Miami football development questioned by alum Joaquin Gonzalez

MIAMI, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 11:. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 11:. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Miami football program has had a top 20 recruiting class in four of the past five cycles. Not counting the 11th ranked class in 2021, that did not pay off on the field. Miami was successful in 2017 with a 10-3 record but followed that up with a 13-13 combined record in 2017 and 2018. The Hurricanes finished 8-3 in 2020.

The 2017 and 2018 classes that 12th and eighth should have paid off on the field by at least the 2019 season when Miami finished 6-7. Manny Diaz and his staff have proven they can recruit signing the 17th and 11th ranked classes. Diaz the once and current defensive coordinator can prove he can develop defensive linemen.

Miami has to be able to develop the entire roster to compete nationally. Miami begins the season with the preeminent program in college football, Alabama. If Miami wants to be able to compete nationally continually, Alabama is the ultimate test. Miami will have a gauge of what needs to improve after playing Alabama.

Speaking to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, former Miami All-American Joaquin Gonzalez stated what the Miami football program needs to do to develop the talent on the roster. Competing against Alabama and keeping the game reasonably close is a good start according to Gonzalez.

"“This is a big year for the program to step up and grow…They’ve had a lot of recruiting classes come through here with a lot of talent. Development has always been a question for a lot of years here. If they can put that all together…It’s simple: Win the games that we’re supposed to win.Compete in the ones that we know we’re going to have a tough time. We don’t have to win those…Lose to Alabama by [expletive] 10, not by [expletive] 35. And compete and show that you belong to play an opponent like that. We haven’t seen that. We have a first test in Alabama. Let’s be realists. I want them to win.I expect them to win. But I feel more importantly right now, given the state of the program the way it’s been the last couple of years, I want them to show some progression, show some balls and [expletive] compete. We have the talent.”"

Manny Diaz made major changes throughout the coaching staff on defense during the 2021 offseason. Only Jonathan Patke who moved from strikers coach to inside linebackers while continuing to be the special teams coordinator remains on the Miami defense coaching staff.

Travaris Robinson is highly regarded and joins the Miami staff as the defensive backs coach after previously serving as the coordinator at South Carolina. DeMarcus Van Dyke was promoted from the recruiting staff to cornerbacks coach, Ishmael Aristide will coach strikers and Jess Simpson returns as defensive line coach.

Gonzalez is high on the potential of the Miami offensive line. Miami will have one of the most experienced units in the country. Left tackle Zion Nelson has developed as well as any player in the Miami football program. Nelson allowed nine sacks as a true freshman in 2019 and now is projected as a 2022 NFL first-round pick.

"“Being with [offensive line] coach [Garin Justice], I’ve had a lot of time to spend with him, I’m really excited [about] the O-line group. I think he has a tremendous group. They look great. They’re way better than we were when I was here…I think we’re going to be all right. But now the kids have to do the work.If not, it’s going to be a different story.”"

The final question Jackson pondered with Gonzalez was “Is player development getting back to the point of UM’s glory years?”  Miami developed first-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft for the first time since tight end David Njoku was selected by the Cleveland Browns in 2017. Gonzales spoke about the star defensive end duo.

"“It’s too early to tell…Greg Rousseau was here. Jaelan Phillips was here for a cupcake and [an expletive] Diet Coke. I think it’s too early to tell the progression with some of these kids. This year will be a good measure.”"

Rousseau and Phillips earned second-team All-Americans in each of the past two seasons. Phillips was selected 18th overall by the Dolphins and will be converted to linebacker. Rousseau was taken 31st by the Buffalo Bills. Continuing to develop first-round picks will help the Miami coaching staff in recruiting.

Next. Miami might take light 2022 class to leave spots for transfers. dark

Phillips and Rousseau each spent two seasons in the Miami football program, playing one. Diaz, Simpson and Todd Stroud who was the previous DL coach for Miami have shown the continued ability to produce players up front. That should continue to entice DL for Miami in the future.