For Miami Hurricanes football fans, Dec. 30 was a very hectic day for the coaching staff that will likely change the program for years to come.
Mark Richt, the Hurricanes’ head coach for the previous three seasons, abruptly retired from coaching on Dec. 30 to the surprise of athletic director Blake James. However, the search for a new head coach lasted less than a day for Miami, as former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz agreed to become the next head coach for the Hurricanes less than 10 hours after Richt announced his retirement.
This comes less than a month after Diaz was chosen as the head coach for the Temple Owls. Diaz previously served as Miami’s defensive coordinator the last two seasons.
For some, it is hard to adjust to a new coach right away. However, the defense has been one of the Hurricanes strong points the last few seasons. Senior defensive back Jaquan Johnson has had 2 interceptions, and 92 tackles this season. A few other standout defenders from the Hurricanes’ this year were junior linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, junior defensive lineman Joe Jackson and senior defensive back Sheldrick Redwine.
Quarterman contributed 82 tackles, five sacks and an interception while Jackson added 47 tackles and a team high 8.5 sacks along with an interception. Redwine lead the team with three interceptions alongside fellow defensive backs Trajan Bandy and Jhavonte Dean; Redwine also had 64 tackles.
While Johnson and Redwine have played their last game in a Hurricanes uniform, the Hurricanes still have plenty of quality players and recruits to keep their strong defense intact. Despite a 7-6 record, the Hurricanes gave up the second least yards per game out of all Division 1 FBS teams with 268.3 yards per game. The Hurricanes were only behind Michigan, who gave up 262.5 yards per game. Miami also only gave up 18.2 points per game, which was the 15th best in the FBS.
In his introductory press conference last Wednesday, Diaz said he was shocked by Richt’s retirement and praised his predecessor.
“There is simply no script for what happened on Sunday,” Diaz said in reference to his decision to become Miami’s head coach. He continued by saying, “[Richt] was quite simply the best man I ever worked for.”
Diaz also noted that last season was a disappointment for the Hurricanes, and he hopes to put the ‘Canes back on track this year.
“Everyone in this building has to own 7-6, starting with me,” Diaz said. Later on, he would say, “Our responsibility is to play like the Miami Hurricanes.”
One reason for Miami’s struggles last season was a lackluster offense that averaged only 358.8 yards per game, which was 104th out of 129 Division 1 schools. Diaz decided to clean house on offense, dismissing the whole offensive staff within the first 24 hours of his tenure as head coach. Diaz also let go of strength and conditioning coach Gus Felder. In regards to hiring a new offensive coordinator, Diaz said it will happen “when it’s going to happen”.
For South Florida football fans, Diaz’s most notable claim to fame may be the famous turnover chain that he created. In 2017, Diaz started a new tradition for Miami defensive players that whenever they forced a turnover, the player responsible for the turnover would be awarded the turnover chain and got to wear it until they went back onto the field. The chain captivated players and fans alike, with fans wearing turnover chain shirts, homemade chains and waving around signs about the chains. It was also made into a rap song by rapper “The Honorable” SoLo-D.
Though fans feelings towards Richt are mixed, there’s no doubt that he had an incredible ride with the Hurricanes, leading them to the Orange Bowl for the first time since the 2003 season and their first bowl win in the Russell Athletic Bowl since 2006. However, the hype behind Diaz is extremely high, and this season looks to be a very exciting one for Hurricanes fans.