College Sports

New Miami coach Manny Diaz: ‘We have to get the quarterback position fixed’

Sunday’s timeline of UM’s hire of football coach Manny Diaz

Sunday's timeline of UM's hire of football coach Manny Diaz.
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Sunday's timeline of UM's hire of football coach Manny Diaz.

Manny Diaz didn’t wait long after taking over as coach of the Miami Hurricanes to share his blunt thoughts about Miami’s quarterbacks situation.

On Wednesday, no one even had to ask the former defensive coordinator a question about quarterbacks before he went out and tackled it himself. A day earlier, he talked about it in an ESPN appearance. The day before that, he discussed the position in his first radio interview after rejoining the Hurricanes following an 18-day stint as the Temple Owls coach.

“Certainly we have to get the quarterback position fixed,” Diaz said Wednesday as part of his opening statement at his introductory press conference. “We have some young guys on our campus who have shown flashes, who have shown that they have ability, but you don’t win at the University of Miami with flashes and you don’t win at the University of Miami with potential. You have to perform.”

Diaz’s first priority with the Hurricanes will be fixing the offense, and to fix the offense he first has to fix Miami’s quarterback situation.

On Monday, Diaz at least took the first step toward trying something new. Less than 24 hours after succeeding Mark Richt, Diaz did what the former coach wouldn’t. Diaz fired quarterbacks coach Jon Richt, along with all four other members of the offensive staff. At his news conference in the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence, Diaz confirmed he cut ties with Richt, running backs coach Thomas Brown, wide receivers coach Ron Dugans, tight ends coach Todd Hartley and offensive line coach Stacy Searels. By next Thursday, Diaz plans to have a new offensive staff in place and already has three finalists for his vacant offensive coordinator job.

Whoever fills the offensive openings will have an unproven group of quarterbacks to mold.

N’Kosi Perry, in theory, should be the favorite for the job. The quarterback started six games this season, but Richt benched the redshirt freshman for the Hurricanes’ 35-3 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Pinstripe Bowl after the student paper The Miami Hurricane reported on the existence of a sexually explicit Snapchat video Perry posted earlier in the year. The underclassman was then caught on an Instagram Live video telling teammates he was suspended for the bowl game in New York. All this came just two months after Perry was reprimanded for an Instagram video showing him with wads of cash.

Diaz wouldn’t address Perry’s status Wednesday, instead taking the opportunity to talk about his expectations for a player vying to start at quarterback in Coral Gables. All three returning scholarship quarterbacks served suspensions in 2018.

“Anytime there is a change, the players do know that there is a clean slate in terms of how they behave and act, and especially at that position,” Diaz said. “To be the quarterback at the University of Miami, that’s no small thing. In this town, you’ve got to have thick skin and you’ve got to have a way about you now. Again, all you have to do is look at the names that have done it in the past. There was a time we called this ‘QBU’ and that can happen again.

“So N’Kosi understands and all the guys understand that everything they do, how you do anything is how you do everything. And their behavior at times reflects their ability and desire to be the quarterback at the University of Miami, so in some ways, yes, everybody understands that what you do now is what matters the most and certainly if there were other issues that from the past were lingering those would still have to be addressed.”

The other on-campus quarterback candidate is Jarren Williams. He redshirted this season, but arrived in South Florida as one of the most heralded quarterback recruits in program history. As the No. 77 overall prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Williams was the Hurricanes’ highest-ranked player at the position since former quarterback Kyle Wright signed with Miami in 2003.

Quarterback Cade Weldon is also set to be back with the program for a redshirt sophomore season in 2019.

Those aren’t the only three options, though. Like Richt before him, Diaz didn’t rule out the possibility of scouring the transfer market to find a 2019 starter. Once his offensive staff is in place, Diaz can get to work.

“Everybody will be given a clean slate,” Diaz said. “We will start from scratch with what we have on our campus, but at the same time we will look under every nook and cranny across the entire country to make sure we are best positioned in the quarterback room to attack the 2019 football season.

“We will have a fantastic offensive coordinator, a great quarterback coach and a great scheme, but first and foremost none of that will win without great culture. You have got to get the culture of the football team united between all three phases of the team.”

The University of Miami had its news conference to announce new head football coach Manny Diaz on Wednesday.

Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.
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