New Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt hired Miami native Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator today, moving a step closer to filling out his coaching staff.
Diaz, the son of a former Miami mayor of the same name, spent the 2015 season as Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator, his second stint at the school. The Bulldogs went 9-4 this season, beating North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl.
“I’ve known him for over 20 years and I’ve watched him become one of the best defensive minds in the business,” said Richt, who added Diaz will run a 4-3 scheme in 2016.
Diaz worked as Louisiana Tech’s defensive coordinator in 2014, heading a unit that led the nation in forcing turnovers. Before that, Diaz was at Texas from 2011-13, and Mississippi State in 2010 for his first stint there. He also was defensive coordinator for four seasons at Middle Tennessee State, spending time coaching linebackers and safeties at the school.
Diaz, 41, who graduated from Florida State, said the chance to coach in Miami was too good to pass up.
“We knew it would take a very unique opportunity for us to consider leaving,” Diaz said. “God blessed me with a chance to return home, to coach in my hometown and to reunite with family. It is the kind of opportunity that comes along rarely in this business.”
Richt has yet to confirm if he has made any decisions on whether to retain offensive coordinator James Coley or Larry Scott, who served as interim head coach after Al Golden was fired.
EL PASO, Texas — Mark Richt‘s staff continues to take shape.
A report from Chicago-area reporter Dave Wischnowsky said Hurricanes defensive backs coach PaulWilliams will take the same role at Illinois. FootballScoop.com reported the same.
Richt was not expected to retain Williams, who came to UM with AlGolden. He was previously with Golden at Temple from 2006-10.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday that ToddHartley, who served as Richt’s director of player personnel and is currently interim special teams coordinator, will join Richt’s staff as a defensive assistant.
Hartley, according to a Sports Illustrated report, will be UM’s special teams coordinator and also coach tight ends or defensive backs. According to FootballScoop, JohnLilly, Georgia tight ends coach for the last eight years, turned down Richt’s offer to serve as co-offensive coordinator.
Hartley started his coaching career as a student assistant for Richt in 2006 and spent the next two seasons as a graduate assistant. He was interim defensive backs coach for the Bulldogs at the 2009 Independence Bowl, following the dismissal of (former UM defensive back and Richt teammate) Willie Martinez.
At Marshall (2010-14), Hartley spent two seasons as safeties coach and two more as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.
Richt, who has opted to stay out of the spotlight as he settles into his new job at Miami, is expected to wait until after Saturday’s Sun Bowl to name a staff. He will not attend the bowl, which is 2 p.m. Saturday (CBS) in El Paso against Washington State.
Meet the new boss: Players had the opportunity to sit down individually with Richt last week, and the reports have been glowing.
“I think he’s a cool guy,” sophomore running back Trayone Gray said. “He’s an alumni [of UM]. He’s a players’ guy. … He’s big on football, but he’s worried about stuff outside of football: becoming a man, becoming better in life and doing the right things.
“He seems laid back, like he’s been here already.”
(You might say that.)
Freshman running back Mark Walton said he and Richt – who offered him a scholarship to Georgia – didn’t discuss football. “He didn’t want us to lose sight of our focus this year,” he said. “When January comes, he’ll be the head coach then.”
“I feel comfortable with the guy we have as our leader now. We can move forward,” Walton said.
Gray and Walton said they didn’t know anything about Thomas Brown, the Georgia running backs coach who will reportedly join Richt’s staff at UM. Walton said UGA wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon was his main recruiter at Georgia.
McClendon – who had a UM job offer, according to several reports – was on Wednesday named South Carolina’s co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.
No decision: Juniors Artie Burns and Stacy Coley said they have not decided their futures. Burns, a cornerback, and wide receiver Coley have petitioned the NFL Draft Advisory Board for a projection, a source told the Post. Junior cornerback Corn Elder said he also done so. It is not known if linebacker Al-Quadin Muhammad, a redshirt sophomore, has put in for a grade.
Underclassmen have until Jan. 18 to declare for the 2016 draft, which is April 28-30.
Muhammad said Wednesday he did not want to discuss his draft decision. “I’m focused on the team ahead of us,” he said. Sitting at a press conference table alongside linebacker Tyriq McCord, Burns and Coley expressed nearly identical thoughts.
After they finished, McCord, a senior, waited a beat before deadpanning: “I’m thinking about coming back.”
In all seriousness, the 6-foot-3, 241-pound Tampa native said he’s hoping to make the most of his last opportunity to “show everybody that I can play football at the next level.”
