With Manny Diaz as head coach and defensive anchors like LB Michael Pinckney returning, the Canes are hoping to contend
Just days after the Miami Hurricanes' embarrassing 35-3 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27, head coach Mark Richt retired. But defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who had taken the head coaching position at Temple a few weeks prior, decided to return to Coral Cables to lead the Hurricanes. He then wasted little time in turning over the coaching staff after being named the head coach.
While the Hurricanes aren't doing well on the recruiting trail, Diaz and his staff still have a little bit of time before National Signing Day on Feb. 6 to try and finish strong. Miami has plenty of holes to fill between now and the season opener on Aug. 31, as the Canes look to get back to being a contender in the ACC like they were in 2017.
Here's why fans should be optimistic about Miami's outlook in 2019:
1. Manny Diaz
During his brief time as head coach of the Hurricanes, Diaz has injected new life into their program. Diaz parted ways with a number of members of their offensive staff from last year and brought in former Alabama offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Enos to run Miami's offense.
Enos will incorporate a creative spread offensive with the hopes of improving what was an abysmal unit in 2018. Last season, Miami finished 104th nationally in total offense (358.8 ypg), 112th in passing (167.3) and 45th in rushing (191.5).
Enos' arrival also will hopefully improve the quarterback play. Last season, N'Kosi Perry and Malik Rosier combined for 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while completing just 52 percent of their passes. Rosier has exhausted his eligibility but Perry will have to beat out Jarren Williams and Cade Weldon for the starting job. Former Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell announced on Twitter on Wednesday morning that he is transferring to Miami. But Martell will have to sit out a year per NCAA transfer rules unless he applies for and receives a hardship waiver that will allow him to play right away.
Although Richt's retirement wasn't ideal, being able to replace him with Diaz might have been a blessing in disguise.
2. Defensive building blocks
While Miami will lose a number of key members of their defense such as linemen Gerald Wills III and Joe Jackson, the Hurricanes return several key pieces from the unit that finished fourth in FBS in total defense last season.
Linebackers Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinkney, and Zach McCloud will return for their senior season. Quarterman earned first-team All-ACC honors after registering 82 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss and five sacks.
Jonathan Garvin should be the leader up front following Willis' and Jackson's departure. In 2018, Garvin finished with 60 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks.
3. Running back depth
Travis Homer, who led Miami in rushing in each of the past two seasons, is leaving early for the NFL, but that doesn't mean the Hurricanes' backfield is entirely depleted.
DeeJay Dallas, who was second on the team with 617 rushing yards and tied for the lead with six touchdowns on the ground, is an explosive playmaker who can score anytime he touches the ball. He'll likely lead the Canes in carries, but he won't be the back getting opportunities.
Rising sophomore Cam'Ron Davis also should receive a fair number of touches. In 2018, Davis posted 166 rushing yards and two touchdowns while averaging nearly six yards per carry (5.93). He also added three receptions with a touchdown.
There's also Lorenzo Lingard, a 5-star recruit who flashed (8.0 ypc) in his limited opportunities before he was lost to a season-ending knee injury. So even though Homer is gone, Miami has enough options to be just as productive, if not more, running the ball in 2019.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
(Top photo courtesy of @Coach_MannyDiaz)