Everything Manny Diaz said ahead of Georgia Tech – 247Sports

In a season full of twists and turns, Miami has won two straight games against Top 20 teams after starting the season 2-4. 

The last two weeks have been massive for Manny Diaz, who was essentially going to be fired by Blake James if his team lost at home against then No. 18 NC State. His team has played their best football since James all but said that he would move on from the head coach last month.

The Hurricanes have a chance to close the season on a six-game winning streak, but they would have to get through Georgia Tech (3-5, 2-4 ACC) on Saturday first. That game kicks off at noon and will be televised on Bally Sports Florida. 

Diaz met with the media on Monday to discuss his team and the upcoming matchup. Here is everything that he said:

“I want to start off like last week and congratulate Tyler Van Dyke who’s been named the ACC Rookie of the Week for the second straight week. Certainly worthy of that award. And James Williams, ACC Defensive back of the week. Congratulations to both those guys, pretty amazing to see. Both individuals being acknowledged but to me it’s a part of a team goal, team effort, and normal individuals get acknowledged when the team does things the right way. It’s a good feeling in the building yesterday coming back off of a fantastic victory at Pittsburgh.

“The reality is that we have to keep the same mentality we had two weeks ago. Our backs are still against the wall, we have very little margin for error in this conference and we have a very dangerous team in Georgia Tech coming in here this weekend. We remember what they did to us two weeks ago. We lost out on the opportunity to play them a year ago, which was disappointing to us and were excited to get back in our stadium and get back on the grass out there. It should be a really good contest, they got some dangerous weapons on both sides of the ball and a very aggressive scheme.”

“I think that will be important for everybody’s success. Look at Alabama for an example. Jameson Williams changed them coming over from Ohio State and the middle linebacker that came over from Tennessee. Those are key pieces that have made a difference for them. I think you have to evaluate it position-by-position. I think you have to understand where your needs are. I don’t see a great difference from the national football league. You look at what you have, you look at what you recruited, you look at what you have at each position, you try to get a sense for what your not going to have. 

The trick now is nobody really knows what attrition you’re going to have – what numbers you might lose. And that’s kind of across the board because let’s say you just lose your whole depth because they just want to try to have a chance to start, that could become very difficult because you could have an experienced guy and it could become hard to keep your backups around. Nobody knows how that’s going to shake down. I don’t think we look at it like, ‘Hey, we want to go all transfers or all high school, or we want to go 50-50.’ 

“We ask all the coaches, ‘Where do you think your room is right now, where do you think you have holes needed next year so we can try to get our team as competitive as it needs to be next year.’ I think college football now forges you an opportunity to better yourself on a year-by-year basis.

“The number is by position we say, ‘Okay would you need an older guy? Would you need an older guy?’ Then it also goes what’s out there? What’s in our backyard? What’s in our footprint? And if you can’t get it from that footprint, it’s a down year for whatever said position, you could really balance that in the portal, which you really couldn’t do in the past.”

“I don’t think it’s changed very much. I think for us it’s about consistency on defense and it’s about consistency in the back end. We went and played probably the top quarterback in the country with three freshmen playing in the back end and that made it difficult. They threw for a bazillion yards, but they also dropped back and threw the ball over 60 times over the course of the game. You’re going to amass more yards if you’re calling 60 drop back passes.

“That doesn’t mean we covered as well as we wanted to cover, but they made it difficult in man and then when you played zone, Pickett is good enough to check it down. The biggest thing in that game is just Pickett’s ability to extend plays. We put him on the ground four times, we had him dead to rights a couple more times he scrambled around of. If he wasn’t as athletic I think we could have gotten him on the ground ten times, but that’s why he is the player that he is. We knew going into the game that we were suddenly happy giving up as many passing yards as we did, but we knew that the formula for success and to beat those guys was to not let them run the football and try to make them one-dimensional throwing it.

“Obviously we want to stop them more than we did, but at the end of the day that turned out to be true because at the end of the day if you get to throw the ball 60 times, guess what happens? One time a pass sails on you and you can make an interception at a key time and that was one of the telling plays in the game.”

“It’s a different style of pass offense, but yeah. Jeff Sims, his athletic ability pops off the tape. I keep saying the same thing – it is a phenomenal year for quarterbacks in the ACC. It does not get talked about enough and that’s why you see the scores the way that they are and it’s up and down in the league. You have quarterbacks that can push the ball down the field. Georgia Tech has some very talented wide receivers that they have added through transfer. Both their backs we have a lot of respect for. With Sims, if you have everybody covered, he can extend plays and make plays with his feet. He dominated the second half against North Carolina. It’s a challenge when you play good quarterbacks week in and week out and I expect this week to be no different.”

