’s arrival to the Miami football program has upgraded the talent and given the Miami football program a much-needed leader in the wide receiver room.

K.J. Osborn joined the Miami football program as a graduate transfer wide receiver from the University of Buffalo. Osborn played three seasons with the Bulls after redshirting as a freshman in 2015. He was a key part of their offense in the last two seasons. Osborn will also help the Hurricanes return game.

Osborn’s presence on special teams gives Manny Diaz and special teams coach Jonathan Patke three options on punt returns and four on kickoff returns. DeeJay Dallas and Jeff Thomas  returned punts for touchdowns in 2018. Lorenzo Lingard returned two kickoffs for 46 yards last season before a knee injury ended his 2018.

K.J. Osborn is expected to be the leader of a young wide receiver room. Thomas, junior Mike Harley and Osborn are the only upperclassmen at WR for Miami. New wide receiver coach Taylor Stubblefield has a lot of talent to work with but not a lot of experience beyond the aforementioned trio of wideouts.

Osborn discussed the energy of Manny Diaz and the city of Miami, his experience returning punts, attending college in a big city and the process that led him to sign with the Miami football program at ACC Kickoff days on Thursday morning.

"THE MODERATOR: We now are joined in the room by the University of Miami.We welcome K.J. Osborn to the podium. Questions, please.Q. “What can you say about your overall thoughts on Manny Diaz. He left momentarily and came back to Miami. Your thoughts on his return.”K.J. OSBORN: First and foremost, it’s an honor to be here.“I love Coach. From the moment I figured out he was going to be the head coach at my time, it was a kind of in-between period. I talked to the former staff. I didn’t really know who he was.Immediately when I found out he was having the press conference, I watched. I was actually packing up, leaving Buffalo. I was watching it as I was packing up. I sat down and watched hit.Just his energy, his vibe, what his vision was for the program, what he wanted to do, the new Miami, bringing some of that old-school Miami back, putting us back where we need to be. A great guy from Miami. Easy to speak to. Tremendous person. Tremendous coach, father. Really, really a great guy.”I’m really happy with the decision I made. He’s a really great guy."

"Q. “How do you like Miami? How is the transition going for you? Your return game, how do you practice that in the off-season? How much pride do you take in that part of your game?”K.J. OSBORN: “First, I mean, I love Miami. When people ask me how is Miami, I tell them Miami is everything you think it is, everything that you think it is. It’s amazing.There’s so many connections to make. Just even football, it’s a tremendous school. I’m getting my Masters degree in criminal justice. The connections I’ve been making with people in the city, alumni, meeting new people. It’s really good.I really, like I say, am proud of the decision I made. I prayed on it. Really, I made the right choice. But I love it. I love it. I’m a Michigan guy, grew up in Michigan. I transferred down to IMG. I tried to stay in Florida for college.Ended up going to Buffalo. So it was nice getting back to Florida. I’m from Michigan, but I don’t really like the snow that much.”"

K.J. Osborn played his first three years of high school at Lincoln in Ypsilanti, Michigan near Detroit before transferring to IMG. He played for former Florida State, Heisman Trophy-winning QB Chris Weinke at IMG. Ypsilanti is the home of Buffalo’s MAC rival Eastern Michigan.

In three seasons with the Bulls, Osborn averaged 10.3 yards per punt return and 19.3 yards per kickoff return. Patke hasn’t mentioned who will be returning kicks in 2018. Dallas and Thomas are too explosive to not have them at least returning punts. Osborn could be too valuable at WR to have him as a returner.

Osborn continued by answering the question about his return game.

