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New Miami coach Manny Diaz says ‘it’s been wild’ few days

December 31, 2018
FILE - In this Aug. 4, 2016, file photo, Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, left, gives instructions to players during drills at the NCAA college football team's practice in Coral Gables, Fla. Diaz has agreed to a 5-year deal as Miami's football coach, to replace Mark Richt, who retired Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018. Diaz was leaving Miami to become coach at Temple. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Manny Diaz came to Miami three years ago with a vision for how the Hurricanes should play defense: Fast, physical and violent.

He now has the same plan for Miami’s offense.

The Hurricanes’ new head coach said Monday that finding help on offense — from a coordinator to a quarterback and more — is at the top of his list of priorities, now that he’s replaced Mark Richt as the man in charge of the program. Diaz, who was Miami’s defensive coordinator for the last three seasons under Richt, was hired Sunday night to fill the job his former boss vacated by unexpectedly retiring hours earlier.

“In terms of establishing the identity of what we’re going to be on offense and what that vision should be, it’s very similar to what we’ve been on defense,” Diaz said on WQAM, the Hurricanes’ flagship station. “We came here three years ago and set a vision of how the Miami Hurricanes play defense and what in my mind fits best for the talent that’s available to us here in South Florida.”

Diaz was part of a wild Sunday for Miami, which was rocked in the morning by Richt’s retirement announcement. By mid-afternoon, the school said it was beginning a national search for Richt’s replacement. Before the night was over, Diaz had a five-year deal to coach the Hurricanes and told Temple that he was leaving as its head coach — he took the job there a couple weeks earlier.

Diaz stayed with the Hurricanes through last week’s Pinstripe Bowl. He returned to Miami on Friday and spent the weekend putting together what he thought would be his Temple coaching staff.

But around midday Sunday, Diaz’s wife heard the news that Richt stepped down.

Craziness ensued from there.

“It’s been wild. There’s no other way to explain it,” Diaz said in the radio interview. “It’s something that when everybody woke up yesterday morning, no one could have predicted. They don’t write scripts for these things. If they did they would get thrown in the trash because no one would believe it.”

Defense has been the much stronger side of the ball for Miami during Diaz’s three years at the school. Under Diaz, Miami has allowed 4.6 yards per play — among all other Football Bowl Subdivision schools, only Alabama (4.2), Clemson (4.4), Michigan (4.4) and Washington (4.55) have allowed less in that three-year span.

The offense hasn’t had the same success, and struggled mightily this year. So far this season, with some bowl games left, 73 different quarterbacks have thrown for more yards by themselves than Miami did as a team in 2018. Diaz said returnees N’Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams will have a chance to win the job, but made clear that he’s also going to look at transfers.

“If you don’t have excellence at that position, it’s very hard to compete in this day and age,” Diaz said. “We’ve got some guys on campus who have been in the system and I think this is their time now to turn the page and decide whether they’re capable of being the starting quarterback at the University of Miami. But at the same time we’ve got to create competition because competition is the best coach there is.”

Diaz, who will hold a news conference later this week, also told WQAM that he felt badly about how the situation transpired for Temple and spoke again about how thankful he was that the Owls gave him their job.

He also insisted that, with the late part of recruiting season looming and staffing decisions to make, he needs to move on quickly. His first game as coach of the Hurricanes is Aug. 31 against rival Florida and his former boss at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen.

Diaz didn’t know what day of the week it was Monday.

But he did know that the Florida game was 243 days away.

“When you watch us play, you’re going to say, ‘Oh, I know that’s the Miami Hurricanes. I recognize that bunch,’” Diaz said.

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