“Mike had a labrum injury that needed surgery to get fixed, so we won’t have Mike for the rest of the year.”

“They called two on one drive and I thought they did their best to try to protect them. Pitt is going to hit the quarterback and I say that because that’s what they want to do. That’s what we want to do. That’s their whole game philosophy is by making him hold the ball with the pressure that they bring. Sometimes we got to get the ball out of our hand a little bit sooner, we have to protect and strain a little bit longer when were protecting Tyler, and then sometimes Tyler’s understanding of what’s coming and the type of pressure. We got to be able to protect him. Tyler is a big guy and he’s tough but those hits do start to add up and that is a concern of ours.”

“We’ve obviously been in some very competitive games and one, I think that’s just how our league is built. That’s not a Miami thing. If you look around the conference, there’s been a lot of really, really tight games. Georgia Tech was driving the ball on Clemson with a chance to tie the game on the last drive of the game. This is probably true around college football. There’s a alot of close contests which are coming down to a play or two. It’s very similar to the NFL and I don’t really know that that’s going to go away. Obviously, our four games have been a little bit on the extreme of really coming down to the final possession, but that consistency over the entire 60 minutes would help. But as a head coach I don’t think about anything other than trying to get us toward a victory and one thing I am proud of is how we played and the final ten minutes of the last four league games. In the final ten minutes, we’ve only given up six points in the final last ten minutes of our last four league games we’ve played. 

“Offensively, we’ve made plays to give ourselves a chance to win those games or to win those games. When we’ve had to be at our best, we’ve been our best. What we’ve done the last two weeks is we started better and getting off to better starts helps us out. Those are two really, really difficult teams we’ve played over the last two weeks. Pickett, Pitt, since I’ve been here and my first year we played Trubitsky, we played Daniel Jones, a few years those guys have been first round draft choices. To me, Pickett, I don’t know if we’ve played a quarterback in my time here and we’ve rolled through some special ones this year. 

“Howell has been unstoppable all year, Armstrong from Virginia, no one is slowing him down, Bryce Young, Thorne from Michigan State, Leary from NC State is having a hell of a year. This is a really, really good year for quaretrbacks. When you feel like you have a quarterback, you feel like you have a chance in every game and I think that changes the way that everybody on the roster plays. And I keep circling the ACC, just about everybody in this league has a quarterback they believe they can go win with. Look what Wake Forest is doing on the other side with Hartman. That QB position is unbelievable. It gives everybody confidence and it’s hard to beat confident teams. It’s hard to beat teams that are never out of the game because they believe they have a guy who could get them right back into it.”

“It was as high as anything on the list. If you look at some of the inconsistencies we had in 2019 that were pretecated on a little but of that and were thankful that Tyler Van Dyke and that 2020 class stuck with us and came here. We internally in this program think so highly of Jake Garcia and what he’s capable of, but D’Eriq King changed it. That’s why we say he’s a big, big part of this story going forward and I think our quarterback recruiting going forward with where were at this class and with the classes of the future are also on the up.

“It is really, really hard to win in college football right now, much like the NFL, without a quarterback. I think Rhett Lashlee deserves a lot of credit for bringing in a quarterback friendly offense that quarterbacks want to play in, that wideouts want to play in, that you can attract the freshmen wideout class that we had, that we could attract a Charleston Rambo to want to come to your school with the type of balls that we’re throwing downfield and the simplicity of it to learn. I think its been a transformation over the last 24 months offensively, but the story always starts and ends with the quarterback.”

“With Jake, it might have been some of these recruits. It might have been a James Williams or a Romello Brinson. Our fan base deserves credit. They did a good job staying on Jake through the long haul and it is – recruiting is a team effort. I thought getting a guy like Jake here, Dan [Enos] did a good job with Tyler. Tyler was coming in here with a lot of uncertainty. ‘Are you going to value my skillset? Are you guys going to want a runner?’ I think Rhett has shown that we can win with multiple types of quarterback play. I thought the key on Saturday – and I mentioned the passing yards with Pitt – we had 297 yards of offense on called run plays. I think we ran for 96 and threw for 197 on called runs. Tyler’s ability to control their defense with the RPO game was vital. Pitt had 60 yards of offense on called run plays. They didn’t call as many runs as we did, but that’s old time ball and that’s efficiency and that’s high-percentage things. Now Kenny Pickett can make low percentage things look high-efficient, but I thought our ability to run the ball and the offensive line is getting better and better.”