Isidora OK: Interim coach Larry Scott said right guard Danny Isidora, who has been limited because of an undisclosed injury, “will be ready to go” for Saturday’s game. Isidora, a redshirt junior, has started 25 consecutive games, all but two at right guard. He started two at right tackle. Redshirt freshman Joe Brown has seen increased time at right guard during practices.
Former Canes ready: As you may remember, this week’s Dolphins-Chargers game means something to Denzel Perryman.
Perryman, who grew up in Coral Gables and played down the street at UM from 2011-14, was irked his hometown team passed him by in the NFL draft. The rookie linebacker plans to get it “on and popping,” as he told San Diego reporters in May.
Becoming a starter midway through the season, Perryman is tied for third on the team with 60 tackles (45 solo, six for loss) and has one sack and one forced fumble.
When the Dolphins play host to the Patriots on Jan. 3, another former Hurricane may be in enemy colors. New England claimed wide receiver Leonard Hankerson (2007-10) off waivers from Atlanta on Wednesday, adding a productive receiver to a banged-up position group.
Hankerson was placed on injured reserve earlier this month because of a hamstring injury, but that is now healed. He had 26 catches for 327 yards and three touchdowns in eight games with the Falcons before getting hurt. New England is waiting for Julian Edelman to recover from a broken foot.
Former UM tight end Asante Cleveland (2010-13), who was signed to the Patriots’ 53-man roster late last month, has played in the team’s last three games and has a 1-yard reception, the first of his career.
Meanwhile the Giants, who released former Canes safety Brandon Meriweather (2002-06) on Wednesday, are trying to figure out what to do at left tackle without Ereck Flowers (2012-14). Flowers left Monday’s game against the Dolphins because of an ankle injury. However, as he’s proven to the New York media, Flowers is a tough dude (UM beat reporters were well aware of this).
Henderson ailing: Former Hurricanes offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson is battling Crohn’s disease, the Buffalo News reported. Henderson, who played at UM from 2010-13, had been starting at right tackle for the Bills before he was listed on the team’s injury report with an “illness.” Crohn’s is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “an inflammatory bowel disease.” The Buffalo News report cited a source saying Henderson has lost nearly 20 pounds. Henderson (6-7, 331), a former five-star recruit, had a rocky UM career and struggled as a rookie but improved in his second season.
“I think it’s going to be great for us,” Olsen said of the Richt hire. “Obviously there’s a lot of guys from Georgia [in the NFL], and SEC being as big as it is down here [in Charlotte], and we’ve seen the success that he had and the ability he had to keep the program at a high level. That’s what Miami needed. They needed a national name and a national product. Hopefully he can bring some of those qualities and traits back to Miami and make them competitive again.”
Stat check: Cleveland’s Travis Benjamin is fourth in the NFL in punt return yards (296, 11.4 per return) and has a 78-yard touchdown … Olsen is the leading receiver among ex-Canes, with 969 yards and six touchdowns on 65 catches. Next up: Benjamin (867 yards, five touchdowns on 58 grabs) and Jacksonville’s Allen “Undrafted, For Some Reason” Hurns (863 yards, eight touchdowns on 84 receptions) … The Dolphins’ Lamar Miller (762 yards, four touchdowns on 151 carries) is outgaining Indianapolis’ Frank Gore (762 yards, four touchdowns on 210 carries) for the rushing lead among ex-Canes … Sack leader? Olivier Vernon of Miami (6.5) …
In the last two weeks, Richt has been recruiting and assessing his new team but has not addressed the media. Interim coach Larry Scott will coach the Hurricanes in El Paso and continues to speak on behalf of the team.
The last time the Hurricanes hired a coach, Al Golden watched his new team from a suite at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso. The Hurricanes lost that game to Notre Dame 33-17.
Injury updates: Right tackle Sunny Odogwu (knee) did not attend the media viewing portion of practice (first 15 minutes) … Fellow lineman Danny Isidora (undisclosed) was in a red (no-contact) jersey … safety Jamal Carter (hamstring) was in yellow (limited).
New day for DVD: Former Hurricanes cornerback (and all-around good dude) Demarcus Van Dyke was at practice. Van Dyke, who last played in 2013, said he may explore coaching at UM.
“If football doesn’t go the way I want it to go, I’m probably going to be a [graduate assistant] and start my coaching career,” he said.
Van Dyke, 26, signed a reserve/futures contract with the Minnesota Vikings in January and is now a free agent. He was drafted in the third round by the Oakland Raiders in 2011 and last played in 2013 for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
To be a graduate assistant, Van Dyke would have to re-enroll at UM. He earned his degree in liberal arts in 2010. His last game as a Hurricane was the 2010 Sun Bowl.
