Opposing words: Manny getting more defensive, King on Milton, NIL

Last week Miami head coach Manny Diaz met with members of the ACC media and addressed questions on several subjects, including his decision to take over play-call duties on defense this season and having one of the most experienced offensive lines in college football in 2021.

The Hurricanes are coming off an 8-3 season and are 14-10 in two seasons under Diaz. Miami has been picked to finish in second place in the Coastal Division by the ACC media. Quarterback D’Eriq King and safety Bubba Bolden also met with members of the ACC media to talk about everything from their expectations for the upcoming season to implementation of NIL legislation.

Head coach Manny Diaz

After finishing ranked 67th in total defense last season Diaz hired three new defensive coaches in the offseason and he will assume playing calling responsibilities in 2021.

With the defensive new hires as well as the analysts, and you resuming the play-calling duties on the defensive side of the ball, what does that mean differently for the Canes’ defense this year?

Diaz: “We’re going to be improved on defense this year. That is all going to be about the players. It’s fun to talk about the coaches and the play calling, this, that and the other. But great defense is ultimately about the connection between the players on the field, the trust and the accountability. That’s where I felt like a year ago we didn’t quite have that. We take a lot of pride in how we play defense at Miami. We took a step back in that regard, not to our standard. Guys have a chip on their shoulder. We have new coaches. What that does, what I like is that it took all of our players, took every one of those guys out of their comfort zone. Now, maybe your coach that recruited you, the coach that you’ve been around, here comes a new set of eyes, a guy that’s going to challenge you in a different way. That’s what we ultimately needed. We needed to be out of our comfort zone defensively at Miami because we weren’t proud of how we finished last year. Doesn’t matter what defense you call if the players don’t have that bond and trust. That’s what makes all great defenses. I think the new staff, some of the great coaches we’ve been able to add, that I’m honored to work with, ultimately it comes down to those guys in the defensive team meeting room taking ownership of it and playing with that Miami chip on their shoulder.”

Two seasons ago Miami had one of the worst offensive lines in the country, giving up the third-most sacks in college football in 2019 and finishing that season 120th in rushing offense. In 2020 the Hurricanes finished 116th in sacks allowed and 67th in rushing offense. Diaz expects that group’s performance to continue to trend in the right direction.

One report has the Hurricanes as having the most experienced offensive line in FBS. How much of a lift does this give you that a traditionally overshadowed group is getting good attention in Miami?

Diaz: “We had to take some lumps a couple years ago. We started two true freshmen on the offensive line and that’s tough. But the great thing is freshmen become sophomores, they become juniors. What it changed for us and I had not seen at my time in Miami, was the competition in our spring practice. We had guys — Garin Justice did a great job of mixing and matching. We didn’t want anyone to feel like they had a starting role locked up. Guys had to come to practice every day and they really had to bring it because there was no telling, there’s still no telling who the first five are going to be. All coaches can say that, but really having a guy that can take your job is going to bring out the best in you. I think this is the first time we’ve had a two deep on the offensive line of somebody that when I walk out to practice every day, if I am not at my best, I’m going to end up on second team by the end of the day. The players told me, ‘Coach, it’s amazing how much better everybody got because we had to compete every day in practice.’ “

QB D’Eriq King

King and FSU quarterback McKenzie Milton are co-founders of a company, Dreamfield, which was created to help themselves and other student-athletes to find ways to profit from the new NIL legislation.

NIL question. You are identified as one of the leaders with the first deals you signed. Are you embracing that? Is that something you’re going to talk to your teammates about and guys from other teams to get multiple deals signed there?

King: “I think it’s really good for college football. My thing was work with good companies. You can’t work with everybody. You want to work with companies that align with your core values. You don’t want to go out there and work with that company, that company, that company. My main goal is to help as many teammates as I can to earn whatever they can earn. Not all about me. I want to be by my teammates, for those guys to make as much as possible. Football is still the main thing. A lot of people are worried about how it can affect your play. For us, I know University of Miami, all my teammates, football is the main goal. We’re not worried about the NIL thing. We just want to play football.
Whenever we have time to deal with that stuff, we’ll deal with that kind of stuff.”

I know you collaborated with McKenzie Milton on some of this NIL stuff. Did you talk about maybe some
of the resistance you would get from your fan bases being rivals and teaming up or is it business is business?

King: “I think business is business. I’ve been knowing McKenzie for six, seven years now, back when he was in high school, UCF, I was at Houston. We’ve been in the same conference. Had a relationship. Obviously Florida State is our rivals. But like you said, business is business. We both thought it was a good idea to partner with Dreamfield, co-found the company. It’s
really to help as many guys as we can. The whole platform is for everybody else to make a lot of money.”

S Bubba Bolden

Bolden led the Miami defense in tackles last season and is one of nine players with starting experience returning from that side of the ball for the 2021 season.

Manny talked about the defense having a chip on its shoulder because of how they played last season. Do you feel that way? Do you feel like you can be a much better unit in this upcoming season?

Bolden: “Yeah, 1,000 percent. We felt that way last year. This year it’s a big thing. We all came back for a reason. We want to win. Coach Diaz being a defensive coordinator now, it gives us a lot of confidence in our defense, especially with me personally. The chip is on our shoulder, will always be on the shoulder no matter what. I just feel like that’s a Miami thing.”