Miami will make mistakes on defense. This Saturday and for many weeks after. Manny Diaz understands this. Expects it, even.
“Things will move faster Saturday than these guys have seen, and that’s why and we’ve got some guys that hey, maybe they’re not going to be in the right place all the time. That’s OK,” said Diaz, who on Saturday coaches his first game as Miami’s defensive coordinator against Florida A&M (6 p.m., ESPN3.com).
“You know how you fix it? With unbelievable effort and unwavering violence. If we can just combine those two things, we will make up for our mistakes. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re not trying to get our guys to play perfectly. That’s not even a remote possibility. Just play fast and play violent.”
Diaz used “violence” or a variation four times in his 10-minute chat with reporters Wednesday, it should be noted. He brings a different style than Mark D’Onofrio, but as he’s said multiple times since arriving in January, the scheme he’s running doesn’t matter.
“If this was as simple as a scheme, everyone would run the same defense, everyone would run the same offense,” Diaz said. “What we have to do is, we have to play as hard as we can physically play. And what our players will find is if we can play as hard as we can play, then good things will start to happen. That is our focus for this game. I want the people in the stands to cheer for a defense that is running as hard as they possibly can to the football and then they hit as hard as they can when they get there.”
Other notes from Diaz’ talk with reporters on Wednesday:
* Any thoughts of alternating weak-side linebackers Jamie Gordinier and Michael Pinckney (listed as co-starters on Miami’s depth chart) series-by-series?
“They’ll both play a lot. You’ll see, we’ll be playing a lot of guys regardless. I think that competition has been great over the past week. Pinckney has been excellent since he’s gotten back up to speed last week. And really, again, showed some of the dynamic things he showed in the spring. I think like I said, which one is in there first, they don’t know. We really just want to continue to sort of grade them out every day in practice, but you’ll see them both a bunch.”
* Diaz wouldn’t say if he’ll deploy nickel packages more often with Jermaine Grace — by far UM’s best coverage linebacker — no longer in the mix, but said he’ll use one Saturday (not exactly hot breaking news).
“I look at this weekend as really just finding out about us,” he said. “I want to see our guys go play. It’s not about scheme and this and that. I want to see guys. Who are our best players? I want to see guys play fast. I want to see who can make a play, I want to see who can process on game day, when everything moves a little bit faster.”
* How long does it take to get to know your players?
“I always feel like you never really get it until halfway through your first season in terms of what you have,” Diaz said. “Because also for us, you really don’t know how good your league is. Until you get in there and find out. You can watch everybody on film, but when you really get out there and you watch them side-by-side and how you match up with everybody you have to play, there’s always a feeling out process that first year as a staff just trying to really figure out, ‘OK, I have an idea who we are, but I need to see us against some other people to really see how we match up.’ And that’s why we don’t worry a whole lot about anything except us. Right now we’re just trying to focus on us getting better at what we do – the fundamentals of tackling, the fundamentals of defeating blocks and then the pursuit of running to the football.’’
* Asked if the loss of Al-Quadin Muhammad was abated by the emergence of Demetrius Jackson and Trent Harris as ACC-caliber starters, Diaz offered this take:
“Coaches by nature, we’re problem-solvers. We don’t sit around and think of anything except of how to solve a problem. So if we’re given a problem our brains are instantly tied on how to solve it. Like I said, we believe in our players. The other team is not going to start first down and 12 because we lost a couple guys. It’s still going to be first and 10. A touchdown will still be worth 6 points. There’s not a lot of time for sympathy. You’ve just got to move on. It’s just the mentality that you have and you go play. And the kids see it and the kids know and understand if you have confidence in them – it’s like your own children – if you have confidence in them they will rise above maybe even their level of play, and that’s what we want.”
* Have Jackson and Harris shown they’re ACC-caliber starters, though? “Absolutely. There’s no doubt.”
“The amount of snaps everybody is going to get is based off of not the perceived value of guys but what they’ve actually accomplished in the game. And right now no one on our team has a tackle, no one has a sack. Anything that was done in the past is irrelevant. Everybody is starting at zero. We haven’t given up a yard yet. We haven’t given up a score yet. It all begins Saturday, for good and for bad. We can’t wait and we’re really excited to go play.”
* Asked how close he thinks defensive end Scott Patchan, who tore his ACL in March, is to returning, Diaz said he has “tunnel vision” on players who are game-ready. Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, more bluntly: “I’m not a doctor.” Since mid-camp, we’ve seen Patchan running and riding a stationary bike at the beginning of practices.