His thoughts on Richt?
“He’s a good coach, man,” Van Dyke said. “I talked to some guys at Georgia. [Running back] Sony Michel, I trained with him when he was in high school. He said [Richt] is a great coach. Real laid back. Wants the best for all his players. I think him coming to Miami [is] a good thing for us. I’m excited about next year.”
With the University of Miami’s official announcement of new head football coach Mark Richt on Friday, we thought it made sense to take a look back through the coaches who have gotten the Canes to this point.
We begin around 1980 with the following man as the Hurricanes were building toward national prominence.
* The man who “built a fence around South Florida” to keep rival coaches from poaching talent from “the state of Miami” and made good on his promise to bring a national championship to the Magic City.
* Posted a 41-16 record at UM from 1979-83, culminating in his final season with an 11-1 record and victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl as Miami won its first national championship.
* In a move he later admitted regretting, Schnellenberger left UM to become part-owner and general manager of a Miami-based team in the still-new USFL. The deal fell apart when the franchise wound up in Orlando instead of Miami.
* High point: Coining the phrase “state of Miami.”
* Low point: Leaving too soon.
* The Texas-born Johnson arrived from Oklahoma State with little name recognition but with a head of hair, a brashness and a football mind that would set the college football world ablaze. Under Johnson, UM became as well known for its blowout victories and string of All-America players as it did for on- and off-field controversy. It was “Miami Vice” in cleats.
* Posted a 52-9 record at UM from 1984-88, winning one national championship (1987) and finishing No. 2 in the polls twice (1986 and 1988). Johnson’s 1986 team was considered perhaps the most talented college football team ever (until the 2001 Hurricanes came along).
* Johnson left Miami to join his former University of Arkansas teammate Jerry Jones in reviving the Dallas Cowboys. With Johnson as coach and Jones as owner, the Cowboys went from 1-15 to back-to-back Super Bowl champions in five years.
* High point at UM: Getting carried off the field after Miami beat Oklahoma to win the Orange Bowl and capture the national title.
* Low point at UM: In back-to-back games at the Orange Bowl in Johnson’s first season, UM blew a then-record 31-0 halftime lead and lost to Maryland (42-40) and lost to Boston College on the (in)famous “Hail Flutie!” play.
* The answer to trivia questions (Which UM coach has won the most national championships and has the highest winning percentage?), Erickson is often treated like the forgotten Beatle of Hurricanes coaches.
Part of it is that he came after the highly successful and colorful Schnellenberger and Johnson (who is given credit for leaving a cupboard full of talent behind for Erickson to win his two national titles), and part of it is because it was on his watch that the Pell Grant scandal — that eventually landed the program on probation — came to light. The rampant rules violations actually dated back to 1985, and Erickson was never accused of any wrongdoing.
* He posted a 63-9 record from 1989 to 1994, winning the 1989 and 1991 national championships. His undefeated 1992 team lost in the Sugar Bowl, missing a chance for a repeat title, and his 1994 team lost in the Orange Bowl with another national title on the line.
* Erickson left Miami after the 1994 season to become the coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
* High point at UM: The Hurricanes won 29 straight games over the course of the 1990-92 seasons.
* Low point at UM: The 1991 Cotton Bowl saw Miami set a then-school record for penalties (15) and penalty yards (202) in an egregious display of unsportsmanlike behavior. Miami still beat Texas 46-3, but to the rest of the college football world, Erickson looked like a man who had lost control of his program.
* To Hurricanes fans, he will always be beloved as the man who put the swag back in The U. He did not win a national championship as coach, but he took over a program that was rocked in 1995 by NCAA sanctions stemming from the Pell Grant scandal and by the end of the decade had recruited so many future NFL superstars that some people believe the Miami teams of 2000-02 were the most talented in college football history.
During the latest UM coaching search, he was the runaway popular pick by Hurricanes fans until Mark Richt became available, and he campaigned hard for the job.
* Davis, who served as an assistant under Jimmy Johnson at Miami and the Dallas Cowboys, posted a 51-20 record at UM from 1995 to 2000. Miami was on probation for his first season and suffered scholarship reductions spread over several seasons.
* He left Miami in 2001 to take the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns.
* High point at UM: Miami snapped a five-game losing streak to Florida State with a 27-24 victory on Oct. 7, 2000 at the Orange Bowl in the “Wide Right III” game.