"“The return game, I feel like that’s really, really important. At first I was kind of nervous. My redshirt freshman or sophomore year, I was a third-string punt returner. I was a second-string outside receiver, the third slot behind two seniors.When you think about it, in a game, you don’t think two punt returners are going to go down in one game. In practice, when you get punt reps, it’s cool. If you drop it, God forbid — it’s cool because you’re in practice. The game is live bullets.The two seniors went down, it was my return. I was standing back there at Western Michigan, hoping I could get a decent kick I was able to return. My first punt, I was pretty far. I was able to get back and track it.As time went on, I got really comfortable. You start gaining confidence, catching up with guys close to you. You realize the importance of it. Stealing the first down or two in the return game, as you get older, you get to learn the field position, the percentages of your chances to score.I take a lot of pride in it. Practicing in the off-season, always fundamentals, fundamentals. In the game, it’s going to happen fast. In practice, you got to practice the fundamentals.I think it’s very important, kick return, punt return. My favorite is punt return. It’s also really fun. It brings you an asset. You’re not just a receiver at the next level. An example I got, at the time you go to the Cowboys. You’re not going to be playing over Dez Bryant. You have to bring something else to the table.I feel like that’s what I try to tell some of my younger teammates, special teams is very important. People make careers off special teams. I learned that at a young age, even at IMG, my special teams coach, he told us special teams is very, very important, not just punt return, kickoff, punt.There’s onside, anything you do. That’s a very important part of the game.”"

Osborn is not likely to be a part of the Miami return coverage team. Stressing the imporance of kick coverage to younger players and being an asset as a leader is. Miami had one of the worst coverage units in college football in 2018. That was despite going against one of the best return units in college football in practice.

Miami was third in FBS in punt returns and 92nd in opponent punt returns. Miami was 27th in kickoff returns in 2018 and 105th in covering kickoffs in 2018. Getting the young receivers to believe in the importance of kick coverage is critical. Travis Homer who is now with the Seattle Seahawks was an exceptional special teamer.

"Q. You talked about coming from Buffalo, what felt right about Miami, returning not only to the state of Florida, but going to Miami specifically? Secondly, your thoughts on quarterback Tate Martell.K.J. OSBORN: “Like I say, I prayed about it. It was a lot of prayer. I tell people when you go to college, you don’t think you’re going to transfer. Obviously, to really think about it, I remember I was sitting in my room, I’m really going to pack up my stuff, really leave my teammates.I’ve been here for four years, things like that. It’s, I guess, not the ideal situation. It happened. Like I say, when I was in the process of it, it was a coaching change. So I talked to Coach (Ron) Dugans, who is now at Florida State. I really liked him, really good guy.He was a college teammate of my high school receiver coach and role model, Ernie Green who played at Florida State. They had a good relationship. I spoke to him. Good guy, things like that.”"

Dugans spent three seasons at Miami on Mark Richt’s staff. Diaz fired Dugans and the entire offensive coaching staff less than 24 hours after being hired to replace Richt. Dugans’ subsequent move to Florida State likely cost Miami 2020 wide receiver recruit, Bryan Robinson. Osborn eventually reunited with a pair of former teammates.

"“Also Scott Patchan, who is a defensive end. I played with him in high school. Tyree St. Louis, I was able to play with him. I spoke to them. We know when it was a coaching change, I talked to Coach Cooney, who is our director of recruiting. I really loved him, really good guy. I felt very comfortable talking to him.I feel like he really sold it for me as well as Coach Diaz, just seeing immediately like the impact of everything that Coach Diaz was doing. Having my Masters program, which is very important to me.Then off-the-field alumni, the brotherhood that Miami has. I believe it’s second to none. I think that was really good for me and has been everything, lived up to all the hype.”"

Like Osborn, Miami quarterback Tate Martell comes to Coral Gables as a transfer. Martell is entering his redshirt sophomore season after transferring from Ohio State. The former Las Veger prep star redshirted in 2017 in Columbus and backed up Dwayne Haskins in 2018.

Martell decided to move on to Miami after the retirement of former Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and the transfer of former Georgia QB Justin Fields to Ohio State.

"“The second question about Tate. I met Tate when he first came. He’s a very smart guy. That’s one thing I was very impressed with him. When I first met him, very, very smart. You sit down, talk to him, he’ll draw it out for you just like a coach.He knows things, when defense is moving, things like that. He’s very athletic. Works really hard. So he’s a really good guy. He’s a really good guy. From a big city, so he likes Miami. Him and Brevin talk about it a lot. They can relate to it because they come from Las Vegas.They can adapt to that lifestyle, things like that. He kind of showed me the ropes a little bit, being in a big city. Really good guy.”"

Next. Miami early season game helps program long term. dark

K.J. Osborn will be a key part of the Miami offense and a leader in 2019. Following his appearance at ACC Kickoff, Osborn was named to the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award honoring the nation’s best wide receiver. He will likely challenge Thomas to be Miami’s best and leading receiver in 2019. Osborn has already made an impact.