“I think the messaging we talked about yesterday was you have to treat both the same – adversity and success. It’s a different type of adversity when you have people telling you how good you are and you have players getting accolades and so on and so forth. Anything that takes your eye off getting better. What we have done as coaches is that we’ve gotten better. Were a better team than played against Virginia, played against North Carolina. We need to be. The last two teams we’ve played have been a step up in competition. If we stop doing that and we start thinking now things are nice, we will get ourselves beat. I think that’s what we’ve shown over the four games. We can be really good, but if we’re not ourselves, who we want to be, we’re beatable and that’s life in and life out in the ACC. I think that’s why you see Top 10 teams go down every week in college football. It’s where we’re at. We didn’t like it when they were getting fed negativity and they can’t like it when they’re fed positivity because they’re both unhealthy for you. If you hold onto the praise, hold onto the criticism, neither are good for you. That’s why we talk about what’s real, what you have to get better at, and how you find a way to play your best ball in November.”

“Tyler is very coachable. I think one of the unsung heroes is D’Eriq King. We talked about D’Eriq when he came here not just transforming us on the field. Some of the quarterbacks we had didn’t really have a strong older quarterback to say, ‘This is how a quarterback behaves here. This is how you operate in meetings. Here’s how you operate in walkthroughs.’ It’s tough because we’ve had some younger guys come through our program that didn’t really have the older guidance of like, ‘Hey, here’s how we do this. Here’s how we do that.’ D’Eriq was sort of able to reset that room and be the standard. So Tyler got to watch him last year – how he operates, how he prepares, all of that. Even now, when Tyler took the job with D’Eriq and Jake out, having D’Eriq sitting right next to him in every meeting and being able to process things. Sometimes players kind of confirm what the coach said with another player so they can have one on one conversations, sometimes a player will ask a player another question that he may not ask the coach because he wants to make sure he hears it the right way. I would say D’Eriq is a very big unsung hero, but Tyler, as you would expect, is meticulous with his preparation and studying and understanding what’s going on. He’s got a whole new test this week. Five straight games he’s not played the same defensive structure in back to back weeks. Georgia Tech is odd. They’re in the three=safety look. They’re extraordinarily fast. They’ve multiple. They’re coming around from everywhere, got a lot of fast guys that can confuse a quarterback. We saw how good they played against Sam Howell and North Carolina, so it’s a whole new challenge this week and it’s a compete different structure to what Pitt presented a week ago.”

“Bradley just had something that had to get checked out over the course of the game. He could have come back in the game, but he’s fine. He practiced fine last night. He’s good to go.”

“I think it’s huge. You look at where they all came from: Palmetto, Northwestern, Heritage. James was of course at Western. Every year they’ve got phenomenal coaching. Even the skill guys you mentioned in 7-on-7. We remember hearing about Kam Kinchens on the 7-on-7 circuit. Not just the athletic part, just how intelligent he was, how he wanted to know what everyone on defense was doing and how he could explain his job to everyone else out there. I think you see some of that football IQ when your sniffing out a Philly Special on a crucial, crucial play. Those are some of the high profile guys because they’re playing early. I’ve said this before, it starts with youth football and the coaching at youth football and how important that is because that’s really the first exposure to the game and the way that it’s played at that level. From there it graduates to the high school and 7-on-7 circuit. No one has to do more with less than South Florida coaches. No one is more underappreciated by the system than a South Florida head coach, so were always very thankful for their efforts because they dont get what they get in other states and that’s inherently unfair. But they do a heck of a job because they know its all about the kids. I think that’s whether its seeing them succeed at UM, seeing them succeed at the next level, I think it gives everyone the joy of it being what it really should be about and that’s about the kids.”

“We kind of already saw that game because that was a game I think a week or two before we played North Carolina, so our players would have seen that film as we were prepping for UNC. I think that’s the only time we’ve followed Georgia Tech. I don’t think we played anyone in the league that Georgia Tech has already played. I’ll be very honest, that’s all our players know about Georgia Tech right now because they watched that film, they saw it very closely. They saw Sims, the defense couldn’t put a hand on him in the second half and defensively forcing turnovers, scoop and scores, very very aggressive. I think that’s actually our first impression of Georgia Tech and you combine that with what happened here in ‘19 and I think the respect they have for the players they’ve added since then. I don’t think getting their attention will be an issue this week.”

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