* Low point at UM: Despite beating FSU and both teams having one loss in 2000, Miami was passed over in favor of the Seminoles for a spot in the BCS championship game. FSU would lose to Oklahoma 13-2 in the Orange Bowl, and after that game FSU offensive coordinator Mark Richt took the head coaching job at Georgia.
* Regarded as one of the nicest guys in coaching, Coker was promoted from offensive coordinator to replace Butch Davis and enjoyed one of the longest honeymoon periods in coaching history. Coker, whose players had lobbied hard for him to get the job, won his first 24 games as Hurricanes coach, including the 2001 national championship, and tied Walter Camp for the best record by a coach in his first 32 games (31-1). However, as more of the players recruited under Butch Davis departed, Coker’s records grew worse. His last three seasons were UM’s first three in the ACC and started a streak that continues to this day of the Hurricanes having never won an ACC championship.
* Coker posted a 60-15 record at Miami from 2001-2006. He is the last college football coach to win a national title in his first season as a head coach.
* Coker was fired in November of 2006, one day after telling reporters he expected to be back the next season. Miami beat Nevada in its bowl game to salvage a winning season (7-6) and send Coker out victoriously.
* High point at UM: In the Hurricanes one and only appearance in the Rose Bowl, the 2001 Miami squad cruised past Nebraska to win its fifth – and so far last – national championship.
* Low point at UM: The Hurricanes seemingly had defeated Ohio State in overtime to win the Fiesta Bowl and the 2002 national championship – Coker was halfway across the field to shake the hand of Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel as confetti fell from the sky – when everyone realized that a late pass-interference penalty had been called. The game continued, Ohio State eventually won in two overtimes (stopping Miami on four plays after a 1st-and-goal from the 2) and the Hurricanes’ program has been in a fog ever since.
* A former standout linebacker at Miami, Shannon was brought in to replace Larry Coker after the 2006 season and was tasked with bringing discipline back to a program still reeling from a wild bench-clearing brawl with Florida International the season before.
Shannon grew up in Liberty City, and his hiring was a huge source of pride for the community. Miami football players had one of the best academic performance rates in the country under Shannon, and only one player was arrested during his four seasons. Also, he was not linked to the scandal surrounding booster Nevin Shapiro that would eventually lead to NCAA sanctions. However, on the field, Shannon could not achieve the success fans wanted.
* Shannon compiled a 28-22 record at UM from 2007 to 2010. Miami never lost fewer than four games in a season — and never won more than nine — and lost both bowl games it appeared in under Shannon. Miami finished out of the national rankings three times under Shannon.
* After a 6-3 home loss to South Florida on Nov. 27, 2010 dropped UM’s record to 7-5, Shannon was fired.
* High point at UM: Shannon recruited eight players from Miami-Northwestern High’s national-championship team following the 2007 season. The group of players, led by quarterback Jacory Harris, was believed to be the one that would lead UM back to prominence.
* Low point at UM: After being fired, Shannon had to watch from afar as his team was dismantled by Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl and had to hear his successor, Al Golden – who was interviewed during the game – talk about how poor and uninspired his team looked.
* The New Jersey native and short-term NFL tight end came to Coral Gables with loads of promise, having led former FBS cellar-dweller Temple to a combined record of 17-8 in 2009-10. But the nattily clad Golden — who wore a dress shirt, slacks and a tie on the sidelines during games — proved to be only slightly above average, thanks in no small part to the self-imposed sanctions hanging over the program’s head from the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
* Went 32-25 overall in his four and a half seasons at the helm (2011-15), but the team only went to two bowl games during that stretch due to the NCAA penalties. His best season saw the Canes go 9-3 in the 2013 regular season before getting spanked by Louisville 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
* Golden was canned following Miami’s 58-0 shellacking at the hands of No. 1 Clemson on Oct. 25, 2015, the worst loss in the 90-year history of the program.
* High point at UM: Golden and the Canes got off to a 7-0 start in 2013 that included a 21-16 win over Florida and saw them rise as high as No. 7 in the country.
* Low point at UM: Clemson.58-0. Enough said.
* Yes, Richt is best known as the coach who led the Georgia Bulldogs to a 145–51 record over the past 15 seasons — winning two SEC championships — but he has plenty of ties to south Florida. The 55-year-old not only played quarterback at The U — largely as a backup to Jim Kelly — from 1979-82 under Schnellenberger, but he grew up in Boca Raton and graduated from Boca High in 1978.
“I don’t want to make any promises,” Richt said during his introductory news conference Friday. “I want to promise we’re going to get to work and earn a right to victory.
“My goal is to finish my coaching career at ‘The U.’ “