Where to expect Miami Hurricanes defense to improve with Manny Diaz play calling

MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 14: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 14: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

One of the biggest changes on the Miami Hurricanes coaching staff this month was the decision by head coach Manny Diaz to assume the play-calling on defense over coordinator Blake Baker. The Miami defense went up in points per game, yards per play and had fewer turnovers under Baker.

Baker was hired to be Diaz’s successor as defensive coordinator in January 2019. Diaz ascended to head coach when Mark Richt resigned in December 2018. In three seasons under Diaz the Miami defense allowed 19.7 points per game, 4.62 yards per play, averaged 9.1 tackles for loss, 3.1 sacks and produced 1.92 turnovers per game.

Those numbers went up in the last two seasons under Baker. The defense remained one of the elite in the country in 2019. Miami allowed 20.2 points per game, 4.7 yards per play, 8.31 tackles for loss to finish fourth nationally, 3.54 sacks to rank fifth and forced 16 turnovers for an average of 1.23 per game in 2019.

The Miami Hurricanes defense regressed significantly in 2020. Miami allowed 27 PPG to rank 51st nationally, 5.6 yards per play, 8.64 tackles for loss to finish fourth and plunged to 32nd averaging 2.73 sacks per game. In Baker’s two seasons calling the defense, Miami allowed 23.3 PPG, 5.16 yards per play and 1.5 turnovers per game.

Miami has to get back to making plays in the opponents’ backfields, pressuring the passer and forcing turnovers. The Hurricanes ranked 40th in 2020 forcing 16 turnovers which was an average of 1.45 per game. In the inaugural season of the turnover chain in 2017, Miami tied for third forcing 31 turnovers in 13 games.

Diaz has nearly completely remade the Miami Hurricanes defensive coaching staff this month. Out are defensive line coach Todd Stroud, co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Ephraim Banda and cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph. Banda and Rumph have been with Miami since Diaz’s original Miami staff under Richt in 2016.

Banda left to become the defensive coordinator at Utah State and call his own defense. Rumph was reassigned in the Miami football program and is expected to work in the recruiting department. Stroud is taking an administrative job for medical reasons. Miami has three new defensive staff members in 2021.

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Travaris Robinson was hired as the defensive backs coach. Robinson was previously the defensive coordinator at South Carolina. Demarcus Van Dyke will work under Robinson as the replacement for Rumph as the CBs coach. Jess Simpson returns to Miami as the defensive line coach after being the DT coach with the Atlanta Falcons.