Miami Hurricanes football coach Manny Diaz apparently didn’t have to hard-sell his previously underachieving program to heralded Houston quarterback transfer D’Eriq King, the coach indicated Thursday in a radio interview four days before the team begins formal strength and conditioning training on campus.
“D’Eriq King could have gone to a lot of great schools,’’ Diaz told WQAM. “We told him, ‘Come watch our guys work out. Come watch our wide receivers go through a lifting session. Come see how hungry our guys are.’
“You’ve got a football team that at a couple positions you just need a little better leadership than we’ve had, a little bit better in terms of a guy that the team can trust — and not just the quarterback, across the board. And these guys start to see this and they’re like ‘You know what, I get it. I get that I can push this thing over the edge.’”
King, one of the most prolific players in college football, announced his transfer to UM (6-7 in 2019) in late January after his campus visit, in time to enroll and participate in the four spring practices before school came to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic. He has been back on campus informally throwing to his receivers at Greentree Field, which Diaz told the Miami Herald last week opened to players on June 2.
And though UM is still in a prepractice, “ voluntary activity part” of its football calendar, on Monday the football players can work out in the weight room with strength coach David Feeley and a medical trainer present, Diaz said. The coach told the Miami Herald that each weight-training session will be limited to a certain number of players, possibly eight, and that Greentree Field would also be limited in terms of position group numbers.
“It’s been day to day, man,” Diaz told WQAM’s Joe Rose. “You just gotta manage, gotta take every day as it comes. Every day has provided its own challenge. The hardest part is not being in the same building. Right now more than ever is a time when people need to be having conversations, talking, listening and being there for each other.
“The fact that we’re still apart and have to do those think via video conferencing or the phone… I just look forward to getting back around our guys and getting our team in one place.”
When WQAM’s Zach Krantz touched on the “disadvantage going into the season’’ regarding having a new quarterback, new offensive coordinator and entirely new offense going into fall camp, expected to begin in August, Diaz said he “would be more concerned if we were going from an offense that was relatively simple to one that was relatively complex.’’
The Hurricanes are transitioning from their conventional, pro-style format to a no-huddle, fast-paced spread. King, who set the American Athletic Conference touchdowns-responsible-for-in-a-season record in 2018 with 50 — 36 passing and 14 rushing — is expected to win the starting job, despite not being formally announced as the guy. He will be competing with redshirt junior and former part-time starter N’Kosi Perry, redshirt junior Tate Martell, redshirt freshman Peyton Matocha and freshman Tyler Van Dyke.
“Obviously we would have taken all the practices we could get,’’ Diaz said. “...We’re going from an offense that was fairly complex to one that is more user friendly for our guys.
“And then we have a much more experienced offense than we had a year ago. Our age and experience, No. 1, as you mentioned, in the quarterback room, but bringing back our entire offensive line, bringing back the receivers, tight ends, running backs. We’re just an older offensive football team than we were a year ago, so the guys have a better understanding of what it’s all about.”
▪ On whether he feels he’s doing a good job recruiting Dade and Broward:
“All you do is look at the numbers, right? Whatever amount of commits we have, I think every one of them except for three are from Dade and Broward and two of the three that aren’t from Dade and Broward lived in Dade and Broward when they were young. I mean fact is fact and we’re not done. We’re still a long way from signing day but we’re not done. We’re always going to start off at home and I think we’re making great progress.”
▪ On how most changes in society, such as the ones wanted after the death of George Floyd — a black man who died two weeks ago when a police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes — happen incrementally and how the same holds true for his football program:
“What happens is we all want big, grandiose change to happen and it needs to happen,’’ said Diaz, who led his players during a staged private protest last week. “No different than building a program. We all want the big great leap for the University of Miami football program. But the way it always happens, it happens through incremental change and that’s where we get frustrated.
“I’m going to make a football reference: ‘Oh boy, the change is not happening the way we want it to’ and everybody gets frustrated. We know the way things are built and the way this goes. It has to be incremental because otherwise we get frustrated and we’ll stop fighting the good fight, we’ll stop listening and that’s what we can’t do. We can’t let this be something that we all just throw our hands up in the air and say ‘Nothing is going to change.’
“We have to hold our leaders to account to try to change the big things they can.
“But if everybody was just 2 percent better every day... What does that mean? Two percent less racist, 2 percent more anti-racist, 2 percent more listening to something maybe you wouldn’t have listened to before. That’s not a lot but if you build on that, that’s how you build something fantastic. I think a leader should understand that and I wish we were hearing that more. But that’s something we’re trying to do from inside out.”