Miami Football: Manny Diaz talks loss to Tech, Friday night with UVA

Manny DiazOpening statement…

“Obviously on a short week, we have to move on quickly from the Virginia Tech game, which was a disappointment in the outcome. The way we played, though – the way that our guys fought, the way that they stuck together, the mental toughness that they showed – it’s hard to be disappointed in those things. When you unpack the game, you say, ‘Well, is there a possibility that your young quarterback can have a day where he turns the ball over a lot?’ Those things happen, in the history of football. Everybody knows we have issues with placekicking. It came up at a very critical time, which is very disappointing, but can happen. What can’t happen is the way that we played defensively.

“We gave ourselves a chance to win the game, the way we responded on offense, and part of it, on defense [too]…we held them to six three-and-outs during the middle part of the game. But surrendering 42 points to Virginia Tech, that’s not the Miami standard and that is the biggest takeaway from this game. Right now, the biggest sense of urgency [is] to get that corrected immediately, as we face a very good Virginia team Friday night. I will change my role in terms of my influence on the defense at practice and on a day-to-day basis, because ultimately I am responsible for how we play on defense. There is a culture that was created here back in 2016 that, for some reason, we have not been able to recreate. It is not a coaching issue. It is not a scheme issue. This has nothing to do with Blake Baker or anyone on our defensive staff. This is simply that there is a lack of connection between the players on our defensive side of the ball. We just don’t look like we trust each other. We don’t play with the techniques that we’re coached during the week, and ultimately, they need the utmost accountability, and that comes from the head coach. That process began last night. We sat and we watched every snap of the game as an entire defense. We talked through all of our mistakes. We owned all of our mistakes collectively, as a group. And that will be what continues now going forward. We’ve got to get our defense playing like the Miami Hurricanes again. It didn’t look like that on Saturday.”

On what he is seeing that is different that he can help fix defensively…

“It’s simply guys just doing their jobs. You talk about scheming up the tight end. Someone has the tight end in man [coverage]. Cover your freaking man. Don’t try to do somebody else’s job. It’s simple. It all goes back to accountability and guys not trying to do too much. It’s not an issue of effort. I thought our effort was outstanding. Guys were flying around. Guys are trying. But we’re confusing activity with achievement. If you have the tight end in man, cover the tight end in man. Getting aligned – and this is not from inexperienced players – this is from players that I’ve seen do it before. Whatever reason that lack of accountability and disconnect [exists]…a great defense has players that are accountable to each other, that trust each other. They know that if I do my job and you do your job, we’ll all prosper because of that. For whatever reason, the leadership vacuum from Jaquan [Johnson] and those guys…we’re five games in now. It’s time for that to be filled. If it’s not being filled, it has got to be filled by me. That’s what’s going on now. I’m jumping right in the middle of it and I’m going to make sure that we’re all going to be accountable to just do what we’re supposed to do.

“You talk about adjustments – the issue on Saturdays is not a game of adjustments. If there were no adjustments being made, how did we come back from 28 points down? We three-and-out’d them for four straight drives in the second half. Then what we do is we don’t cover our guys in crucial situations down the stretch. Schematically, we’ve played Virginia Tech four years in a row now. They’ve run about the same plays all four years we’ve played them and we’ve run the same defense all four years we played them. The last two years combined, I think they scored 24 points in two games. They scored 42 in our stadium. If it was a scheme fix, you’d fix the scheme. I said this when I first got here – it’s not about what you do. That’s the first thing everyone wants to look at. Things aren’t going well, [it’s,] ‘What are you doing? What are you calling?’ It’s about how you do it. My concern is with our ‘how.’ Our ‘how’ has been pretty damn good around here, and I have to get that ‘how’ back.”

On what he can do to fix the issue…

“What I can do is I can hold everybody accountable. Hearing it from my voice is just different. That’s the nature of being the head coach. Whether it’s at practice or however I do it, just to make sure if it’s not getting done the way it’s [supposed to get] done, I can hold that guy in account in that moment and everybody can see that. The defense can start to feel the difference, in terms of everybody not wanting to be the guy that lets the whole unit down.”

On the possibility of redshirting RB Lorenzo Lingard, who made his season debut Saturday…

“It’s interesting you bring that up. Lorenzo has come and spoken to me. We had a great conversation. He actually talked about that, while he’s medically cleared, he’s not right. He knows that. He is committed to being at the University of Miami. He loves being at the University of Miami. He sees a big-time future for himself here, which we see in him. But if we can – and he’s only seen action in one game this year – we can use him in three more games and we can pick up an extra year of eligibility for next year. I thought it was neat. Lorenzo has had a lot of external pressure of people trying to pull him in different directions. I thought the fact that he came and was honest about, ‘Look, I know I am not in danger of getting hurt on the field, but I also know who I am as a runner, and it’s not always there.’ I think the fact that we had a great, honest conversation…I love Lorenzo Lingard. He loves football. He loves Miami. He has a great demeanor about the way he works every day in practice. I thought that was super mature of him to come and talk about.”

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